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  • Writer's pictureZena

Not Enough Space?

Studio apartment in Poland under Soviet communist occupation. Shared with my mom and grandmother, we were lucky to have our own bathroom.

I grew up in the post-war Poland during the communist era Soviet Union in a little town where every citizen was given an apartment to live in. I shared an apartment with my mom and my grandmother, about 300 square feet. Starting at the entrance vestibule, we had a little closet to the right, a bathroom straight ahead containing a single vanity and tub. To the left was the single room studio apartment, where, we had a futon for my grandmother, and a shared futon bed with my mother and I. We had just enough space for a table that served as a desk/kitchen table/dining table, and even a little TV where we were able to watch Boshevik broadcast which aired a single episode of Western TV (Bonanza) on Sundays after lunch. There was an alley kitchen that was 24 inches wide – enough for one person to stand in, but not wide enough to turn around to exit. You had to back out.

When a client says that they don’t have enough space for their mother or father to live with them, I realize that it is an issue of what we are all used to growing up. When we are forced, we can make figure out how to protect one another with the smallest of resources. As Americans, we have a choice, but we say we don’t have a choice, and we resort to any solution except the solution of living together.

We had a difficult life, but no more difficult than every single non-military and non-government citizen in Poland (not connected to establishment). Generations later, my family, and most Polish families still experience PTSD from the experiences during and after the world war II, and our voice is that we will never forget the value of family, love, and the singularity of faith, justice, and the love for our family and homeland. When I see what is happening with today’s America, I can only pray that social equality amongst people of fundamentally different faiths, - some who are taught that certain humans are not human – will actually be possible.

Freedom of choice in the simplest things that we as Americans take for granted, included who, where, and how we live is not free. I, along with most Soviet occupied Europeans, understand that living with the lowest, and most basic standards possible today can only enable us to imagine more choices for freedom when we lose everything else. We don’t have to be economically strapped to understand this.

My grandfather, a lawful owner of many large properties acquired through many generations, lost everything in World War II. Despite this, he said to everyone in our family, “We are all very poor now, but we are still the same people.”

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