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Tuesday, June 4, 2013


special word of the day: NANA – babcia, babunia (child’s word for grandmother)

(1) Will you read me a story, Nana?

(2) My Nana is pretty and she has white curly hair and she likes perfume and my Nana needs glasses for reading.

(3) My Nana was a stickler for doing things right. And with Nana there was always a right way and a wrong way. (Nana = right, everyone else = wrong.)

(4) My Nana was a mother to me when my mum walked away, and I will be forever grateful to her for all that she has done for me and my brothers.

(5) Dear Nana, I will forever love and miss you.

(to be) a stickler (for something) – pedant, pedantka (na punkcie czegoś) (a person who thinks that a particular type of behaviour is very important, and always follows it or tries to make other people follow it)

My earliest memory of Nana is of me sitting on her lap when I was a tiny baby. Actually, it’s my mum’s memory. It would be impossible for me to remember that, but I can just about picture myself as a big blob sitting on my Nana’s lap, my Nana signing to my ear.  You see, unlike my brother, who would wreak havoc wherever he crawled, I was supposedly a very good baby who would stay exactly where you put her, minding her own business, so it was a pretty cool job to take care of me and Nana would often volunteer to do that.

to sit on somebody’s lap – siedzieć komuś na kolanach (to sit on the top part of somebody’s legs)
can just about picture– prawie być w stanie sobie wyobrazić (can almost imagine)
a blob – bezkształtna masa (a fat round drop)
unlike – w przeciwieństwie do (opposite to)
to wreak havoc – siać spustoszenie (to create chaos)
to crawl – pełzać (to move with the body stretched out along the ground or on hands and knees)
supposedly – podobno (or so they say/or so I was told)
to be minding your own business – nikomu nie zawadzać (not to be problematic/difficult)
to volunteer to do something – podejmować się czegoś (to offer to do something that you do not have to do, often without having been asked to do it and/or without expecting payment)

My earliest true memory of Grandma is of me staring at a nicely framed black and white photo hung on one of the walls in her room. The photo had a rare glamorous quality that you would usually associate with old Hollywood pictures and I found myself staring at it more times than I could ever remember. Two people were looking back at me – both young, beautiful and happy, both bearing a resemblance to my mum. Only her features seemed to have been divided between the two of them. Nana had my mum’s eyes and ears and the cute nose, a little too big to be called beautiful, was on my granddad’s face. “Nana was a very beautiful woman,” my mum would often explain to me and beautiful she was indeed

to stare at – wpatrywać się w (to look for a long time with the eyes wide open, especially when surprised, frightened or thinking
framed – oprawione w ramkę (surrounded by a border)
rare – rzadki (not common, not popular)
to have a glamorous quality (about it) – być pełnym blasku i splendoru (to seem attractive in an exciting and special way)
to associate something with something else – kojarzyć jedno z drugim, przywodzić na myśl (when something makes you think of something else)
to bear a resemblance to – przypominać, być podobnym (to look similar to something)
only – tylko, że (but)
features – rysy twarzy (facial features, facial characteristics)
to divide something between people– rozdzielić (to distribute)
indeed – naprawdę (really)

When you live under the same roof with your Grandma, the relationship is slightly different from when you visit her every now and then. It’s just so much closer and more genuine, in my opinion. With Nana, I developed more of a friendship than a typical grandma-granddaughter relationship. I often go back to the times when she would watch her favourite Brazilian soap and across the table I would do my homework, read one of her gossip magazines or watch the soap with her. We both had a sweet tooth, so she would often give me some change to buy kisiel (a type of jelly). She would make it for us and pour cream or milk on it and we would eat it even if dinner time was approaching.

to live under the same roof– mieszkać z kimś pod jednym dachem (to share a house with someone)
slightly – nieco ( a bit)
every now and then – od czasu do czasu (from time to time)
genuine – prawdziwy (true)
to go back – wspominać (to recollect)
a soap (opera) – telenowela ( a tv series about the lives and problems of a particular group of characters
to have a sweet tooth – lubić słodkie (to like sweets very much)
change – drobne (money in coins)
to approach –  nadchodzić (to come)

An interesting thing about Nana is that she never got angry with people. My brother and I would often misbehave. We used to hit and call each other names and make a lot of noise. Things could get serious within seconds and yet Grandma never shouted at us, but always patiently tried to calm us down. She would offer help when we messed up and she gave the best advice on first aid or stain removal. She also never told on us to our parents. Quite the opposite, she was very lenient. At nights, when one parent had gone to work the night shift and the other hadn’t yet been back from the afternoon shift, Nana let us watch late night TV with her. I can still remember very vividly how one time the three of us were watching Wheel of Fortune and how Wiktor and I sprinted back to our beds when we heard the key in the lock. It was past our bedtime and our parents were quite strict about that. Also, years later, when I visited her as an adult, she would jokingly bring up the day when she had her room freshly wallpapered and she would say how I brought crayons and tried to draw flowers to decorate the plain wallpaper, but she was never mad about it.

to misbehave – być niegrzecznym (to behave badly)
to call somebody names – przezywać (to call someone by an abusive or insulting name)
and yet – i mimo to (and despite that, informal for yet)
to mess up  nabroić (to get into trouble, cause problems)
first aid – pierwsza pomoc (basic medical treatment which is given to someone as soon as possible after they have been hurt in an accident or suddenly become ill)
stain removal – usuwanie plam (getting rid of dirt on a fabric)
to tell on someone – skarżyć (to tell a person in authority that the other person has done something wrong, to report someone)
lenient – łagodny (not strict)
to remember something vividly pamiętać coś wyraźnie (to remember something clearly)
strict – surowy (strongly limiting someone's freedom to behave as they wish, and likely to severely punish them if they do not obey)
jokingly – w żartach (not seriously)
to bring something up – poruszać jakiś temat (to start to talk about a particular subject)
wallpapered – wytapetowany (covered with  thick, often decorative, paper used for covering the walls and sometimes ceilings of a room)
plain – zwykła (not special or interesting)

Unlike me, a jeans and a t-shirt girl, Nana was a truly elegant woman. Maybe that’s why when I remember her, she’s always wearing a hat, a skirt suit or a dress and she smells like one of those fragrances that are on the heavy side, but are still very classy. Years back, when Grandma went to church on Sunday, my brother and I would laugh that with such meticulous preparations she probably wanted to flirt with the priest :) But the truth was that that was her style and she wouldn’t have left the house looking any other way. My mom often explained to me that “when grandpa lived Nana used to have her own dressmaker and hairdresser.”

a skirt suit – kostium damski ze spódnicą (a set of a jacket and a skirt)
a fragrance – zapach (a scent)
on the heavy side – raczej ciężki/intensywny (rather heavy, powerful)
meticulous – skrupulatne (very careful and with great attention to every detail)

Also unlike me, an unusually pale creature, Grandma loved the sun and any pastime connected with it, meaning sunbathing :) In the summer, she would often spend all days on her balcony, basking in the rays of sunshine that could reach her. One year, when the priest was at our house with the annual Christmas visit, he mentioned that with her skin tone, Nana could easily pass for an Argentinian woman. Needless to say, from then on we teased Nana about how tan she always looked.

a pastime – rozrywka (a hobby, an activity)
pale – blada (almost white)
to bask in (the sun) – wygrzewać się (to lie or sit enjoying the warmth especially of the sun
to pass for somebody/something – uchodzić za  (to appear to be someone or something else, or to cause people to believe that they are)
needless to say rzecz jasna (of course, obviously)
tan – opalona (brown from the sun)

Another hobby of Nana’s was flowers. That or competing with the female neighbours for the Most Beautiful Balcony Award :) I don’t know which one of the two. So there I was helping Nana with moving about flower boxes, running to the shop to fetch bags of garden soil, filling bottles with water or watering the flowers myself when Nana was away. To be honest, that whole flower business was a bit of a drag to me and Nana would often have to repeat her requests for a new bag of soil or a flower box because I went momentarily deaf.

a flower box – korytko (a rectangular box for growing flowers)
to fetch – przynieść (to bring)
soil – ziemia (the material on the surface of the ground in which plants grow)
(a bit of) a drag – udręka (something which is not convenient and is boring or unpleasant)
a request – prośba (when you politely or officially ask for something)
to go momentarily deaf – chwilowo ogłuchnąć (not to want to seem to hear something that the other person is saying)

But what Nana was most passionate about was her annual trip to her favourite health resort, Ciechocinek. Polish peeps will know why the place is kinda funny. It’s because of this one song that talks about womanising in Ciechocinek performed by a comedy group popular in the late 90s (T-raperzy znad Wisły). There were times that whenever Nana mentioned Ciechocinek, my brother and I, as if on cue, would burst out singing the first few bars of the chorus just to have a laugh.

annual – coroczny (happening every year)
peeps – ludzie, ludziska (informal for ‘people’)
to womanise – uganiać się za kobietami (to flirt with women to make them go home with you)
as if – jakby  (seemingly)
(as if) on cue – jak na komendę (just when it was expected to happen, or just at the right time. )
to burst out singing – nagle zacząć śpiewać (to suddenly start singing)
a bar – takt (one of the small equal parts into which a piece of music is divided, containing a fixed number of beats)
a chorus – refren (the part of the song that is repeated)

Nana usually went to Ciechocinek in September, but the topic of Ciechocinek could pop up at any time of the year. Around the winter, Nana would always tell us about how she had already made a booking for a single room and how having a single room was far superior to sharing a room with another person. In the spring, Grandma would often repeat the dates of her stay and arrange for her sons to give her a ride there and back. The summer time was usually filled with preparations such as outfit planning and stocking up on toiletries. In the autumn, when Nana’s memories were the freshest, she told us about all the friends she made, all the treatments she underwent and how the locals made money selling handcrafted goods. We were often treated to one of such knick-knacks, a porcelain figurine of an elephant or a dog that said: “Greeting s from Ciechocinek.”

to pop up – pojawiać się (to appear)
far superior to – o wiele lepszy niż (much better than)
to arrange for someone to do something – zarządzić, aby ktoś coś zrobił (to make plans so that someone else does something for you)
to stock up on – zrobić zapasy czegoś (to buy a large quantity of something)
toiletries – przybory toaletowe (objects and substances that you use in washing yourself and preventing the body from smelling unpleasant)
to undergo a treatment – poddać się zabiegowi (to have a short therapy for some medical problem)
handcrafted – wykonany ręcznie (handmade)
be treated to something – być obdarowanym czymś ( to receive something as a present/for free)
knick-knacks – bibelot (a small decorative object, especially in a house)

Nana had a soft spot for those small things that other people thought only collected dust. One of her most treasured possessions was a porcelain doe.  As a child, I loved it so much that I could pester Nana for hours to give it to me to play with. She always refused, but promised that she would give it to me as a present on the day of my 18th birthday, but time went by and I never got it. However, a few years ago, I asked Grandma if I could finally have the doe and she let me have it, no hesitation in her voice whatsoever. I’m so happy the doe is with me now and it’s the most treasured possession of mine.

to have a soft spot for somebody/something – mieć do czegoś słabość (to feel that you like someone/something very much, often without knowing why
to collect dust – zbierać kurz, być bezużytecznym  (to be useless)
the most treasured possession – najcenniejsza posiadana rzecz (the most valuable thing you own)
a doe – łania (the female of the deer)
to pester somebody to do something – męczyć kogoś, żeby coś zrobił (to behave in an annoying manner towards someone by doing or asking for something repeatedly)
with no hesitation  bez zawahania (without a pause to think)
whatsoever – wcale (at all)

My Grandma didn’t have an easy life. At twelve she lost her mum and at forty-eight her loving husband, the grandpa I never got to know, passed away, but she would rarely talk about the past. Sometimes, if you waited very patiently and she was in this special mood, she would talk a little about the war and how it affected her life – how she couldn’t go to school but was forced to do physical work. Sometimes she told the story of the day when as a young girl she was almost shot to death. A group of children and her were being taken from school to the forest to plant trees. Being a cheeky girl, she started singing anti-war songs and making other children join in. The man who was in charge of the group could not understand Polish and enjoyed the songs, but the group was stopped by another officer who could figure out what they were singing about and was dead set on killing the ringleader, Nana. Fortunately, the good guy told him that the kids were his responsibility and he forbade the man to take or to hurt the kids, and Nana.

 to get to know someone – poznać kogoś  ( to meet  someone)
to pass away – odejść (to die)
(to be in) a mood – być w nastroju (to be feeling in a particular way)
to affect – wpływać (to influence)
to be forced to – być zmuszonym do czegoś (to be made to do something)
cheeky — bezczelny, pyskaty, (slightly rude or showing no respect, but often in a funny way)
to be in charge of – odpowiadać za coś (to be responsible for something)
to figure out – zorientować się (to understand something)
to be dead set on – być zdecydowanym coś zrobić (to be resolute to do something)
a ringleader – prowodyr/ka (the leader of a group of people who are doing something harmful or illegal)
to forbid (forbade-forbidden) somebody to do something – zabraniać (not to allow somebody to do something)

It might sound surprising, but Nana was probably the most optimistic person I have ever known. Perhaps she had always been like that. Perhaps it was life and especially the bad things that toughened her up. I’m not sure. All I know is that I always enjoyed her company. I loved hanging around her room when my family and I lived with her and I loved visiting her as a teenage girl and then a grown-up. My favourite visits were the ones I paid her with my mum on early Sunday afternoons. We had tea or coffee and of course something sweet to go along with it. We gossiped a bit, laughed a lot and chatted away. At such times, I felt the happiest and the most loved and understood, (most useful on the days when nothing made sense to me or I was recovering from a heartbreak.) I only hope that one day I can be as strong and optimistic as she was and that I can share it with other people in my life the way she did with me.

to toughen somebody up – uodparniać (to make somebody stronger)
somebody’s company – czyjeś towarzystwo (the fact that someone is spending time with you)
to hang around somewhere – spędzać czas w jakimś miejscu (to spend time at a place)
to pay somebody a visit odwiedzić kogoś (to visit someone)
away – bez przerwy, zawzięcie (continuously or repeatedly, or in a busy way )
to recover from something – dochodzić do siebie (to get/feel better)
a heartbreak – zawód miłosny (a broken heart)


  1. Good to have you back:)This story is really moving and inspiring (as always:). Take care!

    1. I'm happy to be back :)

      Thank you for the lovely comment, Ania :)

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  3. Enjoyed this post very much. Thanks for the great job!