“He promised to come back. And he never did…because they took him away.”
Missing a bus from Austria to Poland
The story happened on my way from Graz, to Wroclaw, the lovely medieval town in Austria. I missed a bus from Salzburg to Katowice and I had to take another one a day later passing through Graz. Missing my hike with my Polish friend waiting for me put me on hyper stress and guilt. I just wanted to get there ASAP.
Feeling annoyed and stressed, as soon as the bus arrived I just hopped on and found a seat away from the crowds at the back and pouted. Closed to crying, I held my tears and just stared at the window.
I think I have the energy that attracts people with a story. An old, chubby Polish lady wearing a black leather jacket two decades ahead of her sat down next to me. Didn’t want to pay attention I just stared out so I wouldn’t start crying from the panic that my friend was waiting for me and I lost the previous bus money. Yep, that’s how young I was.
WW2 in Poland
Seemed to be intrigued by me being Asian, the lady started talking with her broken English. A sucker I was for old lovely ladies, I pulled my shit together and gave my full attention to her. As soon as she heard I was from Hong Kong, she asked,
“how was it like during the war there?”
What an odd conversation starter, I smiled and shrugged my shoulder. Not a topic I wanted to discuss with an old lady I had just met.
“It was okay. It was tough but the lucky ones lived through it.”
“My husband also lived through it.” She said with a huge smile on her face.
“Oh cool. That’s nice.”
Met with silence…”Are you going back to him now?” I asked so the conversation wouldn’t end with awkwardness when we had another 5 hours ahead of us.
“No, I have no idea where he is now.” Still smiling, staring into my eyes.
Okay…”What do you mean?”
“I believe he is still alive, living with his family and grandkids, not bothered by the past.” (I have to paraphrase this as her original sentence was too broken to be translated.)
What a weird wish…Not knowing what to say or ask, I just kind of wished the conversation to end now…She continued on to tell me her story despite our language barrier.
Surviving the war, but not the aftermath
Both her and her husband survived the war, a war that took the lives of millions, leaving devastating trauma for most inhabitants across the land. They had been in Poland the whole time, the very few lucky ones enough to be in the last untouched places. After the war, they wanted to start a new life. But he had another agenda. He wanted to help. He wanted to help those less fortunate, those didn’t survive the war with their families.
She was not happy with it. But when someone’s determined, there’s not much you could do. He wanted to go down south for a project his mate talked him into. It was only going to be two months, he told her.
The day he left, he promised to come back. He promised.
It didn’t even take two months. Three weeks later she heard he was taken by the authorities and he was never seen again. Till this day she strongly believed he was taken somewhere and was forced to stay there and couldn’t come back.
A war that took her husband away
Her biggest wish for him wasn’t that he would come back one day, but that he had already married someone nice and had many brilliant grandkids as he always wished.
Too many questions unanswered due to the language barrier, I just sobbed. Perhaps due to the stress I already had or because of her story, and never asked more questions.
Stories like that make me cry not even because of how sorrowful they are, but because of how unresolved they are. We all want answers, or we just want to believe.
I can’t answer what happened to her husband nor do I even know who took her husband in the first place. There’re a lot more to the story that was lost in translation. But that’s just like most war stories. Always a chunk missing that no one has answers to.
Wishing your husband to be married to someone else is a painful wish to make. I never even figured out why she was in Austria in the first place. Her wish was keeping her positive. She was never going to find out the truth it seemed, so I hoped her wish to be true.
Wars dismantled millions of families, displaced the rest. And that’s not even history. It’s still happening everyday as we speak. Her story wasn’t the first and it surely wouldn’t be the last. Do we have to depend on luck that we don’t end up like her? What is the world doing so none of us will end up like her in the future?
A lot of people think these kind of stuff has no relevance to them. It affects all of us because we live in this world together. The truth is, is the world ready for another 2 million refugees?