Most of the mugs in Danuta’s kitchen have lost their handles. She often forgets that she’s holding a mug, and that’s when it slips out of her hand… and crack! When she wants to drink tea, she takes an empty mug and puts it on the table. Then she returns to the kitchen, pours boiling water into a thermos, hangs it on her walking frame, and goes back to the lounge. After all this effort, she does not have any energy left. The only thing left is to sit and watch the daily TV soap opera Na dobre i na złe (For Good Or For Ill).
“I can see what’s happening to me. I dropped the kettle not that long ago. The water was already cold, but if it had still been hot, I would have scalded myself. So now I don’t have a kettle any more. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed, when I go to pick up a book to read a little I manage no more than a few lines, and my eyes close,” she says.
Next to her lie copies of Augustine’s Confessions and the Catholic weekly journal Niedziela (Sunday).
Danuta is 75 years old, has lean hands, transparent nails and silver-white hair that’s pinned up as if she were a ballerina. She’s so tiny that when she sits at her dining table the furniture appears to be of enormous size. Everything around her seems larger than life… only a reproduction of the Last Supper is so tiny it’s actually hard to spot Jesus huddled among the apostles.
All colours appear brighter against the white-washed walls of her apartment. The lilac of Danuta’s jumper nearly hurts my eyes. The paint flaking off the walker, parked behind her, is intensively blue. The green and red of an angel’s dress instantly draw my attention – her neighbours received this figurine from an aunt living in the US, but they didn’t like it, so they passed it on to Danuta. She accepted the sacred gift in the same way she accepts the curse of old age.
“You can’t see yourself as a victim. Raging against the world won’t do any good,” she says.
When was the last time she went outside? Five years ago? Even then she didn’t know what made more noise, the creaky stairs she had to walk four floors down or her own joints and bones. It’s not surprising – the stairs and she are almost the same age.
A caretaker used to store her other walking frame on the ground floor. It was a walker with a seat, weighing a whole 37 kilograms. She would grasp it with both her hands and push it to the nearest shop. Sometimes someone offered to help her carry things, but how to respond to such offers when you can see how much hurry people are in? Seen from a walker with a built-in seat, each and every person seems to be in a hurry. She used to be able to traipse to the nearest shop, buy groceries, and go back home. For a healthy, young …<
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The author would like to thank Aldona Bruszkiewicz and Elżbieta Pietrak from the Social Welfare Center of the Wola district of Warsaw.