for Grandma Maria Wajszczuk, nĂ©e Wasiuk (1906-1973)
Her Grandma showed her how to hold
the knife, cut a straight, narrow strip,
keeping the creamy flesh nearly intact,
ready for the pot of boiling water.
Donâ€™t throw away any food. The old refrain.
My sisters, Tonia and Irena lived on potato peels
in Siberia. She is confused. She knows
Ciocia Tonia â€” glasses on the tip of her nose,
perfectly even dentures â€” but Irena? Who is that?
They were all deported to Siberia. Not sure how
Irenaâ€™s parents died â€” of typhus, or starvation, maybe?
They used to pick through garbage heaps,
look for rotten cabbage, kitchen refuse
to cook and eat. They cooked and ate anything
they found under the snow, frozen solid.
The waterâ€™s boiling. Babcia guides her hand:
You have to tilt the cutting board
toward the pot, slide the potatoes in.
Donâ€™t let them drop and splash you.
What happened next? The orphaned children
went with the Andersâ€™s Army and the Red Cross
to Iran, Switzerland, Chicago. The kitchen
fills with memories. Mist above the stove.
Grandma piles up buttery, steaming,
mashed potatoes on her plate. Eat, child, eat.Â Â
Ten years later, Aunt Irena came to visit.
She looked like Grandma, only smaller.
Her legs were crooked.
Â© Maja Trochimczyk
Picture 11123949, early 20th century photograph, image copyright Mary Evans / Everett Collection/Old Visuals
Maja Trochimczyk, PhD,Â is a Polish American poet, music historian, photographer, and author of eightÂ books on music and Polish culture. Her nineÂ poetry volumes include fourÂ anthologies, Chopin with CherriesÂ (2010), Meditations on Divine NamesÂ (2011), Grateful Conversations (co-edited with Kathi Stafford, 2018), and We Are Here: Village Poets Anthology (co-edited with Marlene Hitt, 2020) as well asÂ Rose Always – A Love Story (2008, rev. 2020), Miriamâ€™s Iris (2008), Into Light (2016),Â and two prizewinning books based on Polish experiences of WW2 and its aftermath:Â Slicing the BreadÂ (2014) andÂ The Rainy BreadÂ (2016, 2nd expanded edition, 2021). A former Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga, she is the founder of Moonrise Press, President of the California State Poetry Society, editor of the California Quarterly and Poetry Letter published by CSPS, and President of Helena Modjeska Art and Culture Club, promoting Polish culture in California.Â HundredsÂ of her poems, articles and book chapters have appeared in English, Polish, and translations into other languages. She has read papers at nearly 90 international conferences and received many awards from Polish, Canadian and American institutions, such as the American Council of Learned Societies, the Polish Ministry of Culture, PAHA, McGill University, and the University of Southern California. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee (2021) and winner of the Creative Arts Prize from the Polish American Historical Association (2016).Â Â moonrisepress.com