„Bloom where you are planted”

Napisala i przyslala

Tamara Slawny


High Chair – Prague 1968

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”

When I was a young mother and my son was already a crawling baby I imagined him sitting in a high chair and absorbing our fascinating world from a high level. I imagined him as a famous scientist discovering new technologies, inventing miraculous devices. I was ready to do what ever it would take to put him on the top of the world but I had no idea where to get a high chair.

European, bloody spring of 1968 suppressed not only my imagination but also shattered composure of many people who never fully recovered from the atrocities of WW II.

My baby son with passion tore polish daily newspapers filled with racist hatred and profanities. “Jews to Auschwitz, Zionists to Israel “. We were guests in their country, only guests who stayed too long – for hundreds of years.

Unimaginable pain of betrayal immobilized our parents. We – their children had to decide about their future.

In August 1968 I traveled from Warsaw to Prague to meet my sister settled in Paris. Prague was so beautiful that again, I started imagining my son in a high chair absorbing knowledge like a sponge absorbing water. When I finally found this chair in the center of Prague I was ecstatic.

I remember this day – August 20, 1968

In the middle of the night frightening sound of airplanes flying over Prague put all of us on our feet ..uii.uiiiiiiiiii. War, war..is it possible ? o, no ..this is only a conventional training. Two hours later a horrified Tcheck shouted: war, war – leave this hotel immediately.

In August 1968 an invasion led by the Soviet Union put on tchekoslovakian soil over half a million foreign soldiers and 6000 tanks. I was there with my high chair imagining my son growing up in the world free of wars and prejudice.

Hundreds of tourists were walking toward the center of Prague counting on finding shelter in their embassies. Soldiers were rushing us My chair was getting heavier and heavier and I walked slower than others. Suddenly on the nearly empty bridge I heard approaching tank and I saw two Russian soldiers with their hands on the gun barrel aimed toward me. Only my high chair, full of tomorrow, separated us.

They pulled their trigger while I was imagining my son living in the world free of terrorism and racism. I kept my eyes closed and than I heard their sadistic laughter . I was alive. The two brain washed Russian soldiers were going away to fight their tchekoslovakian friends.

I carried this chair through the burning Prague. I saw people committing suicide and others crying and repeating “ Russians betrayed us”. That evening the Polish Television News Director reported to his polish viewers : “ Tchekosloviakan citizens are greeting Russian troops with joy, thanking them for their support. Prague is beautiful and peaceful”. I looked at him with shame and disbelieve. I was determined to teach my son to never stop questioning.

For many days I couldn’t leave Prague. I didn’t know what was happening in Warsaw – how was my son, my mother, my father – I knew nothing and French sardines and old baguette softened in Beaujolais were the only food I shared with others.

When I finally put my son in his high chair I imagined him walking through his life following our steps on roads built by us – roads filled with friendship, love and understanding, roads filled with truth and honesty.

Twenty years later I filmed at the University of Pennsylvania my son’s graduation and when I heard “suma cum laude” I remembered his high chair and this young woman who aged inside of me and who carried the high chair through the burning Prague invaded by their Russian “friends”‘.

I remembered his high chair again a few months later when he gave me a copy of his patent and the mug with words: “ United States Patent – his name and one simple word – “ Inventor” I am convinced that people around the world are capable of imagining that all of us are connected by the vision of Freedom, Justice and Peace for them – our Babies.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge”

 

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