From the Forum Editor, Agata Wojno

Dear Readers,

    I’m not the only chief editor who, in this viral pandemic situation we find ourselves, is trying to write something… encouraging. The initial shock and disbelieve of what’s going on in China and Europe, and the naive notion that in 14 days the world will return to normal… are behind us. Now we are left accepting the reality of the situation and responsibility to care for not just ourselves, but also for others. First and foremost, for others. Yes, it’s a test for us as a society. I’m aware that a large portion of the Polish-American Cultural Center members are in the advanced years, so as you read this, I want to assure you that you are not alone. If there are individuals who live alone, or are unable to leave their dwelling and have needs such as shopping, delivery, conversation or encouragement please call: (216) 832-7638 or email: agatawojno@yahoo.com. I will try to help if possible. I’m terrified by the lesson we are given. It’s not easy trying to stay positive. What is happening across the globe strikes fear in us, as it should. The best things we can do right now, are staying and working at home and being supportive for those having to leave for work.

    It’s a peaceful, quiet morning. As usual, I hear the birds singing, spring seems to be in the air, even the sun is bashfully peeking in the window. But something is different? … My gut reaction tells me something has changed. My perception of the morning and the taste of coffee has changed. That is good. That is the moment of awakening, the awareness that gratitude for every ordinary thing can be felt. Things are different with the virus breathing down our necks.

When we defeat it — and it will be defeated — life will be different. I’m inclined to believe that it all makes some kind of sense and life is like the mountains. At times, dark heavy clouds roll in, darkening the landscape and making it hard to see. What’s next? Breathing calmly you’re awaiting the moment  you know is coming, when the clouds thin out and part, allowing the golden sunlight to flood the terrain.

    It’s hard for me to exactly imagine, what the Americans feel, facing rows of empty shelves in stores, for it has been a long time since that has happened here. Poles have it easier in this matter. We remember bare shelves. No flour or sugar or bread or kielbasa and the vouchers needed when something showed up. I lived in a small town and being young, I don’t recall much detail of those times or maybe I just suppressed my memories because the communist state of shortages lasted so long that we all got used to it. We lived in Poland through bare shelves, censorship and lack of freedom, and going through those difficult times has given us resilience. Some remember that era with a certain nostalgia, which I find laughable, but a friend in Poland describes it as a yearning for return to our youth, when a slice of buttered bread sprinkled with sugar was a treat.

    This is a perfect moment for reflection on the personal, societal, and global levels. What comes to mind is an image of a caterpillar in a cocoon as a reflection of the society and a chance to developing into a beautiful butterfly. First on the level of the individual, then our relations, family, society. Because if it’s not time for reflection and change, then… when?

Everything makes sense… let’s think, when the world slowed down and in many places it stopped — the number of cars on the road decreased dramatically and the air quality surged.

Look at the time we’ll have to spend with our nearest. When you’re in the cycle between work and responsibilities it’s easy to loose perspective, in the mix of fears and expectations.

When most of the usual sources of entertainment are gone, how do you deal with it? People suddenly notice the essence of life they have, and when an external treat looms it brings on introspection. Am I living the life I want to live? Is there anything I can do to be a better, happier person? Should I follow my passion? Perhaps this temporary pause in our normal lives will reawaken something that was lost in the pursuit of everyday existence.

    And let’s remember, spring has not been closed; it arrives without asking the virus for permission. One can still take a walk, with or without a pet, keeping the sensible distance from others but without fear of getting close to nature. That, frankly speaking, speaks to me louder than any media and gives me a lot to think about…

To all the members, readers and friends of the Polish-American Cultural Center I wish good health in the upcoming weeks. Be safe.

Translated by Julian Boryczewski