At last everyone is fit, and after accompanying the twinlets to preschool – them tearing along on their bikes with the new addition of a bell (“My bell is vewy vewy loud, Babcia Meg”) – I set off to walk through parkland and reacquaint myself with other bits of now familiar Warsaw. Every step I take is a reminder of past rambles in all seasons except this incipient Spring, and there are ghosts everywhere. The stones of Warsaw may not know me, but they are impregnated with my puny history. I get off the tram at the children’s hospital where Maja spent a week with an infected hand as a tiny baby, and walk above a busy highway where once we ferried bottles of breast milk. The sun is bright. I understand why Maja and Jaś squinched their eyes shut when they finally saw sunlight after four months of winter gloom. Shadows of trees and branches fall on the path and on the walls of old houses. At the busy Plać na Rozdrozu the flowers beds are full of the promise of leaves unfolding from the earth.
I’m heading for the Botanical Gardens. The plan is to visit them every few weeks and watch the changes. I discover that they don’t open till the end of March, but I walk in anyway, as far as the entrance kiosk, and take photos of dried grasses tied in bundles, the insect hotel, buddings and more promise of leaves.
Along the main road there are police and tents. I struggle with the Polish and take a few photos for translation at home. KOD turns out to be Committee for the defence of democracy which is fighting draconian laws just passed by the new mega-right parliament, reducing democratic rights by interfering with the media and the justice system. I read about this right-turn in an Australian newspaper before I left.
I’m lucky: KOD has an official Facebook page in English, so I can find out more, although the signs defeat me. I manage to translate “We invite you to join in action 200 eggs without the declared judgement” is not very enlightening.
I turn through the gates into Łazienki gardens and hear Chopin music coming from one of the musical benches that mark significant sites in his Warsaw life. The Chopin monument towers against bare trees and I remember summer concerts of his music when the roses were in fading bloom. Today the benches around the pool in front of the monument contain a scattering of worshippers sprawled with their heads thrown back and their faces drawing in the glorious sun. I suspect the sun is a greater attraction than Chopin.
I move beyond the statue of Chopin under a willow tree, down into Łazienki parklands, passing the Orangery and the White House and bypassing the palace on the lake and the Chinese garden. Squirrels and mandarin ducks are eating out of hands on the pathways.
I emerge from the park on a busy road and head back up to the apartment, past the hill we bum-slid down last visit and up the stairs beside the clay pit that swallowed the pram.
Beside the stairs is a simple memorial, a reminder of the ever-present horrors of Warsaw history.
Here at the time of the Warsaw Uprising from 1st August to 5th October, 100 innocent men died a martyr’s death. Eternal reverence and praise to them. The residents of Mokotów