Poetry written by Hania Kaczanowska

Mamusia and the Red Scarf  

I peeked into the dimlit room and saw my Babcia kneeling in prayer.
The fireplace was crackling away and she had no idea I was there.
In candlelight she held a faded picture and a red scarf I had seen before
But they were always neatly tucked away into a special drawer.

I should have let her pray in silence but curiosity tweaked at me
What was the secret of the red scarf that no one else should see?
With the scarf she crossed herself as I had seen her do for years
And before I heard her fragile voice she wiped away her tears.

“Kochana Mamusiu today is your birthday and it is a special day
For I am the same age now, as when you were taken away.
I pray for peaceful moments so your soul can heal with love
As you’re surrounded by heavenly angels who take care of you above.
When I think of you, I am a young girl again, no sadness and no pain
People don’t understand today and it is difficult to explain.
I still remember our happy lives, joy and laughter and then it ended.
And I still keep asking myself “ Is this really what God intended?”

First the war, then we lost Papa and then the train to a land of hell.
I have tried to forget the grief we shared but still remember it well.
I remember days of cold and hunger and how you shared your bread
And every Polish prayer you whispered as you tucked me into bed.

No matter how tough the days became and we were filled with fright
You’d always smile and hug me and say “Everything will be alright”.
I remember when you became ill and there was nothing I could do
We left you in the Uzbek kolhoz and our neighbors took care of you.

One day the soldiers came and you told me I must leave with them.
You handed me 5 rubles and told me to hide them in my hem.
You tied the red scarf around my neck that Papa had given you
And told me it would keep me safe all the days through.

You blessed it with a mother’s love and all you had to give.
You pushed me into freedom’s door so I would have a chance to live.
Your vision ingrained in my heart forever as we said goodbye.
You promised we would see each other again and told me not to cry.

The trains were full and soldiers were doing their boarding checks
As one cried out “You child with the red scarf, you will be next”.
They told me that you died and were buried the next day.
That wretched Uzbek soil holds no marker and no grave today.

Your spirit always lived within me and guided me thru the years,
And when I wore your red scarf I saw your reflection in the mirrors.
Somehow the scarf gave me comfort and is now ragged and torn
But that’s from uplifting me in weakness all the times it was worn.
Even tho’ it’s fibres are weak it’s memory is more precious than gold
For it represents a legacy to give to the young in remembering the old.”


3 God How I Hate the Cold
4 The Archangel in a Soldier's Boot
5/7 Long Road to the Army
6 The Ghostly Soldier of Buzuluk
9 The Eagle's Tear
9 Dziadek did you have a Gun?
11 The Polish Soldier

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