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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Friday, July 31, 2009

"The Doll" ~ Papusza

"Not far from us lived a Jewish shopkeeper. I stole a chicken and took it to her, and she taught me how to read in return. And then I began to read various books and newspapers. I can read well, but my writing is awful because I read a lot and didn't write much." Papusza
Sometimes when you are researching you come across something that breaks your heart.

We, of a generation that saw the genocide of WWII, of Stalinist Russia & Mao's China, Vietnam & Pol Pot, are inured to mass tragedy. It is simply impossible to individually mourn so many. It is individual tragedy that still has the power to shatter carefully constructed barriers & strip the heart raw.

Ditz has missed it. She borrowed the book Bury Me Standing from the library & tossed it aside as being too difficult & not to her purposes. I opened it & the first thing I read was the story of Papusza. Even when I tell Ditz she won't be impressed but Papusza will haunt me now all my days.

Papusza was Polish Rom. She was a gorgeous looking woman, smart, sensitive, ambitious but she was Rom at a time when most Roms were illiterate, Her desire for an education, to be able to read & write, was frowned upon & she was beaten for it. Her desire was so strong she stole to achieve her ambition. She was also female. The Roms married their girls off at 13 or so & Papusza was married off to a much older man, a renowned harpist, & was deeply, deeply unhappy. For a Romany woman there was no way out. A man could leave; a woman could not. Children might have helped but she did not have children. Instead she sang.

Soon Papusza began writing her own songs. Not unusual. The Romany have always been renowned for their music & like many illiterate peoples can commit huge amounts of information to memory. Like generations of Rom before her her songs would have lasted for as long as it took to sing them & dispersed amongst the stars & fire smoke but that was not to be her fate. She was heard by a Polish poet who mentored her, got her published, advocated for the settlement of the Rom & inadvertently destroyed Papusza.

The Rom considered her a traitor for divulging Rom secrets to the gadj & shunned her. Her distress landed her in a mental asylum & quenched her creativity. Except for one brief period she never wrote again living isolated from all that made her who she was: her people, the long road of the Rom, her music. Nobody noticed when she died in 1978 but she is celebrated as one of the most brilliant & evocative of Romany singer/poets.

From: Tears of Blood.

So much snow fell,
it covered the road.
One could only see the Milky Way in the sky.

On such night of frost
a little daughter dies,
and in four days
mothers bury in the snow
four little sons.
Sun, without you,
see how a little Gypsy is dying from cold
in the big forest.

She survived the persecution of the Germans but not that of her own people. I cannot imagine her suffering. I hope that God has had mercy on her soul & she has found in the afterlife more grace & mercy than she received in this world.


The HoJo's said...

even recently it was considered beneath the men to learn to read, I think women were allowed to learn enough to get by, children were not encouraged to go to school because there was no tradition for it, they learned all they needed 'at the fireside' even now many children will go to school for a few months, then move off elsewhere and be back again later in the year. This makes it very hard on local schools where funding and planning is based on the roll on a certain date in the year. Extra kids turn up? tough. Extra leave, bonus. No surprise that these school do less well in the league tables as their transient population aren't there to learn the necessary for the tests.

seekingmyLord said...

"We, of a generation that saw the genocide of WWII, of Stalinist Russia & Mao's China, Vietnam & Pol Pot, are inured to mass tragedy. It is simply impossible to individually mourn so many. It is individual tragedy that still has the power to shatter carefully constructed barriers & strip the heart raw."

This is why the arts are so important, be it in the form of poetry, stories, music, and paintings. We need to know the story of *one*, to walk in his footsteps, to feel his joys and heartaches, and to mourn for his loss. Thank you for sharing this *one*.

Diane Shiffer said...

I am both drawn to and repelled by these types of stories... I am drawn to them because I am interested in anything human, any stories of the different types of human condition, and depth of emotion in a story is like crack to me. I'm addicted to it. But at the same time, the pain of the character and their story repels me... It becomes mine on some level, and depresses me. I am powerless to relieve it in any way, or even to prevent it from recurring in someone else's life, and so it feels like pain for naught. I hate that.

But in spite of that, the next time a story like this comes along, I run to it... even now, I am wanting to google this woman and find out more about her, her life, her work. Like I said, I'm addicted. (and I think you are too, my dear☺)

Ganeida said...

Hojos: the island school has a large transient population~ I used to teach a lot of them ~ so I know first hand the problems of an itinerant lifestyle on education, especially when the children become resistant to learning. It is especially sad when a child wants to learn yet is denied the opportunity.

Seeking:You know I agree with you. ☺ I always wonder about the antipathy of the sciences to the arts because it is in the arts we see our humanity, rather than simply our intelligence, reflected. We know so much about our world from those who recorded their impressions of their world in art of one kind or another.

Ganeida said...

Diane: Yes, stories like this intrigue me. Like you I abhor the needless pain & suffering but am fascinated to be able to see the world through other eyes. I like autobiographies for the same reason. At heart I am just a noset parker into other people's lives. ☺

Mrs. Darling said...

Lady your brain goes way beyond where mine goes! How under the sun do you have time for all this wonderful stuff. I spose you dont have to make time cause your mind just works like this! LOL

Ganeida said...

Lol Sad to say, MrsD, my brain does just work this way.

kimba said...

Just when I was recovering from "Bolt"(the movie was alright until they mentioned declawing) you have to upset me again. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ganeida,
The North Koreans are still suffering persecution in this day and age.

Voice of the Martyrs have some excellent books, such as Eyes of the Tailless Animals by Soon Ok Lee. It really opened my eyes to the persecution that these people suffer.

My ♥ really breaks for people such as these.

Ganeida said...

Kima: Now dearie, no one held a knife to your throat & made you read...

Jillian: Yes, I sea VotM too & China too is suffering terrible persecution but still, for me, it is an individual whose story I have learnt that causes the most pain, not mass suffering of unknown individuals. Sometimes the *One* symbolises all those who suffer