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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Mrs Kolcak passes by her home

Mrs K died in February at 79. She was our neighbour when we came to Handsworth in 1978. Today we were at her funeral. It was in Polish. Jannina Kolcak came from a village near Krakov just after the end of WW2 and never quite mastered English despite attending regular classes and always being easy to understand. Her husband, met in England, in Oxford, after he'd disembarked with fellow Polish troops at Glasgow, having fought with the allies in North Africa and Italy where he was at Monte Cassino and other battles in France, died thirty years ago. The service in the St Michael’s Catholic Church in the city centre was incomprehensible and beautiful, the better for us standing just behind Mrs K's children - Leslie, Andrew, Mark and Elizabeth - in the foremost pew. There was a priest, and a deacon with a tenor voice who'd led the chant and responses at the start who sang a song - Barka - to end the service.
O Panie, to Ty na mnie spojrzałeś,
Twoje usta dziś wyrzekły me imię.
Swoją barkę pozostawiam na brzegu,
Razem z Tobą nowy zacznę dziś łów.
O, Lord, with your eyes set upon me,
gently smiling, you have spoken my name;
all I longed for I have found by the water,
at your side, I will seek other shores.
It wasn't until today I learned Mrs Kolcak's christian name.
Leaving St Michael's after the Service

From St Michael many of us went in a bus behind the car with the coffin, negotiating the traffic of the city, to Handsworth, diverting down our road - the double decker's driver skilfully missing its overhanging trees - passing by Mrs Kolcak's home before going to Handsworth Cemetery where, after prayers, the coffin was lowered into the newly dug grave next to her husband, a chill wind blowing on my uncovered head. The close family threw roses on the coffin, others a handful of earth.
We got back in the bus to gather in the dining hall of the Polish Club in Bordesley Street close to the city centre again. Leslie, the older son of the family, gave a short speech - mixing English and Polish, telling us how only days before his mother died he'd found her on her knees working in the garden - a fence from ours - at midday. He'd gone out and when he came home at dusk she was still gardening. There was talking, smiles and even laughter, not many tears, much companionship, many greetings.
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In the evening I went next door where the family and friends were gathered to reminisce and was given whisky and a selection of snacks and learned more about the family, where they'd lived in Poland, how they'd come to Britain, been naturalised, settled in Birmingham, started the family that had grown up as our neighbours, here before we arrived in the street. Leslie showed me copies of the photos that with other mementoes had gone into Jannina's grave - one showing Leslie with one of his advanced cameras standing smiling with the Great Wall of China snaking into the distance behind him. I learned something I didn't know and which causes resentment among Poles against the Labour Party to this day; that the newly elected Labour government unwilling to antagonise wartime allies now behind the 'Iron Curtain' (Churchill had coined the term in his speech at Fulton in March '46 - on post-war European politics, see also) had denied Polish Regiments a place in the Victory Parade of 8 June 1946 in London.
Greeks so rightly in the Victory Parade - but why not Poles?

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March is a critical month for Ano Korakiana's Agricultural Co-operative - Συνεταιρισμός. Under the Hellenic Government's policy on Co-operatives, they need to register thirty new members, not necessarily farmers, to buy a €200 share to build a capital reserve of €30,000, or the village may lose control of the building both for processing olives and all the other events for which it serves - dances, seminars, lessons and meetings....(Scroll down this blog entry last year for background)
Ο τρέχων μήνας Μάρτιος 2012, είναι ο πλέον κρίσιμος μήνας για το μέλλον του Αγροτικού Συνεταιρισμού του χωριού μας. Και τούτο διότι, σύμφωνα με το νέο θεσμικό πλαίσιο περί Συνεταιριστικών Οργανώσεων, που ισχύει εδώ και μερικούς μήνες, θα πρέπει έως το τέλος του μήνα, το συνεταιριστικό κεφάλαιο (δηλαδή το άθροισμα από τις αξίες των μερίδων των Συνεταίρων) να ανέλθει στις τριάντα χιλιάδες ευρώ (€30.000). Προκειμένου λοιπόν να καλυφθεί η διαφορά έως τις 30.000 ευρώ, είναι ανάγκη για εγγραφή πλέον των τριάντα νέων μελών στο Συνεταιρισμό (με την αξία κάθε μίας συνεταιριστικής μερίδας στα €200). Εάν αυτό δεν επιτευχθεί, τότε ο Συνεταιρισμός μας (με το σύνολο της ακίνητης περιουσίας του) είτε χάνει την αυτονομία του συγχωνευόμενος με άλλους Συνεταιρισμούς, είτε οδηγείται σε εκκαθάριση. Και οι δύο περιπτώσεις (πέραν των προβλημάτων που θα δημιουργήσουν στη λειτουργία του ελαιουργείου) θα επιφέρουν απώλεια του ελέγχου επί των κτιριακών εγκαταστάσεων του Συνεταιρισμού, τις οποίες χρησιμοποιεί το χωριό μας γενικότερα, για παντός είδους εκδηλώσεις. Υπενθυμίζεται λοιπόν το ΚΑΛΕΣΜΑ της Διοίκησης για την ΑΜΕΣΗ ΕΓΓΡΑΦΗ νέων μελών… προκειμένου να διατηρηθεί το σημαντικό περιουσιακό στοιχείο, που δημιούργησαν σε πολύ πιο δύσκολες συνθήκες και με πολύ μεγαλύτερες θυσίες οι πρόγονοί μας…ΣΗΜ.: τα νέα μέλη δεν είναι απαραίτητο να είναι αγρότες...Η πρόσκληση απευθύνεται προς τους απανταχού Κορακιανίτες!
Foti cooks outside the village's Agricultural Co-op

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