My third grandmother- Babunia- was no blood relation – she was a holiday relative, and I loved her. Two school friends of my mother had married, begotten two children, and gone to live in Wales. Fresh air, a damp cottage on a farm, children, animals, flowers and a loving guardian were all that was necessary to ensure an adequate holiday away from the fresh fumes of central London, every spare weekend and vacation. And so this granny was the mother of my mother’s girlfriend. The most hardworking of the four dowagers, she kept house for her daughter, did all the gardening (about an acre of land) and also insisted that her granddaughters (and I when I was there) never ever uttered a word of that Teutonic group of languages, English. She had been severely molested by the Germans during the war, and though she respected the British, she felt the racial ties too close to be able to countenance the use of either idiom within earshot.
She was a tyrant in that respect, especially towards her granddaughters, but I called her by the most affectionate ‘granny’ name in Polish. She imbued the three of us with a great love for nature, for (prewar) Poland and for history. I thought I was lucky to escape the actual lesson hours in the summer, because I was a guest, but now I am not so sure. The older girl was taken through a course of Polish history and literature which seemed quite arduous in the face of my indolence, but despite this I managed to glean some stray fruits of knowledge, as well as learning about a dozen varieties of ‘patiences’ from her. She was strict, but intelligent and fun – but when her daughter remarried, they all went off to Canada, and all contact has been lost.
(2013 Now it has been found again and I am thrilled)