Babcia Kika – Krystyna Marber Korzeniowska

1952 (age 24)

I found this beautiful picture of my mother-in -aw today. Of course that should be mother in law, but I rather like mother in awe.I have never seen this before, but it fell into my hands just now as I was looking through a box of her papers that we brought back from Poland recently.

Today is the first anniversary of her death, and I am very aware that I have not commemorated this event in any way until now. Sometimes things take a long while to process – she would be the first to admit that. She was born in 1928, married in 1951 and had my husband in 1953 – whereas I met her in 1978, when I got married to her only son.

I only met her after our registry office wedding, which to us was more like a betrothal – a commitment, yes, but not irreversible. That happened a few months later at our church wedding. Sadly, she did not see it like that. If ever I have unwittingly and unwillingly upset anyone, it was her by our hasty marriage. My parents were ok with it, just about, but my in laws were devastated. I understand it now, but then all we could think of was our happiness – the idea was if we were happy then so should everyone be round us. Unfortunately life does not work like that. I arrived in Poland for Christmas 1978 to be met with cool not to say frosty politeness. Eventually it dawned on me ( after some very difficult conversations ) that my new family felt that I was stealing their only child from them. That of course had never been my intention. I was just delighted to acquire a larger family – that has been my aim in many ways all my life – but no one else saw it my way.

Why am I writing this – because my mother in law – made a supreme effort. Yes, those first two weeks in Poland were very difficult – but in that time she arranged a big party for us so that their friends and relations could get to know me, and she made a lot of time for me and tried to reassure herself that her son at least would be happy with me. I came back to England and then went to Poland once more before our church wedding. Yet this time it was in a way even more difficult because we had to attend a cousin’s wedding, which brought home toher the fact that she had not come – not been invited – to our registry office wedding. But neither had anyone else. As far as we were concerned it was just a piece of paper. no ceremony, no rings , just two witnesses and ten minutes. Fun – but not nearly as important as the real thing. It took a while for her to understand that we had gone through this procedure precisely because we wanted to do everything legally, so that sh e and my father in law could come to England to the actual wedding.

Communist times in Poland made foreign travel for their nationals very difficult. My husband had come over to England on work experience and was the only young person I had ever met who had a work permit and could therefore earn money legally. He had to return to Poland soon after our reg off wedding. But before he could come back to England he had to pay back his university studies. luckily he had a car which he sold in order to be able to do so. Inadvertently Kika’s (she hated that name, but it caught on) love for her son – she had saved up for years so he could buy a car – enabled him to come to England legally. That was another cause of distress for a while.

Yet throughout all her unhappiness she was always kind and thoughtful. They came to our wedding in May – not exactly beaming, but resigned. But by Christmas – we went together to Warsaw – she took me aside and told me that she loved me – she admitted that she had worked very hard on herself, but had come to the conclusion that I was a ‘good thing’ – or words to that effect. My father in law had come to that conclusion a lot earlier, my grandmother in law was still working on it, not very successfully, but relations improved massively from then on.

And I too began to realise how life was difficult for her at the best of times. Her own family life had been somewhat disastrous. She didn’t know her father, who had left her mother soon after their marriage. At the age of sixteen or so she had been rounded up and sent to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp during the Warsaw Uprising. When liberated she was sent to Sweden where she earned a living by dancing with a Polish folklore dance troupe. Then she returned to Warsaw, finished her education as a food technologist, met my father in law, married him and I would like to say lived happily ever after.

Over the years we talked a lot, and became good friends in many ways. Even when talking over the phone was difficult – very expensive – and hard to get a connection she liked to talk to me every week – she was always interested in what we were doing and the children, and always full of advice. I wasn’t very good about that, but I learnt to deal with it. She learnt to accept me too. Thank goodness.

What I really really liked about her, and what I respected most, was that she was prepared to listen and to change her mind, once she had acquired all the facts she could about the situation and deliberated them for a while. I found this quite strange, being more used to my own mother’s way of thinking – snap decisions and judgments, a quick laugh and sorted. They could not have been more different in attitude and lifestyles – but they too eventually began to understand each other, I think. She was always determined to do the right thing and was always very honest – but that’s another story!

I’m going to stop here now, I think. Mother to my husband, grandmother to my three children – she adored them all,and me, in her own way. She personified uprightness and love, with a good dose of humour too.

3 comments on “Babcia Kika – Krystyna Marber Korzeniowska

  1. Wow – she sounds like quite a woman. She and my babcia would have gotten along famously. I’m so happy for you that she came around and saw what your husband saw in you and made her peace with the hasty first wedding.

    Interestingly enough, best photo I have of my babcia is from her 1934 Legitymacja.

    Liked by 1 person

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