THE OPEN DOOR (VP Column – May 2020 issue of the Naród Polski)

A world of “movers and shakers” has been brought to an abrupt halt by a faceless enemy who promises to introduce a new normal. Although our primary concern is and must be for the sick, dying and those on the front lines, we who have been spared being touched physically by this faceless enemy must take on our roles as the “movers and shakers” of our own families. As human beings, we have inundated our daily routines with so much purpose that to be stopped dead in our tracks leaves confusion and fear to take center stage in our lives. Once we take a moment to steady ourselves, we shift into survival mode, allowing for action, compassion, understanding and hope in ourselves, in our neighbors and friends, the medical and science experts, and in the mandates of our government. “We are in this together” is the motto of the moment and each of us can do our part by making the best of this challenging situation and first and foremost take care of ourselves. As we applaud the survivors, the professionals, and all essential workers, we also applaud the parents (and guardians) who have taken their responsibilities to new heights and the students who are challenged more than ever in their own lives. Being quarantined in your sanctuary gives you time to appreciate it as it evolves into your place of worship, work office, children’s classroom, and/or gym. In order to keep yourselves and your families safe, you have some down time to catch up on unfinished projects including the great outdoors if you have a yard, to prioritize your life’s ambitions and to be thankful that you live in a time where technology is so advanced. Society as a whole has become more tech-savvy as time moves forward. ZOOM used to mean something else and now it and similar forms of video conferencing connect many people for a variety of purposes; social media, in all its glory, has expanded communication between friends; mass media with television at the forefront transmits Roman Catholic Masses daily as well as providing entertainment in many forms, and, of all our “gadgets”, what would we do without our cell phones? As much as it saddens us that we will not physically gather together for a while, we have the means to stay connected, all the while remembering that we need to stay safe, stay healthy, stay home and when out in public, wear a mask (in some states, it’s the law). A statistic that seems to be engraved in my head is that 60% of Americans do not know anyone who contracted the Covid-19 virus and thus, do not believe this crisis is significant enough to shut down the economy. I wish that statistic was 100%, because I know of several who valiantly fought and lost the battle and others who fought and won. Let us not forget those who are battling other illnesses as well. The other maladies did not subside once Covid-19 arrived. Remember to keep all in our prayers.

We know that we will get through this crisis, although it is a matter of “when.” We are a world of instant gratification. Patience needs to be nurtured, especially at a time when it is being tested. “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting” (Joyce Meyer). History teaches us that the world rebounded after past pandemics. In an email forwarded to me by former PRCUA President Edward G. Dykla, “Déjà vu…we are not the first, nor will we be the last! History does repeat itself every 100 years!” (David Fry) referencing the Plague in 1720, Cholera in 1820, the Spanish Flu around 1918-1920 and now the 2020 Coronavirus. It is the timing and similarities of the past pandemics with the current crisis that piques interest and concern. The Spanish Flu which began in January of 1918 and ended in December of 1920 affected a third of the global population of the times (500 million people), resulting in approximately 17 to 50 million fatalities. “As scientists raced to find a vaccine, public health officials turned to time-tested methods of social distancing and quarantine. State and local officials around the country banned public gatherings, closing schools, churches, theaters, bars and other spots where people typically met in groups.” (Sarah Pruitt writing about the 1918 Pandemic). Sound familiar? We continually learn from the past and yet, although being proactive is the key, how should WE have better prepared ourselves? How do we do so for any future outbreaks once the current contagion is controlled? Are we willing to continue to wear masks and limit physical contact once the crisis subsides? Or will we forget and hope for the best? Food for thought. “Better to be safe than sorry.” As for the economy, we will bounce back as we have at many times in our personal lives and as a nation. Perseverance and frugality may be the hallmark of the immediate future, but when did they stop being important virtues? My Dad often reminded us to “save for a rainy day.” In times like these, his words ring true, especially for those who have temporarily lost their income and livelihood. You will “rise like a phoenix from the ashes,” tougher, wiser and better.

My articles are usually filled with wonderful PRCUA events hosted by amazing people exercising their organizational skills, artistic talents, athletic prowess and flair for entertaining. I wish that I could recount to you the camaraderie felt in attending the PRCUA National Bowling Tournament or the PRCUA traditional Święconka luncheon hosted by District 9; the joy and pride felt at the milestone anniversary concerts of Gwiazda (60th), Southwest Center of Polish Song & Dance (35th) and Zajaczek (15th), as well as at the school graduations and dance recitals: Malbork (scheduled for 3/28), Halka (3/29), Wieliczka (3/29), Polskie Maki (4/5), St. R. Kalinowski and Mała Polska (4/25), and Rogalin (4/25), but they were postponed. I will however, proudly acknowledge the ingenuity of the staff of these schools and groups who, in many cases, provided alternate ways to educate and celebrate until “they meet again” in person. Bravo to the Polish language schools who provide online lessons for their students and although dance classes online are tricky, interaction with the dancers remains. Several of the school directors participated in distributing food to healthcare workers on behalf of their students. I commend you all for your kindness, dedication and compassion.

With the uncertainty of when shelter-in-place orders will be lifted and how the dictates of social distancing will be modified, events for the month of May in Illinois have been cancelled, which include the festivities surrounding Chicago’s celebration of the May Third Polish Constitution.

It is “business as usual” at the PRCUA Home Office except that it is closed on Wednesdays and weekends and personnel alternates two days weekly, with several individuals working from home. The Office is not open to the public, but to personnel only. To all our PRCUA members, please be assured that while markets may be in turmoil, our portfolio is liquid and PRCUALife is financially sound. PRCUALife is with you through all the stages of life.

For me personally, these past few weeks have been also intense and surreal. To pay my respects to two individuals who passed (one unfortunately from Covid-19), I virtually watched the Funeral Mass and gravesite services of Janina Edwarda Chachula (aunt of my BFF Teresa Pazdziora) and the Memorial Mass for Andrzej Gędłek (an active leader within the Polish American community of Chicago), one on my cell phone and the other on my IPAD. To the families of these and all who also lost a loved one during this pandemic, please accept our sincerest condolences. “Eternal rest grant unto them O, Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them, may their souls and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.”

In order to relieve my angst over the current crisis, Richard and I began work on the unfinished projects in the garden (weather permitting) and a plethora of others within our home. I do not think I ever “watched my garden grow” as much as this year – the snowfall twice in April made me wince, but the daffodils and chionadoxa (soft blue flowers) are resilient – I took it as a sign from God that we too are resilient. My article comes to a close and with it, the lyrics to a song by David Mallett entitled “Garden Song.”

Pullin’ weeds and pickin’ stones,
We are made of dreams and bones
I feel the need to grow my own
‘Cause the time is close at hand
Grain for grain, sun and rain,
I’ll find my way in nature’s chain
I tune my body and my brain
To the music of the land.
Inch by inch…

So plant your rows straight and long,
Temper them with prayer and song
Mother earth can keep you strong
If you give her love and care
Now an old crow watching hungrily
from his perch in yonder tree
In my garden I’m as free
As that feathered thief up there.
Inch by inch…

Inch by inch, row by row, I’m gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row, someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below ’til the rain comes tumbling down

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home!

Pandemic 1918
Pandemic 1918
Pandemic 1918
Pandemic 1918
Mask courtesy of Marysia Dziadkowiec
Agnieszka i Natalia Bastrzyk



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