War Diaries, May 5, 2022

An Open Thank You Letter to All of Our Donors

Dear Donors,


The art studio is taking shape.  The L’Orangerie is a large open area which sits in the cold nearly year-round.  It opens its doors to our short summer for a few scheduled events and then patiently waits its return the following season.  It will not take much to convert into a space of creativity.  Tomorrow, we are driving to Kraków to buy easels and paint and paper; brushes, pencils and pens.  The criterion at Sichów is: “First, Use What You Have.”  We have tables and chairs in-house.  We have a water source to include a wash basin for clean-up.  We have natural lighting and French doors that lead to the park on three sides.  (It seems too that we have a few artists in-house and certainly many children who want to join in on the fun.)


We are picking up our sewing machine, clearing a space for it in the upstairs Czytelnia (Reading Room/Study and Play Area), where a project already awaits.  Our seamstresses are interested in making curtains and tablecloths from the fabrics I will bring home from Kraków.  Paul and I are encouraging them to make the things they’d like, and we can take them to market places to sell.  It’s a fulfilling way for them to earn money for themselves.


The contract for the apartment in Kraków is nearing a signature.  The Foundation is leasing a space in town for an unsighted couple.  We will also subsidize their food bill and are currently in discussion about what other kind of support they might need for a less difficult transition.


The house is full.  We are now over forty residents.  Thus far we have been able to provide food, shelter, medicine, shoes, clothes, personal hygiene products, and field trips every two to three weeks.  (On Sunday, I believe everyone is signed up to go to Tokarnia, an ethnographic outdoor museum.  It’s a children’s paradise.)


For the forty individuals here at Sichów, it is the donors who have made the difference in their lives. Forty people. Each with a complicated, some even more complicated history/story and hardship they must daily maneuver. Sichów offers a safe and secure place from the utter confusion of the outside world. Here, children can run and play freely without fear of any harm coming to them. This alone comforts our mothers. Everyone shares in a nutritious diet, peaceful surroundings, and on Friday night’s we have wine together and sometimes the women sing Ukrainian songs. It’s a lively atmosphere of hard work during the week, school, and chores, and is as close to a normal life as the one left behind.


This is because of our donors. We could not have done this without you, so please accept my heartfelt gratitude for the difference you have made in the lives of those who are suffering the great loss of displacement.


Finally, I know that some of you have read our website but for those of you who have not, I would like to close with the only diary entry I have of my mother-in-law during the Ruszcza years of 1939-1945 when her manor home was filled to capacity with those seeking shelter from the war. 


From her diary: A. Organization. Get up early. Indicate what work needs to be done. The cleaning, all corners of the house. B. Dedicate a specific hour in which everything in the larder is passed out. Give money to the ones who need it. C. Let all know the day before what duties will need doing the day after. D. Don’t put out so much sugar when serving tea. Think about everything you do beforehand. Careful not to waste food. E. Take care of the furniture and be sure it doesn’t fall into disrepair. The things that are broken, put in another place so they can be mended. F. Clean windows, beat rugs, wash linen, pack winter coats in moth balls, polish the door handles. Put everything on the calendar. G. Consider the relationships of the poor and the other house guests, take to heart their destiny. Don’t ask ordinary questions. Ask myself if I have done everything for them. Look for Jesus in them and believe that Jesus is in me and will do something through me. Listen to them with great attention. Try to console them. Don’t say superficial things to them but with the real love which you have within you, enter into work alongside them and make an effort to make it easier.


Rose Kieniewicz was somewhere between nineteen and twenty-four when she wrote this.  She continues to inspire me beyond the grave and that I can even attempt to the care she brought to another person’s life, or even half aspire to be of service to humanity as she was, to walk a bit in these footsteps gives me profound joy.  She is my north star and when there is conflict, as there is from time to time, I do find myself wondering how this young girl would have handled things.


Thank you again and I will be sending pictures of the art studio as it takes shape and of what the women decide to stitch.


God Bless You, all who have done more than their part to make someone else’s life a little bit easier.


With love and my final thoughts on poets and poetry – it keeps me going.




“Poetry has the capacity to remind us of something we are forbidden to see. A forgotten future: a still uncreated site whose moral architecture is founded not on ownership and dispossession, the subjection of women, outcast and tribe, but on the continuous redefining of freedom – that word now held under house arrest by the rhetoric of the “free” market. This on-going future, written-off over and over, is still within view. All over the world its paths are being rediscovered and reinvented.”


Adrienne Rich