Friday, 5 April 2013

Dziadzio Bohdan's 90 today!

A great day, a day for celebration. My father, Bohdan Dembiński, reaches the grand old age of 90 today - which is amazing, given what he has lived through - German invasion of Poland, the four-year Nazi occupation of Warsaw, 63 days of the Warsaw Uprising, seven months in prisoner-of-war camp Stalag X-B. Time to thank the Lord for good luck and good genes. Time to be truly grateful.

My father has always been an active man, never one to lounge in front of the telly watching football, beer in hand. The garden calls, there's always work to be done. And a healthy diet... breakfast of porridge oats with ground walnuts and half a banana, and a glass or two or red wine of an evening. And loving companionship - my parents live for one another, as is visible from the photo below. Combined age - 175 years!

Sto lat, Dziadzio, and then some more! (I'm thinking Henry Allingham and Harry Patch). Given the fact that my father is as hale and hearty as he was five years ago, mentally on tip-top form and not using a walking stick, the prognosis is good! And let's also raise a glass to Britain's National Health Service - much to be thankful for here too.

Above: more than half a life time ago - my father, then aged 41, with my brother, one and half; August 1964, Isle of Wight. Below: my father, aged 41, with my brother, two and half, August 1965, Seaford, East Sussex.

While in London last month, my father showed me a hand-written copy of his baptismal certificate, originally dated 8 April 1923. There was some confusion as to whether he was born on 5 March (date on baptismal certificate) or 5 April; my paternal grandmother recalls the date of birth as 5 April - not something a mother would ever forget in a hurry.

There's another error on the copy of the certificate (made in 1957 in the parish of All Saints, ul. Grzybowska 3-5); it spells out in letters my grandparents' address at the time my father was born as 'ul. Łucka, number one thousand, one hundred and fifty five'. Now, ul. Łucka before the war, as it does today, runs from ul. Żelazna to ul. Towarowa, and the numbers on the odd side range from one to 25. The number '1155' is clearly '1/55', Łucka 1 flat 55 (Łucka 11 was the Ostrowski Brothers' factory making horse-drawn carriages before the war). Today, Łucka 1 is a brick-built post-war factory that replaced the tenement that stood there previously.

UPDATE AUGUST 2017: Thanks to reader Alojzy, the mystery of the address is settled. The number '1155' is the numer hipoteczny - mortgage number - of the property, which corresponds with Łucka 16.

My grandfather, Tomasz Dembiński, worked for PKO (which happens to be the institution I bank with), and in 1926, he was allocated a flat in a new building on ul. Filtrowa in Warsaw's Ochota district, where my aunt and her family live to this day.

It gives me great pride that  I live and work, that my children schooled, in the city where my father was born. I feel a sense of continuity regained after more than half a century's hiatus.

This time last year:
An independent Scotland - what if?

This time two years ago:
Królikarnia - Warsaw's 'rabbit house'

This time five years ago:
Happy 85th, Dziadzio Bohdan!


Liz said...

Thank you for writing news that cheers the heart. Time to be grateful indeed. I hope your parents will continue to enjoy every day.

Anonymous said...

what a great post and photo montage...sending a birthday hug your dad's way.
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