The World in Between isn’t my story. It’s anyone’s story. And those stories are as varied as the people who live them.
When my daughter in law, Emily, received her PhD, Pat and I watched her ceremony online (you go Em!). A woman and a man, each in their 80s, also received doctorate degrees – one in literature and the other in engineering. What an inspiration. I would love to hear more about their in between paths. In my best dreams, I become a fascinating old person.
My friend, Sue, recently lost her husband to early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The disease changed Sue’s life in all of the predicable ways. It also set her on a course to become an artist – pushing her to kindle a lifelong passion from a barely visible spark to a raging fire.
Sue spent this summer in Europe, first in Budapest and then France where she studied painting. She blogs about art and life pouring her heart into each post. I love watching her metamorphosis from the wife of an international sales exec and mother of three children to the artist she is today. Her in between may not have been her first choice, yet she has tackled her fears and doubts and pushed herself forward. For me, she is a role model.
Lastly, there is Mirka McDonald. Her in between may be my favorite one of all. By fate, I met Mirka in Vienna. Pat and I stood near her at the opera, and she lent us her spare scarf – teaching us to tie it over the horizontal pole thus saving our standing place. With our spot secured, we set off to talk over a glass of wine. She mentioned growing up in Poland and moving to the United States as a young woman. We parted after this brief encounter – yet Mirka remained a flicker in my memory.
Recently, Mirka emailed me. She found my blog while researching Americans living in Central and Eastern Europe. She read my post about Vienna, including a reference to standing at the opera. Checking her memory book, she realized it was the very same night she had helped an American couple living in Bratislava. Mirka emailed me, and we have been in correspondence every since.
Mirka, and her American husband, are planning to move to Poland for a few years. Her 80 year old father is still alive, and she wants to live close to him. After all these years, Mirka realizes that while she blossomed in America, her roots are firmly planted in Polish soil. After 40 years, she needs to live in her homeland for a while. Her husband is willing to retire if needed, work if possible, and support her dream. (I recognize that last part).
Mirka left Poland during communism – alone and twenty years old. I have lived in Central Europe long enough to realize there must be a back story. No one showed up at the border carrying all their earthly possessions and with a smile and wave “good-bye” just walked out. I emailed Mirka and asked if she was willing to share what happened.
To Mirka, she was just one of the thousands, hundreds of thousands who found a means to escape. To me, Mirka is the name and the face I will forever associate with all those people. Mirka’s life story is the stuff of movies. (or books, Mirka, or books!)
Frequently, I’m approached by a budding blogger who wants to guest post on my site. I turn down each request with a polite email explaining that the World in Between is my perspective – and as such, I am the only writer. When I approached Mirka, I told her to just jot down what happened, “Don’t waste a ton of time editing, as I will be rewriting it.”
When I finished reading Mirka’s letter out loud to Pat, I realized my best laid plans had been dashed. “Oh my gosh. What am I going to do with this?” Mirka does not believe she is a writer. Yet she has the authentic voice which is every bloggers dream, and it shines through in her story.
Rules are made to be broken, right? My next blog will be Mirka’s story and in Mirka’s own words. Her letter is perfect – I can’t rewrite it without losing the voice of a fearless young Polish girl who concocted a scheme to walk out of her country, kissed her parents in what she must have suspected could be a permanent goodbye, and escaped. I will run her letter as written without changing a word.
For those of you born and raised under freedom, I think your reaction will be much as mine – at least I hope so. When I read Mirka’s letter out loud to Pat, I cried. In Mirka’s in between she moves to Poland. I can only hope as she lives this journey, she writes a blog.