As I look back and try to pinpoint where the idea of The Pawlowicz Suitcase project came about, I realize there have been a number of seemingly unrelated events, which have now found the right time and circumstances to connect and make the adventure worth considering.
The seeds were planted back in my childhood and have been germinating slowly, aided by the occasional sun and rain at different seasons of my life.
I did not see my grandparents very often. The year I was born, they moved to the US. However, my parents and I would travel to visit them every two-three years and they would come to Brazil alternately so the distance became shorter and the memory of these encounters still lingers.
I still feel the same fascination I had, from very early on, with the image of my grandfather’s living room and office, with shelves laden with books in Polish and English, the feel and smell of the handwritten leather bound diaries neatly arranged by year, the sketches Bohdan used to draw on the side while he was thinking and writing. I can still see the twinkle in his eye and his broad smile when he noticed me standing at the door watching him work.
When Bohdan died, I was 14 so couldn’t quite take the responsibility for his papers, but promised my mother I would get them and use them one day. My grandmother gave most of those papers to her son, Leszek, who later donated some of them to Polish Institutes in America and kept others. Now that my uncle is gone, it is finally my turn to take care of them.
From Bohdan’s eight grandchildren, I am the eldest and also the one with the best command of the Polish language. I may have also been the one who listened the longest and with most attention to my mother’s and grandmother’s family stories. I hope my brothers and cousins will be able to help me uncover some of this history from their own perspective and we can pass on this legacy to our children, other members of the family and whoever else may be interested in it.
I now have the time and the opportunity to dedicate myself to this project: my children are grown up, I am retired and have just a few classes to teach at school. Besides, I have acquired some digital savoir faire along these past years, without which I would hardly even contemplate getting involved in it.
I have been given the privilege of following and helping Rudolf Ammann in his doctoral thesis on the genealogy of blogging. This piqued my curiosity about historical detective work and gave me the over the shoulder view into the process and discipline of doing archival research. With this came the insight into how I might go about my own work. I have had an interest for creative non fiction for some time and I have even tried a modest hand at it. Reading and getting in contact with Susan Greenberg stimulated me to further engage in it.
All this doesn’t come without particular challenges. I do not fear them, however. I find challenges intellectually stimulating: they allow you to learn more about your strengths/weaknesses and they open a window through which you can chance upon unfamiliar worlds and perspectives. The challenges I had envisaged and already face are linguistic, technical and methodological. It is my intention to keep a record of them in this blog, together with other issues which most certainly will come up as I proceed.