Category Archives: Connections

The cup that is no more

Harasimowicz’s book “Saga czyli filiżanka, której nie ma” (Saga or the cup that isn’t there) about his family history was inspired by his mother’s memory of a cup.  In the Pawłowicz family lore, another cup features prominently. Not the phantom cup of a Napoleonic soldier, but a tangible piece of a china coffee service in Warsaw that belonged to my great-grandmother Helena.

Around 1913, it likely resided in the Pawłowicz house on Kanonia 14 in the Old Town. Later, around 1925, as the family expanded, it found a new home in Kazimierz Pawłowicz’s newly built house on Goraszewska 8 in City Garden Czerniaków (Sadyba). The cup survived World War II after the Nazis destroyed the family houses and possibly made its way from Poland to Sweden in 1946, where my great-grandmother traveled. From then onwards, the cup became a cherished piece of memorabilia with its own story.

It is unclear whether Helena found it or if someone else retrieved it and gave it to her before she left Poland forever. The family narratives do not mention when and how it was recovered from the debris on Goraszewska 8. In any case, it crossed the Atlantic Ocean—perhaps first to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where it joined Bohdan Pawłowicz and his family. Subsequently, it accompanied the family to the U.S., residing in various households

When my great-grandmother passed away in 1962, her daughter-in-law (my grandmother), Wanda, took care of the cup until it returned to Brazil. It was displayed on a glass shelf in my mother’s home in Santos, sparking questions about its origin and significance. Unfortunately, at my place in the countryside, it met its demise when it dropped and shattered into pieces. The cup is no more. Fortunately, I had managed to photograph it earlier, and the images above now bear witness to its existence. This short post attests to the memory it embodied for three generations of women before me—a memory of a world that no longer exists.

Regarding the questions asked when the cup was on display, the explanation given was that this old and charred china coffee cup became the sole remnant of the Pawłowicz household in Poland. It was salvaged from the rubble and ashes where the house on Goraszewska 8 once stood. The house was destroyed sometime after the Warsaw Uprising in November 1944, as  retaliation when an informant told the Germans that Helena had buried guns and uniforms of Home Army  (Armia Krajowa) soldiers in the garden.

Although the house on Kanonia 14 was rebuilt after the war as part of the reconstruction of Warsaw’s Old Town, it was nationalized by the Soviet regime, and later its ownership was transferred to the Warsaw municipality. The vacant and leveled plot of land on Goraszewska 8 in Czerniaków, where the Pawłowicz family house once stood, became a public square.”


History, Memory and Imagination

The title “History, Memory and Imagination” comes from an interview streamed live on September 8th 2023 with Polish writer Cezary Harasimowicz (in Polish with simultaneous Portuguese interpretation). It was conducted by Piotr Kilanowski, coordinator of the Center for Polish Studies and professor of Polish literature at the Federal University of Paraná. 

Harasimowicz is not only a writer but also a screenwriter, actor and playwright .  One of his most famous series is called “Przeprowadzki” (Relocations) (2000) and was originally intended to span 100 years. However, out of 21 planned episodes, only 10 were filmed, taking place from 1900 to 1941. He says that the inspiration for the script came to him during his own move, which he entrusted to a well-known 100-year old Warsaw company.  Each episode features a separate plot, named after items which are eventually lost during the removal. Significant events from the Polish history serve as backdrop to the stories.

Harasimowicz, in his interview, reveals that the realization of being on the right path for his series stemmed from his mother’s reaction upon discovering an old suitcase in the basement. This discovery triggered her memories of escaping from Lviv with that very suitcase, evoking a flashback to the tragic history of Poland, particularly in the tumultuous 20th century marked by three wars, constant relocations, upheavals, and the accompanying emotions.

He also discusses his book titled “Saga czyli filiżanka, której nie ma” (Saga or the cup that isn’t there), narrating the story of a cup that once belonged to a Napoleonic soldier. Interestingly, he had no prior knowledge of this cup until his mother, in the final days of her life, discovered his intention to write about their family history. In her plea, she begged him to include the cup. For Harasimowicz, the cup was a phantom object, existing only in the realm of his mother’s memories, as he had never physically seen or heard of it before.

According to him, we are surrounded by objects which carry meaning, influence us and tell us something about our own lives. They talk to us and we, in turn, dialogue with them through memory and imagination. Objects that outlasted wars have an additional value as we fill them with our own history and family remembrances. In many of his writings, it is the objects that set in motion the memories, history and imagination. 

As pointed out by Professor Kilanowski,  Harasimowicz has the gift of writing stories which rescue historical facts and reveal fundamental and sometimes forgotten aspects of the Polish soul.  Through his narratives and sentient narrators, the readers recognize elements of their everyday lives (identification) and envision their dreams (projection).  Harasimowicz stresses the importance of deep research and verification of historical sources in his writings. He gets inspiration from the information gleaned from these sources and recreates it using his literary imagination. 

From this interview, I drew parallels between the situations mentioned and those experienced by members of the Pawłowicz family. I related not only to some of the objects that inspired  Harasimowicz’s stories but also to his family history and the period covered. Both his grandfather  Adam Łukasz Królikiewic and mine were born at the end of the last decade of the XIX century and died in the 1960’s, a year apart. Both fought in 3 wars (WWI, Polish–Soviet War and WWII).  His grandfather and his mother, like mine, saw the importance of transmitting family narratives, which influenced and motivated us. Both he and I count on our grandfathers’ diaries, annotations, articles and family anecdotes in addition to press clips of the times to recover the historical past. 

Harasimowicz’s mother’s old suitcase, her reaction, and his insight into the significance of objects that bear memories and history resonated with me as it connected me to the suitcase which I used for the name of this website and project. For Bohdan Pawłowicz and his family, as for many others facing similar circumstances, suitcases served as constant companions during migrations and relocations, carrying the weight of their family legacy.

The story of a cup, also part of my family saga, will appear appears in the next post. There are surely more memorabilia and content waiting to be uncovered in my grandfather’s diaries, photos, and family narratives. The stories from these sources may become the subjects of future posts. The insights I gained from the interview and the parallels I discovered were truly inspiring. However, it’s important to acknowledge that I lack Harasimowicz’s unique gift and the third element of his craft: literary imagination.