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At the Bottom of a Pint Glass

By Izzy Kaminski
March 2006, Cardiff
A digital story from Capture Wales

Poetry in the pint

The more Izzy travels around, the more she seems to find bits of her past in the strangest places... like the book she found by a Polish poet.

"I once heard that at the bottom of every pint glass lies a story. This story starts in the pub.

I had just moved to Cardiff, the latest of many moves to many cities, and was having a drink with some friends. By the wall there was a bookshelf. Never being able to resist a book, I searched and was thrilled when I found a book of Polish poetry.

Although I'd never heard of the poet, Galczynski, before, something about those words struck a nerve. Before I knew it, I'd finished my pint and devoured the entire book. When I asked my mum about it, she told me to speak to my Granddad.

My Granddad was fighting for Poland during the Second World War. He's seen and been through things I could barely imagine and which he hardly ever talks about. Even looking at those grainy black and white photos doesn't make it real. But that evening he told me how that same poet had changed the course of his life.

They had been together in a German prisoner of war camp and it was the poet who started to teach him his first, tentative words of English. That man, whose poetry I was reading on a Sunday afternoon, pint in hand, had persuaded my Granddad to move to the UK, a country he had barely dreamed of and where my family and I now live.

Since leaving home, I've travelled across the world, trying to find something that wasn't there in my life back in the UK. But somewhere at the bottom of that pint glass, a world away from the fighting, realised that there's only so far you can go, before you start to come home again."

Izzy Kaminski

Please tell us a little about yourself.
I'm a 22 year old student doing International Journalism in Cardiff. Born and raised in the UK, my family are Polish and Spanish, and I feel a strong link to that part of my heritage.

What's your story about?
It's a story about a strange coincigdence that led me to find out more about my Granddad and my past. It's about family and travel and growing up. It's about the idea that 'home' can be anywhere, but sometimes it takes you a while to find it.

Why did you choose to tell this particular story?
I really liked the actual narrative and thought it would work well as a digital story. It was also a part of my past I wanted to explore and this gave me a good reason to do that.

What did you find most rewarding about the workshop?
The whole experience was wonderful. From being given the space to express myself to making new friends, it was a surprisingly emotional and reflective week. The workshop will count towards my degree, and has definitely been one of the best parts!

Your comments

"Hello again! Its Wojciech, son of George Sokola-Galczynski. It's good to know that you keep this record. SOKOLA arms represents half Odyniec & half Piasta divided with the red Pole on the green background and belongs to the chaplain arms." Wojciech.

"To Neville, sorry but K.I.Galczynski was not your pilot - Galczynski; the one from prison camp was a very famous poet in Poland and after being released from the camp he moved to Wilno (now Lithuania), he knew English very well as he had studied modern languages and specialized in English before the war. Good luck in your research!" kasia, Warszawa.

"This is the name (Galczynski) of a Polish Flying Officer who flew with 304 Slaski Squadron RAF and survived a Wellington bomber crash in April 1941. I wonder if he is the same man and if Izzy's grandfather flew with him. So if this is what is at the bottom of the pint glass, I'd like to know more, as I am researching 304 Squadron." Neville Bougourd, Durham.

"Dobry Wieczor! It's in Polish ... I'm Galczynski and I live in Modlin a very famous place in Polish and European history. There was once a General Count von Suchtelen who first projected a Fortress here; then there was Napoleon the Great ... My roots came from Josef, Piotr, Ignacy Galczynski; His traces vanished from between 1845 and 1847, somwhere in Plock region ... He was somhow connected to the familly of Jacob Galecki, who has changed His name to Galczynski - by adoption of Josef's son Rafal(Raphael). Family Galczynski belongs to SOKOLA and Galecki to JUNOSZA klans ... "Slough airms!= Do broni!" PS We can think as well ..." Wojciech Galczynski-SOKOLA, Modlin, Rzeczpospolita.

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