“Who are you?” was the first thing he said to me, and I already knew he was Polish.
“Sammy. I’m Sammy.”
“Sammy? Where am I?”
“You’re in Poland, in the southwest part of Poland. Can you move your head?” because I thought maybe he had hit his head when he touched down. Even in the 1 a.m. darkness I could see how handsome he was, but it was cold out, and dark, and dangerous, and we had to move quickly. “Can you move your arms?” His arms were crossed across his chest, like a corpse, but I was so relieved that he wasn’t dead, I could barely speak. “Come on, we have to move quickly to get you out of this field.”
He was shivering. He was in shock, and cold, but he sat up as I unwrapped the parachute ropes from around his legs and that gave me hope. I still didn’t know if he could walk.
“Where are we going?”
Ah, my beloved Janusz, you handsome devil, you brave soldier, you perfect husband, will I ever stop missing you? And always around airplanes I think of you because I was so lucky that your airplane got shot down and you dropped into my life. How did we do it, my love? How did we survive that terrible time?
Here I sit in this god-awful plastic chair but thinking about you makes everything better, even the fact that this layover is 5 hours long. Ay!
“Are YOU Polish?” you asked me.
“No, I’m British.”
“But, then, why…”
“I’ll explain everything later, what’s your name?”
“I’m Janusz. I don’t understand. Why am I here? In southwest Poland? My mission was to Germany, but I can’t remember…”
“You didn’t make it to Germany. Your plane got shot down but you got out in time to open your parachute and you landed here.”
Janusz, I didn’t realize until the next morning the brilliance of your blue eyes and your smile.
Look at that lovely girl over there are the sandwich stand. You would’ve swooned over that girl when you were her age – – she must be around 22, I think, yes? Oh my goodness, she’s turned around and look at those magnificent, thick blonde braids falling down her back, how lovely! My little sister had hair like that, I always envied her braids. This girl, she’s looking and looking at the racks of sandwiches, oh, now she’s taken one up to the cash register… Oh my, no. Oh dear. She’s shaking her head and now she’s putting the sandwich back in the case. Oh, Janusz, I must help this girl. Do you remember when we first arrived in Bismarck after the war, how hard it was? And then in no time we had two babies but nearly no money at all and how we had to scrimp for years before we could buy our own car? I’m going to help this girl, I’m going to buy her a sandwich. Yes, let me go, I have to do this for her, she can’t afford the airport sandwich my love, and so I shall buy her one.
“Excuse me, miss? Your braids are ever so beautiful, I couldn’t stop staring at them, and then I felt a bit embarrassed to be staring at you, so anyway, here is a sandwich for you and I wish you safe travels. There you go.”
You see, my love? That was the right thing to do, and yes, I still have some skills that I learned all those years ago. Wasn’t it just the most beautiful fluke that you were a displaced Polish pilot, flying for the RAF, and I was a half-Polish British patriot who thought that being a spy would be a good way to serve my country? Well, I mean, can you imagine me working on a munitions factory assembly line? Heavens, no! I would’ve gone berserk in no time, I can’t stand rote activities like that! You know me so well. So instead I went to work for Churchill’s private spy corps, the SOE, and lucky me, while on assignment in Poland I got to rescue you from your parachute, and from the Germans, and somehow, some way we both stayed alive long enough to be together in London, then in Bismarck, for all those years and decades and children and happy times.
And now I embark on a new adventure that neither one of us might have believed … must go my darling, they’re boarding my plane.
Cover photo courtesy of the Library of Congress on Unsplash