Krakow, Table tales, Poland.


Life is what you make it!

How often are we told this and how much do you believe it?

How many times do we hear phrases that make us believe the power is in ourselves? to live our lives in the way we want to.

My parents certainly instilled this belief into my thoughts. I guess that is why I am here, living my dream, travelling my journey, seeking the meaning of life or something like that.

I have stories to write and tales to tell. To the readers who can wade through my waffle, I have a point to make and feel the urge to beg the question. What if your life is taken out of your hands? The desired dreams and ambitions, squashed into the ground, no importance, just trashed. Some of you will already be nodding. I am not talking about glass half empty stuff, more of hands tied, no choice. How can you remain positive and believe that life is truly what you make it?

Following my un-scheduled visit to Auschwitz yesterday, I keep coming back to this thought People have told me how important it is to have a quiet day and reflect with little activity after being faced with so much terror to take in, during one visit. So following their advice, I wander back to the main square in Krakow to find a place for lunch.

Today, in true tourist style I am going to eat Polish dumplings and find a place on a terrace overlooking the main market square (Rynek Glowny) The restaurant is one of many that form lines along the terraces. It seems as good as any.

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Opening the large menu folder, the owner has taken the time to write a page about the history of the restaurant. I was happy to see an English version. It was then I realised I was eating in quite a famous establishment. Whilst waiting for my dumplings to arrive, I thought I should take the time to read through the white A4 sheet tucked between the folder.

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In 1910 Jan Noworolski opened his confectionery business here. Already an established business for over fifty years he took on the task of giving the building a complete make-over.

Imagine the smells of chocolate and marzipan on small sweets, devoured by delicate ladies in big hats as they grace the cobbled terrace. Jan Norowolski ran his business for 31 years, surviving the Austro Hungarian times, and the first world war.

A great many people have sat here and tasted the sweetness of an afternoon. Something they justly deserved as they existed through turbulent and unstable times. But in 1941, the Nazis took it all away from him. They did it because they could.

The Nazis had power over him, to act in a way that had no regard for a man’s work and strife. I wonder how much of a fight, he was brave enough to use, in defence of what he believed should belong to him. What words he may have used to defend his livelihood?

The German Nazis turned it into a restaurant but offered him a job there. Did he stay to watch over his dream because he wanted to protect it, did he have any choice? As a business owner, I would have felt humiliated.

In 1945 following the end of the war, It was taken back by Mr Noworolski who worked hard at restoring it to its former glory. The business once again became a prominent place in the centre of Krakow. Following all the work and passion of building his business, can you imagine how he must have felt when once again, through no fault of his own it was forcibly shut down in 1949.

The communist state authorities threw his business into liquidation? The reason given, was there were too many types of this kind of establishment. Perhaps they did not like businesses built from dreams or just because they could.

Jan Noworolski was now 78 years of age. His life’s work, his obvious passion to succeed, all become irrelevant when decisions are held in the power and ignorance of others. How could we look him in the face and say “Life is what you make it?” and all of those other quotes we use today. Is life changing? or are we all living in a deluded false sense of security? I would like to think the former. If life is changing, we must adapt and stay positive against all the odds. This is what drives us.

The business was transformed into a cafe for the next 42 years and Comrade Lenin was known to have read his papers here (maybe in the place I am sitting) I wish I could sit with him and explain a little about the human need. Perhaps I would be shot for thinking that way.
To finish this tale I can confirm a happier ending. When communism collapsed in Poland, the family were given back this jewel of a place with its Viennese interior and since 1996 it has been run by his grandson Wojciech Noworolwski. I wish him loads of success.

When stories like this find you, you appreciate how lucky some of us are As a business owner, I have felt attachment and a sense of achievement. I have also felt failure, usually brought on by my actions. Your idea, your creation, fuelled with energy and a passion to succeed. Your business becomes your child. To make it happen you have to believe all is possible. I am sure Jan Nororolwski felt the same only to face the reality of his dream being forcibly taken from him. And to make his suffering worse, he was in the middle of his success. He was never allowed to live his life as he wanted to, staying positive becomes the hope we cling to. If all else fails we are left breathing. we dust ourselves down, pick ourselves up and give thanks to those who carry on but must honour those who were never given the chance.

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I look down into my plate of dumplings, they had made it to my table and life goes on.

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