you know what else i did this evening? i talked to a janitor for about forty minutes. i was supposed to be coding a thing, but...
he said he has a daughter in california. he said his name is mycek, or something which sounds like it, which in english became mitchell. he said he is polish. he said:
"my father was held in siberia for ten years. when the russians partitioned the land after the war, they said, 'you'd better move to the polish side; if not, you have to stay here in russia.' this was 1950. he thought they wouldn't do it; he thought if he and lots of other people protested, they wouldn't really cut up the land. but they did, and he couldn't leave russia. they took him to siberia. he was in jail for ten years. they sent my mother to kazakhstan, and me, and my sister; i was this high, and my sister was only four months old. kazakhstan is a desert. it's so hot there -- desert, desert, desert. you can see nothing; there is nothing there.
i went to russian school -- we spoke polish at home, but at school, only russian. the kazakhstan people themselves are bad, they're muslims; probably all terrorists now. they think the more money you have, the more wives you can have; they think they're big shots. not the women, just the men. i don't believe in that, i think men and women should be equal. you know, in america, people choose the bread they like: they say, 'i don't like this bread, i don't like this chocolate.' you probably throw away bread sometimes, no? we learned to use all our bread. there was very little food there -- not even potatoes; they won't grow, it's so hot. in kazakhstan, we learned that if bread falls on the floor, you pick it up, and you kiss it, and eat it. i like everything. in america i don't choose between bread.
in kazakhstan you can't travel between states; you can't take a road or get on a bus. twice a week, you have to go to the police station and sign a paper saying you're still here. after we arrived, they made my mother sign a piece of paper: they gave everyone these papers, and said, 'sign this and tell us what you are. are you polish? are you ukranian? are you russian?' they said, 'sign that you're russian and you'll get a better life here.' but my mother signed for polish. after stalin died, they came to the poles and they said, 'you're polish, you can travel, go back to poland if you want.' they came to my father and asked him where he wanted to go, and he said he wanted to go back to his family, his wife and little kids in kazakhstan. then after a while we all went back to poland. but the people who signed for russia couldn't leave. where would they have been allowed to go? they hung themselves up. [i asked: what? he made a gesture of a hand, raising rope above the neck.] they despaired, and many people hung themselves up.
i came to america in the early eighties. there was solidarity in my country then. i went to germany, on a vacation, and things started when i was away. i applied for status as a refugee. then i applied to america, and sponsored over my family: my wife and three children. the children worked hard, because it was hard for them. they were fifteen, sixteen, and they didn't know english. but they did well. my daughter got a scholarship and everything. she used to stay until five o'clock, studying: she would study till five o'clock, then sleep till seven-thirty, and then get up and go to school. she worked hard, hard. it was easier for you if you were born in this country. my daughter graduated from B.U., she has a good job, making a hundred thousand a year, and she bought a house in lynnfield. my son just called from california to say he has made a down payment on a house there. an expensive house -- he asked for a little help from me. well... i own a small business in new hampshire now, a jewish store. i only do this work for the little extra, and the benefits and hours are good. the benefits are important. we're not jewish, but it's important to work like a jew. cent by cent, dollar by dollar. not to spend, like americans do. i see americans spend money they don't even have yet. i work cent by cent and i have always saved. it's easier for you here: you choose between ham, hmmm, too fatty, and chicken, hmmm, all right, but after living in kazakhstan you don't forget. what? i was four years old, and i had no bread in kazakhstan. or only the one piece of bread. and all desert all around.
you should go to poland someday."