Copyright © 1998 David C. Hay
On Monday of the third week we were in Warsaw, I went into one of the rooms
where a group of our students was working. Sitting at the head of the
table was simply the most heart-stoppingly beautiful woman I had ever seen.
She was incredible. She had dark hair, spectacular eyes, and a soft,
lovely face. It was one of those situations that arise occasionally where
you simply thank the fates for the opportunity to witness such beauty.
You certainly don't hold out for any more.
Then she smiled at me. At me! I was dumbfounded. I sort of
wobbled out of the room and tried to resume my work. Since I was
travelling, and generally felt much braver than I ever did at home, I did
entertain the thought that it might be possible to speak to her,
but I really had no idea how to approach her. At one meeting I did get up
enough courage to ask if she spoke English, which she did.
The Object of My Fantasies (the one on the right)
But then what was I to do? What could I say to her?
Then, on Tuesday, she invited me to her office for tea.
("She'll feed you tea and oranges, that come all the way from China . . .")
Whoah! Ok. Sure. Let's see what happens.
What happened was that she turned out to be not only beautiful, but also smart, funny, sophisticated, well-traveled and generally wonderful. And, wonder of wonders, she seemed interested in me!
Her name was Jolanta (pronounced "Yolanta"), like Yolanda in Spanish or Iolanthe in Greek. To me she became simply Jola ("Yola").
After tea, we went out to dinner in Old Town. We then launched into a couple of weeks right out of a trashy romantic novel. Thanks to a lack of western decadence (read, "crime"), we could walk through the parks and along the river in the moonlight. There was the carriage ride through Old Town. And dancing to Hungarian Gypsy music. Oh yes, quite wonderful.
One weekend the project organized an excursion to the town of Kazimierz,
named after the 14th century king who, among other things, saw to it that wooden
buildings in the towns and villages were replaced with brick ones.
Something about making them less easy to burn by invading armies.
We walked through the ancient town and talked while peacefully lying in the
grass on the hillside overlooking the river.
The day before I left we went by train to Torun, the birthplace of
Copernicus (or "Kopernik" as he was known locally), where we saw his
manuscripts and meandered through yet another interesting city.
That evening, after we returned, a party was held for us Americans on the
project at the
residence of the American Ambassador. Jola and I went together.
Ok, Hay, let's get this straight. Here you are hobnobbing with the U.S.
Ambassador to Poland, accompanied by the most incredibly beautiful and
wonderful woman you have ever met. Is this really how things turn out?
Of course it's not how things turn out. I kept thinking about how impossible the whole
situation was. Forgetting for a moment that she was a goddess and I was a
complete doofus, there was the small problem that she lived in Poland and
I lived in the U.S. There was a cold war going on. There was absolutely
no way anything could come of all this! All I could do was to be grateful
for these two weeks (everyone should have two weeks such as this!), and
get on with my life. It was with great sadness that I left Warsaw.