Down Syndrome Art, Growing-up in socialistic Poland

About Vague Memories

It occurred to me one day that I had a quite a remarkable childhood worth writing about.  I lived in a world that doesn’t exist anymore, and I am only in my early forties! Born in 1967 in Warsaw, Poland, during socialistic times, I had a good fortune living among those brought-up in yet another system, where the echoes of the leisure and richness of the pre-Second World War times where still vivid in their memories and came to life almost as my own through the bedtime stories. I experienced second hand the lavish daily breakfasts for twenty, the sumptuous meat roast marinating for days, the eccentricity of an unknown great-grandmother, an aristocrat, yet one of the country’s first idealistic communists, the wealth of the family, the Sunday boredom.

Great-Grandmother, Helena Radziszewska

Through stories I relieved the horror of the Second War, the hunger, the fear of my 8-year-old mother, the fleeing from Warsaw with one suitcase, the leaving behind what accumulated over the lifetime. The comeback to a free country, only to face another suppressor, the search for new house among the Warsaw ruins, the giving-up what was once yours as part of elimination of capitalists and aristocrats, the search for new identities and goals.

I’d relieve the happy fifties and sixties, their elegance in word and fashion, the fascination with Armstrong, Sinatra and Nat King Cole, my parent’s travels to the colorful worlds full of different customs, foods and riches so way beyond our gray reality.

My beautiful Mother

It wasn’t until toward the end of the seventies, when I realized how different we were from others in every sense of that word, but I loved it, and when someone many years later mentioned to me that my family wasn’t “normal”, I looked at him amazed and shocked – “But what do you mean by that?!”

With rare beauty and elegance, sense of humor of my father and delicate demeanor of my mother, we stood out all right! Add to this a picture of a family walking down the street – gorgeous woman on high heels and fitted dress pushing a handsome man on a wheelchair with a Humphrey Bogart hat, his elegant, tall brother keeping their pace wearing a rare suit and a cowboy scarf around his neck and two children – one with Down Syndrome, all laughing loudly. Passers-by would turn their heads around amazed by the unusual wave of elegance and lightness of being we’d bring to their common world.

I am grateful to God for being brought-up in this fascinating family, during those particular times. I am one of those who wouldn’t change anything from my childhood, as despite the hardships it was as happy as it gets. It reminds me a lot of one of my favorites movies of all times, Life is Beautiful with Roberto Benigni, where life itself wasn’t treated too seriously and where love made it an unforgettable adventure.


Joanna Puciata