I’ve been watching a TV show, TAXI BROOKLYN. In it a taxi is a young woman detective’s driver because she has totaled her police car for the second time. In the process, the driver helps and cares about the detective.
This morning I thought about my taxi driver in Warszawa when we lived there between 1989 and1993. Why was I living there? My husband, Richard was serving as pastor of the Warsaw International Church (English language).
After getting a job as a teacher in the American School of Warsaw, my choices for getting to the school: making Richard take me and pick me up, interrupting his work; walking, which was quite unsafe on the heavy trafficked streets to say nothing of carrying a twenty or thirty pound basket of books back and forth; buying a car, which meant costs of the car, insurance and finding a place to keep an extra vehicle.
None of those seemed like a good idea. Instead I hired Krzysztof*, a licensed taxi driver who chose to mostly provide private services. He drove students to and from the school and was called by a host of people who counted on him to take them where they wanted to go.
Every morning between 7:30 and 7:45, I’d look out of my third story window and see a white Mercedes was waiting for me. As he drove me to school, I learned to speak a little Polish and he learned more English. After three years, I was totally conversant on the weather, whether it was sunny, rainy, snowy, windy, cold or warm.
But Krzysztof did so much more for me. He always had a smile when he greeted me each morning. After the fall of Communism in Poland, open markets abounded. I asked him to stop one fall evening on my way home. He could have done just that—let me get out of the car and wait while I shopped. Instead Krzysztof went with me.
“Kilo gruszka, prosze,” I said to the man behind his fruit and vegetable stand.
The man put several pears on the scale and started to put them in my bag when Krzysztof, who had been standing beside me, said something to the man, who added a pear to my bag. He had watched the man carefully. Whether weighed his thumb or the scale was short, Krzysztof made sure I was not cheated.
I was given two pieces of semi-precious stone by the South African ambassador to Poland. One morning I gave Krzysztof one of the pieces with a silver chain I had and explained I’d like the stone attached to the chain. About a week later he handed me my new piece of jewelry. It remains one of my favorite necklaces.
My husband, who did most of the shopping while I was working, had heart surgery in August 1992. I needed to return to Warsaw before he was healed. Company was coming for dinner. When could I buy the needed groceries. Krzysztof took my list that morning and returned to pick me up from school with everything I requested.
Often when Krzysztof drove us to the airport early in the morning, there was a bread line at the people’s favorite bakery.
Early in the fall of Communism , there were pictures of bread lines in US newspapers. What I learned is that Poles bought bread first thing in the morning and then again in the afternoon. The bread did not have preservatives and didn’t last but a day or so. The bread stores could only fit three or four people in them at a time because they were only a bit larger than a walk-in closet. Twenty people wanting to buy bread at about the same time made a line out the door.
Shortly before we left Poland in 1993, Richard and I wanted to visit the Teutonic Malbork Castle built in the thirteenth century. Constructed of red brick, it is one of the largest castles in Europe. We didn’t want to drive. Krzysztof drove us, but also acted as our personal guide by interpreting signs in Polish.
Twenty-odd years later, the postman brings me a greeting card postmarked “WARSAWA” at least once a year. I treasure each one. Krzysztof is a true friend.
*Krzysztof, pronounced “Crshish-tof”, is equivalent to Christopher in English.