The Krakow Diaries

75 days in Krakow. On a literary grant from the German Kulturstiftung der Länder. In the Guesthouse of the 16th century Villa Decius, with 10 other writers from Poland, Germany, Belarussia, Ukraine and Georgia. Beautiful city. Nice Krakovians. Fun nightlife. Beautiful women. And in the guesthouse: Meetings of the minds. Too much vodka. Good friends. One of the great pleasures of my life.

Day #46: Wednesday, Nov. 1: All Saints Day

Hearing a rumor that the action in Poland on All Saint's Day was at the cemeteries, we found our way to the main one in the north of town. The streets around it outside were cordoned off by police. Vendors selling flowers and candles in colored plastic jars crowded the sidewalks.
It was dark. The cemetery was crowded with quietly strolling couples, families, kids, grandparents. Hardly a grave didn't display two or three candles in garish red, yellow, orange, green jars. The graves were lit up in the darkness like a thousand miniature carnivals in the dark.
In the chapel, four priests intoned Latin and Polish, and loudspeakers carried their reassuring words throughout the cemetery. Women kneeled inside and outside the chapel.
Just in back of the chapel was a shrine "To the victims of communism." It was loaded down with candles; candles spread around it like a spreading puddle of colorful lights. People kneeled, stood and watched, murmured prayers.
Erica Fischer, that stalwart Austro-Feminist-Proto-Communist, was astounded when she figured out the words on the shrine: "We couldn’t compete with this," she said. "We should have just given up."


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