As a child in Poland in the 1950s, my mother lived squeezed into a single room in the centre of Krakow, with her father, brother, aunt, uncle, cousins and grandparents, down the corridor from a communist party member who would inform on his neighbours.
At the other end of the corridor lived a young man who one afternoon was found by the children dead, hanging from his curtain pole.
Every so often my mother’s father would be put in prison – a barrister and member of the Polish Home Army (AK) who fought the Germans during WWII, he was considered a liability by the authorities. One day, my mother was expelled from her school for singing the national anthem.
My mother’s mother doesn’t feature in the family stories very much because, unable to cope in the political climate (her entire family, excluding herself and her sister, were murdered by the Ukrainians when she was still a child, and she was later put in a psychiatric hospital after it was discovered she too was in…