Tuesday, October 2, 2007

An enemy hands you Coca Cola...

I sat down for a while on my balcony at sunset, tired after packing boxes and boxes of books, sipping a cold glass of Cuba Libre ( dark rum, orange mint, Coca-Cola), thinking of freedom and of Coca Cola and all those who fight for the first and long for a - symbolic - second.

And I remembered my first introduction to Coca-Cola... or rather a notion of it.

I was a little girl in then communist Poland, who just started to learn to read. I was playing in a park, accompanied by my grandpa (I lived with my grandma and grandpa then. My father was killed when I was only 8 months old - and he 21 and a partisan. My mother miraculously survived prison in which she gave birth to me - she was a partisan, too - and now was working full time and studying full time at a university some 300 kilometers away) when I spotted a large banner on a building on the other side of the park. It proclaimed "Wrog podaje ci Coca Cole!" = "An enemy hands you Coca-Cola!" Wow, I realized that I was able to read it! But I did not understand it.

'Grandpa' I asked 'What's Coca Cola?'
'A beverage' answered grandpa, who was reading a book.
'What kind of beverage?' I continued.
'A beverage made from cola nuts...' started grandpa absentmindedly, but then he stopped, probably thinking of the avalanche of questions such an answer could provoke, and finished ' a very, very tasty beverage. A symbol of America. A symbol of a good life'.

Now I was really confused. A very tasty beverage and a symbol of a good life? My, I wanted it, I wanted it badly! But I thought that "an enemy" was a bad person, a person who wanted you harm, who did horrible things to people. An enemy who would hand me a symbol of a good life??? No, something must have been wrong with my knowledge, so I decided to test it.

' But' I started 'grandpa, isn't enemy a bad guy?' Grandpa laughed, a bit sad, I thought, put his book away and looked at me seriously. 'You are big enough already' he said ' to be let in on a secret. But you have to promise to never, ever, repeat it to anybody else, or the commies would put your grandpa in prison, and God knows if he'd ever be able to come back.'

Now I was truly terrified. The thought of grandpa going to prison again (he already spent 5 years in Dachau during the war, and he told horror stories about it to his friends, when he thought I was not listening) made me almost not want to know that awful secret.... but my curiosity took over and I promised, both eagerly and solemnly.

'You, see, little one' started grandpa ' when the commies call someone an enemy, he is most likely a good guy, not a bad one'. And then he sighted: 'but here they mean USA, and USA sold us out to the commies in Jalta and is not interested in knowing what's happening to us, much less handing us any Coca-Cola.'

'You can't trust communist propaganda' he smiled sarcastically. 'If you want Coca-Cola, or freedom, or a good life, or anything else in the world you can't wait for it to be handed to you, you have to fight for it yourself.'

' But yes, it would be so nice' he added - 'if some friends, some "enemies" came then to support you with a tall glass of Coke.' He smiled again, but now there were tears in his eyes.
And I thought of Darfur, and of Myanmar. They ARE fighting there. And where is Uncle Sam?
Who does he give his support to? Whom does he hand his Coca-Cola?


zooms said...

Good post Minerva.

Anonymous said...

Very moving, Minerva. I've heard some similar stories , Polish and others, from friends I've made in NYC. Uncle Sam has a lot on his plate these days... always has.


Jen said...

Wow, Minerva! This is wonderful.

Jen at livingdominica

Minerva said...

Thanks for you'lls appreciation :-)