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Dad’s Big Shoes

Today, on what would have been my dad’s 80th birthday, I took out a pair of his shoes and slipped into them. The expression “shoes that are too big to fill” was never more apparent and especially with a man like my dad.

A civil engineer by profession, he came to Poland as an investor in the mid 80’s. It was love at first sight but he didn’t settle here full time until he was sentenced to prison in absentia back home. He would die in 2015 as a Polish citizen.

In his 30 years in Poland, he witnessed its arduous journey from a country held hostage behind the Iron Curtain to a green island of opportunity.

His own journey was not a smooth ride. He set up multiple businesses and saw them either fail or had his hard work stolen from him. At some point, he could not afford employees, so he had to load the car himself with heavy sacks of pulses and grains in order to deliver them to his clients. As he was wrestling with one bag, his cornea burst and he lost sight in his left eye.

And yet…

He never dwelled on his misfortunes. His resilience, resourcefulness and drive helped him get back on his feet every time.

As I find myself walking a similar path to my dad’s, my heart aches at how difficult it must’ve been to find yourself alone in your fifties in a country where you barely speak the language (those were the days when Google translate and GPS navigators were not invented yet), unable to catch a break as you keep stepping on one landmine after the other.

It’s easy to say “You have your father’s example to inspire you” or “You have so many of his qualities, it goes without saying that you’ll prevail”. If only it was as simple as „copy and paste” and you’re done, it’s not.

As I stood in his shoes, I remember him pulling up his petit frame to its full 168 cm height to stare defiantly at whatever was standing in his way. I remember myself panting as I’d try to catch up with him at his usual brisk pace while he was figuring out solutions on the go.

I’m lucky to have had years of drills with him as he tried to make sure I was prepared for the inevitable setbacks and downturns.

What would he have done if he was in my shoes today?

Fight! That thing I know for sure. He’d probably tell me that I’m in a much better position than him, that life never gives us the perfect circumstances, it’s up to us to figure a way out, around or through whatever is blocking our way.

I can almost hear him chuckle: A little inflation? Higher taxes? Unstable political circumstances? These are not problems, that’s life! Deal with it. If you win, you win. If you lose? You take it on the chin like a man and start again.

Message received, Dad! Happy 80th 💖

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