‘I cried for seven months’

mirka-greyMIRKA CHOJECKI-NUKOWSKA (60) fled Poland in 1987.

“In the Netherlands, this item lost all its meaning – it went back to being an ordinary electrical component. Yet in Poland it symbolized our resistance. We wore it as a brooch, a sign that signified our opposition against the system. I had an entire box of them, different colors for different dresses.

Let me say this: I was no hero, and I specifically do not want to come across as one. I was married to the brother of one of the most well-known Polish dissidents. My brother-in-law set up KOR, the Workers’ Defense Committee, which later turned into the union Solidarność. He had an underground publishing company where they published illegal books and leaflets on civil rights.

My husband helped him by smuggling paper and ink, and distributing publications. When Solidarność was founded, my husband got a job there. He was arrested during martial law, and that’s when the authorities advised us to leave the country. ‘Never’, I said. Poland was our country. They could never make us leave.

The tiny resistor was a statement, yet a subtle one. Some people wore it in plain sight, but you could also choose to hide it under your collar. If it was noticed by the wrong person, you might lose your job.

Eventually my husband and I decided to leave Poland after all. We had three young children and the stores were empty. Having a notorious last name, my husband would never find a job again. Besides, they started monitoring us, witness the unannounced ‘visits’ of a neighboring police officer.

I did it for my children. They couldn’t grow up in a country made up of lies, fear, and mistrust. I wanted them to become honest, righteous people, but those were exactly the kind of people that didn’t survive in Poland. My husband went ahead to find a job in the Netherlands. The children and I would follow later. I cried for seven months, then left. It felt as if my resistor had broken.”