In the second week of martial law, news circulated in the Communist Poland that two ambassadors had asked for political asylum in the USA.
I liked the smell of the communist kiosk the most. It was a mixture of cheap tobacco, cheap cosmetics, paper, and ink. I miss the smell of newspapers that seem to disappear forever. I have always read things I don’t like because I think they’re the most interesting and creative. And I liked to buy a newspaper, cigarettes with matches. Then in some “Kurier” or another “Sztandar” [communist magazines] I could take a quiz from which I found out that I was a potential criminal because I was in favor of abolishing the death penalty and mitigating court sentences. And now even bookstores don't smell like books, because they have everything in them, and I have to order the book I’m looking for online anyway.
But capitalism smells definitely better than communist Poland. Shops smell, people smell. The trains don’t smell anymore, public toilets smell (here the biggest revolution took place). And perhaps that is why COVID-19 was such a shock in this aromatic world. So were its symptoms and the pandemic-related requirement to decontaminate everything.
As for the symptoms, I remember my wife slipping earl gray tea under my nose.
– Smell it, it must have weathered”.
– Indeed. And my new hand sanitizer seems to have weathered since previously it smelled like a rotting mop.
Once, a friend and I left work and it so happened that we went together in the same direction. And since both she and I had some time for our meetings, we visited various shops along the way. We disinfected our hands at each entrance.
– Look, that good, strong spirit.
– But the smell could be nicer.
– It’s terrible, hands are so sticky after it.
– They overdosed on the perfume! (this is at the drugstore).
– It smells like denatured alcohol.
In the film “Miś” [“Teddy Bear, 1980”] – which is not only about the Polish People’s Republic, but also about us in general – there are two gentlemen who come to Ryszard Ochódzki, the main character, for advice. These gentlemen with a stroke of their nose make it clear that something stinks, that is, it is dodgy and this matter is not worth touching. Such a smell, or better a stench, no smell. It’s an art to smell stinky things, that odorless stench. But this skill comes only with age.
– Grzegorz Sieczkowski
TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists
– Translated by Dominik Szczęsny-Kostanecki