Letter from Jozef to his children in USA 1968. Written from exile in Vienna

Vienna, November 20, 1968 

My dearest ones,

I am here in Vienna for the last three days. So far, I have stayed in bed. I have the shakes and cry often. The pressure from the last few months has taken its toll on me. The last few days have been a true nightmare. 

At this point I don’t want to bore you with all I had to go through to get my travel documents. The script could fit into a James Bond movie. It involved blackmail and secret meetings in the park where no one can eavesdrop. Everyone is afraid of their own shadows. 

In the end, I found out that the one responsible for blocking my departure was my former good friend, who owes a lot to your grandmother for hiding him from the police during the war. When they finally announced that my departure had been approved it was under one condition: that I leave in 24 hours.

I took our belongings to the customs office. I left them there in boxes with a list of contents. I went to the coffee shop to say goodbye to my friends the same afternoon. One of them took me aside and told me that something was up: journalists had been told to assemble at the customs office that night.

I soon found out that the sons of bitches had planted paintings and valuables brought over from the national museum into my boxes. They were filming all this to show the general population what kind of treasures the Jews are supposedly taking out of Poland. 

In the morning, at the railroad station, I was told that most of my belongings could not be taken out of Poland. Furniture that I just bought straight from the factory were categorized as “ancient national art treasures”. Since they wouldn’t let me take out our China set (the one I bought with your mother), I broke every single piece in front of them and smashed it against the pavement. Picasso’s dove, the one that used to hang above my sofa bed, just disappeared. 

When they were looking through my things, I told them that they could stick them up their asses. But then I changed my mind: “Maybe you will be able to use them as props in Hollywood.“

There were more dirty tricks once I boarded the train. I was lucky to know the conductor who hid me in the toilet of his compartment to avoid harassment. That’s how I crossed the Polish border.

I think how I used to represent this country on so many international committees—that I tried to convince others to come and visit Poland because it’s such a beautiful country. Here I am, forced to leave my homeland hiding in the toilet of a train. 

F–k them all. But I am a free man at last.

/Your loving father

(Source: 1968 Farwell to My Country, Andrzej Krakowski)