People with an intellectual disability are at the heart of L’Arche. The Federation has about 2.700 members with a disability. This column introduces you to one of them. Visit us again in some weeks, and you will be able to meet another one of the people at the heart of L’Arche.
Kasia has been living in the Wrocław community in Poland since the summer of 2005. She shares her life with Wiola, Artur, Aneta, Kasia, Jacek, Piotr, six assistants and… her little guinea pig Gryzelda. With Basia, an assistant who has been living in the house for almost a year and a half, she introduces us to her friends and the meetings that are the core of the story.
Basia: Kasia, do you remember how you came to L’Arche?
Kasia: When I met Piter’s mother (Note: another one of the core members of L’Arche Wroclaw) she helped me to come live at L’Arche. When Mama was still alive, I used to go to a building near the cathedral. You had to cross a green bridge; that is where we met. There were also people from Faith and Light and some Moomins (Note: in Poland, people with mental disabilities are often called ‘Moomins’ after a cartoon character).
Where were you living before you came to L’Arche?
With my brother Maciej, near Haller street. He had a cat that used to bother me all the time. I slept in the living room, where there was a fireplace. Now, they (Note: Kasia’s brother and his wife) sleep there.
Did you like it there?
Sometimes, Papa would come and pick me up to go for a walk.
So you clearly preferred living with your mother?
Oh yes, with Mama. We used to go to this club for seniors. It was so great there! When I was living with Mama, we had a dog. His name was Gero. We also had a guinea pig; he was almost identical to my Gryzelda. In the morning, Gero would always wake me up by scratching on my door, and then my mother and I would take him for a walk.
What else did you like to do with your mother?
Ohh, I miss her… Mama and I, we talked a lot. My grandfather and grandmother would come visit us. Mama would sit down at the piano and grandfather would take out his violin. What a concert! Even my little guinea pig would snort then, haha. Often, Mama would also take me downtown, to the Great Square. We would eat different cakes and visit Wrocław.
Did she also take you on excursions farther away?
Yes, we used to go to the sea and to the mountains.
You would only see Piter’s mother during these meetings?
No, there were also the camps in Antoniów. And do you know what Basia?
The best was going to Antoniów in the winter because we could walk the whole way down in the snow. Jasiu, a priest, was also there, and he would bring bread from the bakery. There was also Marta, an assistant, who would come see me in the morning and say to me: What have I got here, a stretching cat?
What did you do during these meetings when you met Piter’s mother?
We would talk, go to ‘Bears’ workshops. Do you know where the zoo is?
Yes, I know where it is.
That is where the ‘Pod Misiami’ (Bears) workshops were. During these meetings, Mama would sometimes play the piano.
Had you already heard of L’Arche or Jean Vanier?
Are you still in touch with someone from Faith and Light, or do you remember someone in general from these meetings and excursions?
I remember someone named Iza from Opole. And now, there is still Madzia and Tereska who live with Mariola in Opole.
Were they the ones who were your friends during these excursions?
You know what? There was a girl called Ania Gryszkiewicz who suffered from cardiac arythmia. One day, the doctor had to come for her. Ania couldn’t remember much because she also had amnesia.
Are you still in touch with her?
No, I don’t know where she lives.
You also spoke about Jaś, the priest, and Marta. Are you still in touch with them?
Not them either, I don’t know where they are now. In Antoniów, there was also Waldek, the priest. He lived in the place we would pass through going to Kłodzko. Often Jaś would wake us up in the morning and help us light the stove. Sometimes, we would even have a campfire; that was great! I used to tell myself that at home, near the patio, we could also have a campfire.
Do you remember when you were in Antoniów for the last time?
Oooo, it’s been a long time. This year, instead of going to Antoniów, I went to Kaczorów.
Kasia, are you happy you came to L’Arche?
It’s great at L’Arche; the boys leave me alone, Maciuś and Mateusz, my nephews… Oh, mamma mia, what a good aunt I am I should be thinking about their Christmas presents
Is that the only reason it’s great at L’Arche?
No! L’Arche is my home, I have many friends here. And do you know what I was thinking?
I have no idea…
We could build a second house like this one, beside ours…
Who might live in this second house?
Heniu could come live with us, he’s in a wheelchair like Artur’s and he is also at Faith and Light.
Yes, but if there were a second house, several people, other than just Heniu should live there. Do you have anyone else in mind?
That guy Sebastian who came to make the meals with his mother today.
Can you think of anyone else?
Not right now.
Who do you consider to be your best friend?
Piter. Every time I tell him “imitate a tiger” he goes “grrrr…..”, hahaha….
Is he your only friend?
No. Aneta always helps me take care of my guinea pig – Gryzelda. And when I’m not home, she always makes sure to give him a carrot. And Jacek always dries the dishes with me when I’m on dishwashing duty and he imitates a duck “quack, quack”…
What does it mean to you to be someone’s friend?
You like everyone, you go have a coffee together and you help everyone.
Who else do you spend a lot of time with at L'Arche?
I go to the Moomins workshop with Wiola; Wiola now works in the weaving studio.
And where do you work?
I work in Wiola’s workshop – it’s great there. I’m in the cooking group. In the future, we’re going to go to a school on Kamienna street and learn how to make cakes and pies.
Do you go to the workshop because you really like it or because you have to go?
I really like it; we take the bus there and then we walk home. You can make really cool little flowers from pink leaves.
What is your favourite pastime at L’Arche?
I really like to relax after lunch.
You, sleepyhead, you mean you like to sleep, is that it?
Hahaha, don’t give me nicknames like that!
So, what do you like to do besides sleep?
I like playing with Gryzelda – oink, oink… go on excursions, especially to Pogorzelica and Glogów…
Where is Pogorzelica?
At the seaside.
Wow, that’s kind of far. I think that’s too far to go for an excursion.
But we went there on vacation. You know what Basia?
I like the sea better than the mountains.
What did you like most in Pogorzelica?
We went on excursions, we saw the bison on a reserve, that was cool… they were so great those bison. And when I went to sleep, the wind made noise. To get to the sea, you had to go through a forest and there was sand; I even found some shells…
Kasia, do you like visiting the Arches in other cities?
I like going to Poznań most; that’s where my grandmother lives.
Do you remember anyone from the community in Poznań?
Robert, he was in a wheel chair. Sebastian; he listened to music a lot and he had a lot of CDs and he played the thingamajig, what\'s that called?
Do you remember the assistants who lived with you before?
There was Arno, Tomek – he’s in Iraq now. Kuba left not too long ago. Tereska – I called her ‘the whale’; she’s the one who gave me Gryzelda. When Pauline was still there, she would take my guinea pig from its cage and give it to me. He was still very little. When I pet him on the back, he purrs, he must like it, haha… except he has big claws.
In your opinion, what makes a good assistant?
He should be good to people, not yell and scratch their back like a cat, haha…
Who’s the cat?
The cat is the cat. The cat is Little Magda, meow.