Raising the Polish flag. Congratulations on 90 years
Ulica Retoryka is a long straight street. As I strolled down it in the November sunshine I could see the drama being played out from a considerable distance. Pan and Pani Kowalski, a pair of barely ambulatory octogenarians, were trying to put up their Polish flag for Independence Day. They were seriously hampered in this endeavor by the fact that than neither Pan nor Pani Kowalski were much above 5 foot (150 cm) in height and well beyond the age where standing jumps of more than a couple of millimeters are feasible. The buildings of this district are grand and have suitably grand entrances, which places the flag socket over the door a good 10 feet (3 m) above the ground. They had a step ladder, in fact they had two step ladders, but this wasn’t helping much.
Pan Kowalski climbed his ladder with glacial slowness and considerable trembling, flag gripped between his teeth, and completely failed to stretch far enough to reach the flag holder. Pani Kowalski snorted with laughter at this pathetic showing, grabbed the flag and proceeded to climb her own ladder with ever greater slowness and trembling, only to fail by the same margin. They were flailing around up there like a pair of demented apple scrumpers. The top of the door was taking a hammering but the shaft of the flag was coming nowhere near the mark. This to-ing and fro-ing up and down ladders accompanied by shrill bickering must have been repeated three or four times before I drew near. Pani Kowalski, perched at the top of her ladder, fixed me with a steely stare, noted my height and uttered the inevitable pleading “Proszę pana… !?”
And that’s how I came to raise the Polish flag on the eve of Polish Independence Day. It felt weirdly traitorous and patriotic at the same time. Does a Polish flag planted by an Englishman still count? Do I have to go and apologize to the Queen or something now? It’s a tricky area. Pani Kowalski was delighted by the whole concept and I left her gasping for breath between fits of laughter. Pan Kowalski was extremely polite in his thanks but I’m sure I detected a hint of wounded national pride. When he was born Poland itself was an infant of three or four years. I bet he never foresaw the day when he would have to depend on passing foreigners to put his flag up.
I’ve commented before on the generally short stature of Poles down here in the south, and my theory that this is due to excessive walking up and down mountains has been duly noted and accepted by the European Commission for Idiotic Theories. It turns out there is a downside. The most enthusiastic flag raisers are the elderly, who are also the shortest. They just can’t reach, even with a stepladder.
I’ve prepared a couple of simple graphics to illustrate the problem:
Even with a pair of acrobatic babcie the flag holder is tantalizingly out of reach:
Come next May I will be prepared with an ad in all the local papers:
Too short to put up your flag? Ladder not long enough?
Tall foreigners will come to your house and do it for you!