Albina walks confidently beside mother on the way to school on Sept. 1. Photo by Ben M. Angel
Almost a month has passed since school has started, but I figured I would be remiss in not mentioning something about the end of our Silesian summer. After all, the change of seasons marks a further step toward settling my family safely in the cosmopolitan Polish city of Wrocław.
Our reality is, thankfully, far different from that of the desperate souls fleeing the unadulterated evil of the so-called Caliphate straddling the border regions between Syria and Iraq. The culture here is not that foreign to us, even though we’re still regarded as immigrants from “Poland B” to some who live here. Compared to the Syrian refugees who might first appear at the train and bus station any day now, we’re welcome, even despite our varying degrees of incomplete command of the Polish language (mine being the worst). Naturally, out of all of us, our daughter Albina is the one that is most rapidly overcoming that obstacle to life in Poland. Although kids generally have a distinct natural advantage in learning new languages, part of the reason for this improvement clearly stems from the fact that she has successfully enrolled in school here.
Although I remember being surprised by the fact that I was being taken to school on my first day of Kindergarten more than four decades ago, well, a kid’s first day of school should be something special. In Russia, they call the day of the first bell the “Day of Knowledge,” a celebration of learning that introduces children to their teachers and prepares them for the work ahead. In places like Belarus, they are fully dressed up in suits and uniform dresses, and they bring flowers as a token of respect and affection.
Here in Poland, the rules are similar. You have the first day ceremony, usually on or around Sept. 1, and kids meet their teachers in black-and-white dress. No classes are held the first day. Instead, teachers introduce themselves to their students and to all the parents, and with the information conveyed that day, the event becomes an opportunity for the parents to take an important first step to becoming deeply involved in their education.