I Grew Up In Polish Heaven

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Laurie McCray-Ward Editor. Central to the story are the sacrificial disciplines of this old Refugee Pole who sired two sons in his old age…and later, the misdeeds and misfortunes of his two fatherless boys. In a broader context, the book is a freeze-frame in time , capturing the spirit and identity of the Refugee community: their attitudes, habits, ingenuities, vices, and contributions into the American Melting Pot.

It places the single smooth stone of Visionary Courage into the inerrant sling of Hope, in the fullest confidence that every Goliath has a chink in his armor. The Author spotlights the universal Law of Sowing And Reaping: if the soil has yielded nothing but thorns and thistles, plow up your ground again and plant new seed! It zooms in on warm interpersonal relationships and camaraderie, highlighting their restorative and healing effects upon people in crisis: both recipient and giver!

The book also paints rich cameos of his volcanic journey from Polish Heaven into the power structure of the notorious Angels. This Little Brother was given the burial of a Big Man, in the private cemetery grounds of the! It will awaken a keener sense of identity and wholesome ethnic pride. The book should enrich all readers with a reverent, joyful gratitude that they themselves, like the author, can now celebrate Life in a New And Better Day, as the beneficiaries of those who have gone before.

Get A Copy. Kindle Edition , pages. More Details Friend Reviews. Another feels creatures pulling at his feet. Life becomes detail: Click into the rope and unclick; secure boot crampons and dig for footholds. There is a whack of the ice pick and another one, and one after that. They scale 27,foot-high puzzles. Sometimes climbers go a day or two without food; sometimes they fail to notice. Kacper Tekieli is one of the climbers whom Max and I accompany to the Tatras. He has a tangle of dark curls and a mischievous smile, and is a philosophy major with a love of mountain literature.

At 32, he has built a considerable mountaineering reputation, although he cannot afford to give up working as a barista in the old quarter of Krakow. Tekieli talks of the singular focus needed to summit a Himalayan peak in the maw of winter. The universe narrows to a meter or two.

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Six K2 climbers gather on a winter afternoon in a Warsaw gym under the eyes of a trainer, Karol Hennig, who works with state health institutes. He invites me to join. I decline, pleading a sore Achilles and a severe attack of common sense. The climbers range from their 30s to 63, and most are of modest build.

They fill backpacks with iron bars and work stair-climbers. They do tortuous lifts and pull-ups. Their fingers and toes are as adhering as those of a gecko. They retain one-third more oxygen than a well-conditioned adult. After the workout, their heart rates return to baseline as easily as an elevator descends from one floor to the next.

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Two nights later, the Himalayan climbers are deep in the Tatras, taking a conditioning climb up the Monk, a saw-toothed 6,foot peak. Max the photographer is a skilled climber and accompanies them; I hike to an ice fall and wave goodbye. Janusz Golab is a force unto himself, climbing with precision and economy of motion, a strong-limbed cat. Marek Chmielarski, 40, is one of the Tatra climbers and will join the K2 team.

He paints oil platforms from the North Sea to Azerbaijan. And he has been to the top of K2 and is the best climber in Poland. The climbers also monitor levels of vitamin D and iron, which help stave off hypobaric hypoxia, the process by which thin air deprives the body of replenishing oxygen. No one can be certain how a body will react at the top of the world. At K2 base camp, the air has half the oxygen found at sea level.

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At 26, feet, climbers enter the Death Zone; it is devilishly difficult to draw a breath, and the heart strains to pump blood. When climbers reach the summit, their breathing will be a shallow, fast pant. They will vomit and suffer dehydration and begin to hallucinate.


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Wielicki recalls a past-exhaustion night on a solo Himalayan climb. He huddled inside a tiny tent and made tea for two: himself and his companion, whose presence was no less intense for being imaginary. In February, its walls are colder and more wind-blasted than those of Everest. The favored mountaineering style today is Alpine, which is to say, going solo or with a partner, and without fixed ropes.

A premium is placed on daring routes or the speed of the climb. The Poles mastered the dominant expedition style a half-century ago.

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It requires a willingness to subsume ego in the collective. If a team numbers 10 climbers, six will take the role of worker bees, laying pitons and ropes and tents at camps higher on the mountain. These men will scale cliffs of pre-collisional granite to 25, feet, even as K2 threatens a rain of avalanches. The summit team will pull up those ropes and sleep in those tents. As they draw within 3, feet of the peak, they will go forward without oxygen. How to prepare excites debate.

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I talk about this with Adam Bielecki, a tall drink of water with dreadlocks and a boyish ebullience. Age 33, married with a toddler and another baby on the way, he began climbing as a teenager. He is one of the elite, and a candidate to join the summit team. He overflows with ambition and chafes at old ways. Bielecki favors a bottom-of-the-world strategy to prepare: Send summit climbers to Chile, where it is summer, and climb a 22,foot Andean peak.

Stay put until bodies accommodate to the thin air. Then fly to Pakistan and trek quickly to base camp. Bielecki attempted that strategy during a winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, a 26,foot mountain in Pakistan that goes by the self-explanatory nickname Killer Mountain. The climbers arrived acclimated, but a winter storm front descended and would not lift. When I put the question to Wielicki, the old legend sounds distinctly unconvinced. He sees a young climber too sure of himself. Polish Himalayan exploration all but ended in Its greatest climber, Jerzy Kukuczka, fell to his death, and an avalanche on Everest swept away five other well-known Polish climbers.

The Communist government collapsed. As that wounded nation rebuilt, an age of entrepreneurs dawned. The life of a vagabond climber seemed frivolous. Artur Hajzer was among the prematurely retired. Intense, a man of many faces, he had been a partner of the famed Kukuczka.

After his friend died, he could face no more mountains. He opened a chain of climbing and outdoor stores. Restlessness welled; he yearned for the Himalayas. He began to run and lost his pot belly. Wielicki speaks of daily life as drained of excitement. They offered traditional training: winter in the Tatras, then the Alps, then the Himalayas. Their obsession was very Polish: to conquer K2. They were not hand-holders. Bielecki courted Hajzer, emailing a list of his ascents, including climbs up 20,foot Denali in Alaska. Bielecki sent a longer list.

Bielecki had found a mentor. Generational tensions bubbled. The younger climbers had trained less and came of age in a time of individual branding. In the winter of , Bielecki and three others set out to ascend the 26,foot Broad Peak. Two grew exhausted near the top, and Bielecki noted that nightfall and still more crushing cold approached.

Perhaps they should retreat. The others disagreed.