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Eighty years ago, you couldn’t dream of this scenario… A Hollywood actor walking miles past long lines of cars to the Polish border for safety. The same Poland that was engulfed in Nazi flames and crematoria ash. Fast forward, like so many streaming videos, to the now — where Sean Penn, of Dead Man Walking fame, is walking toward a border town and getting the hell outta Dodge (read Kyiv). He was in Ukraine filming a documentary about the Russian invasion. Until he wasn’t. But, let’s get back to the irony of his walking towards a Poland that Hitler couldn’t have imagined in 1942 with his long lines of women waiting for the showers at Birkenau, long lines of men waiting to be selected for work at Treblinka, long lines of children waiting for nonexistent bread in Warsaw. In the now, Poland is on the other side of one history’s nightmare. In the same now, its neighbor to the East—Ukraine of the blue and yellow, of the sky and field, of the hands of the dead and their lost prayers— is not. Once, I visited a cemetery there, on the border between Poland and Ukraine. Stark and beautiful. Green and calm. No dead man walking there. Not even ghosts. Only the long lines of graves and rusting crucifixes nailed to trees. But, back to Sean walking to the border that divides one history from another. Passing so many cars, he’s lost count.
Copyright 2022 Linda Nemec Foster
Linda Nemec Foster is the author of twelve collections of poetry including The Blue Divide, The Lake Michigan Mermaid, Talking Diamonds, Amber Necklace from Gdansk, Listen to the Landscape, and Living in the Fire Nest. She is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College.