The best of both worlds by Helenka Stachera

Hello everybody! For today’s first blogmas post, we have Helenka Stachera, who has written an amazing post about her British-Polish childhood and what that was like at Christmas. Onto the post!

My Mum was British, a Londoner and Dad was Polish, from a city called Poznan. He was 19 years old and a soldier in the Polish army at the start of WW2. He was captured within the first few days of the war and spent several years in a prisoner of war camp before he escaped and came to the UK where he met my mother and settled permanently.

I grew up speaking both English and Polish and also eating a mix of Polish and British foods. We had the best of both worlds, and it was the same at Christmas. In the run up to the season we ate pierogi (meat or mushroom stuffed dumplings), herring and dill pickles and cured meats like garlic sausage and kabanos. We often had bigos, a dish of sauerkraut and smoked pork sausage, although this was because it was a family favourite rather than a Christmas speciality. For pudding, Mum made lemon or apple soufflé, baked raisin cheesecake and poppy seed cake. I haven’t eaten Polish food for many years, but writing this has made me dig out some favourite recipes.

Babcia, my Polish grandmother, sent chocolates over at Christmas, but they weren’t the sort of things that children enjoy; there were plums covered in plain chocolate or filled with cherry liqueur and were quite bitter. I much preferred the sickly sweet Quality Street our British relatives sent us. Christmas Eve is the most important day for Poles. We would eat a big meal early, before dark. Then my brother and I would wait for the first star to show itself in the sky, which meant it was time to open our presents. We felt very excited to be getting our presents before all our friends who had to wait until the next day for theirs. Even so, we didn’t miss out on Christmas Day. Santa visited, and left treats in our stockings at the end of our beds.

I suppose there must have been years when it was too cloudy to spot the first star. But I don’t remember that. What I remember most of all is the magic and excitement of Christmas Eve. We would sit in the living room in the dark, the only light coming from the coloured fairy lights on the Christmas tree. The curtains were open and we had our noses pressed to the window, our breath misting the glass as we searched the sky for the first twinkling star.

Thank you so much for reading! How are you spending Christmas Eve? Have you read Helenka’s books? I’d love to chat in the comments!

Speak very soon,

Amy xxx


Author: goldenbooksgirl

Disabled book blogger who also writes TV, film, music and other posts from time to time | UKYABA Champion Teen 2018 | Email: | she/her

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