Topic outline

  • Submodule 1. Christmas in Poland

    Story Framework

    You will accompany Jan, an elderly man from Wrocław, in his trip to England in order to spend Christmas with his daughter and his two little granddaughters, who all moved abroad. Join Jan in his amazing attempt at convincing his granddaughters that Polish Christmas traditions are full of magic and mystery and find out whether he succeeds or not.

    Follow the exercises in their order on the page as they tell one story!

    • 1. The Arrival

      It was 23 December. The wet snowflakes were falling down slowly, turning into slush on the ground. Lamps on the streets shed light on the sidewalk. In the city centre, where Jan left the bus and got into the taxi, there were plenty of people on the streets, all carrying heavy bags with the groceries and gifts and moving in all directions. Here, in the suburbs, it was quiet, dark, and quite lonely.

      Jan started his journey almost eight hours ago. First, he had to drive his ramshackle car almost a hundred kilometres to reach the airport. Then, he waited almost two hours for his flight as he had to leave his baggage with the airlines workers first in order to have it packed. The flight did not take much time but it felt like an eternity for him – he hated airplanes and always felt unsafe in them. Once he finally had got out of the plane, he had to wait almost another two hours to get through the customs and pick up his bags. As if it wasn’t enough, he didn’t have the money to pay for the taxi straight from the airport – first, he had to catch the bus and only when he reached the city centre did he change his transport to a taxi.

      But there he was. Finally. He paid the taxi driver and asked for the receipt. He liked to know how much exactly he spent. He took the luggage from the trunk of the car and crossed the road to reach a small, white bungalow. Suddenly, Jan felt very nervous. He took a deep breath and rang the doorbell.

    • 2. Waiting at the door

      There was a rush inside. He could hear a child screaming, ‘Mom! There’s someone at the door!’ and a dog barking. Waiting for someone to open the door, he took a closer look at the house. The bungalow was small but it looked nice. At the front of the house, there were bushes, now covered in snow and decorated with Christmas lights. On the right side of the front yard, there were two snowmen: one made of plastic and the other made of snow. In the middle of the bushes, there were short steps leading up to the house. Jan was a little bit worried that he would slip on those steps because they were covered in snow and ice but as he came closer he saw that someone has used sand to make the steps less slippery. All windows were covered with white curtains but he could see warm light in the inside of the house. When he looked at the door, he noticed a sign “Merry Christmas” made of letters hanged on a string. He squinted his eyes. There used to be something more – one more sign that was now missing. Only a string was left and darker spots on the door in the place where  previously there were letters hanged. It looked like there were two words, fourteen letters. The first was M… or… W…?

    • 3. Who wants to be the Polish millionaire?

      'Grandpa, grandpa!'

      Two girls, Anna and Maria, started jumping around the elderly man. He spread his arms and hugged tightly both of them. Right after them, a woman in her forties appeared.

      'Hi, dad!'

      Jan hugged and kissed Marta, his only daughter. Unfortunately for Jan, Marta moved abroad during her studies and never came back to Poland. She met here her husband, Jack, and they started a family. He missed them a lot and came to visit as much as he could, but it was never enough – especially that they rarely came to visit him.

      'Come in, dad,' said Marta. 'I’ll take your suitcase upstairs.'

      Girls took Jan to the living room. The television was on, some kind of show was broadcasted.

      'Sit down, grandpa! You must be cold, I’ll make you some tea,' offered Anna, the older of his granddaughters.

      He sat on the sofa together with Maria. The show on the TV was the famous Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

      'Dad', Marta entered the living room, 'today there is the special episode with questions only about Poland. Do you think you can get all the answers correct?' she dared him.

      'Of course I can!' laughed Jan and looked on the TV screen.

    • 4. Sleepless nights

      Three hours later, Jan was lying in the bed in his daughter’s guest room and couldn’t fall asleep. All he could think about were his granddaughters – how quickly they got bored with the show on the Polish culture. And that was how it usually went. The girls simply weren’t interested in their cultural heritage. They didn’t even want to visit grandpa on their vacation because there was always something more interesting to do or to see. And this made Jan feel very sad…

    • 5. Morning brainstorming

      When Jan entered the kitchen at 7 o’clock in the morning the next day, he wasn’t expecting to meet anyone there. But there was his daughter, sitting at the kitchen table with a steaming cup of coffee and a newspaper in her hands.

      ‘Good morning, dad! Would you like some coffee?’ she smiled at him.

      Jan nodded and sat next to his daughter.

      ‘You look tired,’ Marta noticed. ‘Did you sleep well?’

      ‘Not really,’ replied Jan and told Marta how he spent the night thinking about his granddaughters and how they are not interested in their heritage.

      ‘ Well…’ Marta said carefully once he finished, ‘I can force them to come and visit Poland. But that will make things only worse because I can’t force them to be interested in their roots and their culture’.

      ‘ I know, I know,’ agreed Jan. ‘If only there was a way to make them interested in all that…’

      Marta frowned.

      ‘Maybe there is. I think I have an idea,’ she said.

    • 6. The secret weapon

      At twelve in the afternoon, a doorbell rang. One minute later, one of Jan’s granddaughter shouted:

      ‘Mum, it’s auntie Riya!’

      In the morning, Marta told Jan that auntie Riya was her secret weapon. They were colleagues from work but before Riya moved here, she used to live in Poland for a couple of years. As girls loved auntie Riya, Marta thought that perhaps auntie could be the one to get the girls interested in Polish culture. So she called and invited Riya over for some tea.

      Now they were all sitting in the living room, drinking tea and talking about silly stuff, such as weather or traffic. Girls were obviously listening to their auntie very carefully, following every word she said.

      ‘So…’ started Jan. ‘I’ve heard that you used to live in Poland.’

      ‘Yes, that’s true!’ Riya smiled, knowing all about Marta’s secret plan. ‘And I loved it there. Such a wonderful place on Earth!’

    • 7. Family cooking

      After Riya left, Jan moved to kitchen in order to start cooking for the Christmas dinner. He barely put on the apron and collected all the needed ingredients, when he heard quiet steps behind him. It was Anna, his younger granddaughter.

      ‘What are you doing, grandpa?’ she asked curiously.

      ‘I am going to cook,’ replied Jan with a smile.

      ‘And what are you going to cook, grandpa?’ asked Anna again, suddenly reminding him of a Little Red Riding Hood.

      ‘A beetroot soup with dumplings.’

      ‘That was auntie’s favourite soup!’ beamed Anna.

      ‘Yes, it was. And it is your mum’s favourite Christmas dish as well,’ added Jan.

      ‘Can I help you cook?’ asked his granddaughter.

      ‘Of course! Just follow my instructions…’

    • 8. School essay

      Jan was resting on the coach after a couple of hours of cooking. Anna wanted to help him with cooking but she wasn’t so eager to try the new dishes, which made him a little bit sad. But he kept repeating himself that he shouldn’t push her too much. Small steps. It was already amazing that she offered her help and was asking about all kinds of traditional dishes in Poland while they were cooking. Perhaps his daughter's plan to trick the girls into being interested in their culture was working after all.

      ‘Grandpa, I have a question.’

      It was Maria this time.

      ‘What is it, sweetheart?’ asked Jan.

      ‘I have to write an essay about Christmas traditions in other countries. Could you tell me something about traditions in Poland?’

      ‘I’d love to!’ answered Jan, sitting suddenly. ‘Get yourself some tea, it’s going to be a long story…’

    • 9. The best place to buy Christmas gifts

      It was finally Christmas night. They were all resting in the sitting room. Jan, his daughter and her husband were sipping tea and talking quietly, whereas girls were playing on the floor with their new toys. Jan was especially pleased as with the passing years he learnt that there was nothing more pure and contagious than child’s happiness. Now he’d rather buy presents for his granddaughters than get ones for himself. Tonight, the girls seemed to really like what he had bought them.

      ‘Grandpa,’ started Anna, ‘where did you buy such beautiful things?’ She raised hand-made scarf and beanie hat he bought for her, decorated in a pattern of poppy flowers. ‘Is it from Poland, too?’

      ‘Well, there is one place in Wrocław where, during Christmas time, you can buy all kinds of amazing gifts…’ answered Jan.

    • 10. Remembering the past

      It was 28 December. The Christmas was definitely over and it was Jan’s last night at the house of his daughter. Lying down in bed, he looked back at the last few days – and these were truly magical. He truly enjoyed the time spent with both his daughter and his granddaughters. It seemed that her plan worked and after the visit of their ‘auntie’, they got truly interested in Polish culture. First, they were asking only about Christmas traditions but now they wanted to know everything.

      Perhaps, this time with his daughter and his granddaughters was also a kind of redemption for when he was younger. He didn’t understand the meaning of family for a long time. Before his retirement he had been a hotel manager for as long as he could remember. Because of that, he never truly helped with anything during Christmas time and sometimes he even didn’t spend Christmas Eve at home but at work, making sure that his guests had perfect Christmas supper and taking that away from his family at the same time, even though he didn’t have to. Yes. Perhaps now was the time of his redemption.

    • 11. The end of the story

      It was time to go. Jan took a sit in the bus that was supposed to take him to the airport. He waved goodbye for the last time to his daughter and granddaughters, and the bus moved from the bus station. In his hand, he was holding a card that he received from the girls as a goodbye gift. It was a good, precious time that he spent with his family. The girls finally became interested in their country. He was sure that what was to follow was only better. And now it was time to relax before the long journey. And maybe play some sudoku. It always made him calm.