I returned to Berlin and thought that, if only for the moment, the worst was over and that I could continue my studio work. Two days later, I received a call that my grandma in Poland was in the intensive care unit, in an artificial coma – things seemed to be repeating. My guilty conscience returned. Why didn’t we just speak on the phone, at least for a moment? My grandma is 93 years old, so every day she’s healthy and conscious is a gift. Although I knew that a day like this would come, it saddened me deeply. She’s one of the most important people in my life. She taught me so much: writing, speaking and reading Polish, cooking, singing together, history, jokes and most importantly, her cosmopolitan view, the deep love and high respect towards all humans, animals, and plants.

Daniela as a little child in 1982, on the left her grandmother Rozalia Malinowska.

The next morning, I took the Berlin-Warszawa-Express to Poland. My grandma had a stroke and again, the doctors couldn’t tell us much. After a week they stopped giving her sleep-inducing drugs and once more, we needed to be patient. Two days passed and she seemed absent. All of a sudden, she started singing these old Polish partisan songs that she taught me and we joined in, with tears in our eyes. I was so touched, again!

Stream: Maryla Rodowicz – Wsiąść do pociągu byle jakiego (a song that Daniela and her grandmother have sung together)

Our hopes were dashed. She had a brain damage and didn’t remember me, nor anybody else of her loved ones. Furthermore, she was mixing up nouns, which made it harder to have a conversation. The frontal part of her brain suffered from a circulatory disturbance, meaning that the memory and speech center are affected. I stayed for three weeks and every single day we visited her, she started singing. She remembered all the lyrics and melodies and every single time I was deeply impressed. Maybe there is a simple, scientific explanation for these two strong examples, but however, for me personally, it represented a kind of magic. The power of music – so essential, so real and so pure!

In loving memory of Rozalia Malinowska. She was born on the 20th of August 1923 in Suwałki, Poland. In 1939, she was taken as a forced laborer in Germany and worked there until the end of World War II. She passed away on the 4th of June 2017 in Lublin, Poland.

Rozalia Malinowska photographed on her 90th birthday.
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