Today I want to tell you a fraction of a story about the man I admire the most. It would be his 89th birthday today.
It was a cold winter’s day of 1943 in a poor tiny village of Pawłów, Poland. The Nazis were patrolling the area and taking whatever they wanted from the local community of farmers, making everyone’s lives even more tough. A boy aged 12 came back from school in his badly torn shoes, his toes purple from the cold. This day his mother was not waiting for him with dinner like she usually would. - can I have some food, mum - he said. - If you want to eat, you go and earn money as I am no longer going to give you any, you are an adult now! - she responded. The boy went to bed hungry.
The next day he did not go to school, but was sent to do an apprenticeship with the local tailor, where he would be learning the profession for the years to come.
15 years after that day, the boy’s stepfather died and his mother inherited some cash. She was afraid to keep it all at home so she asked her son if he could safeguard it for her for a few months before she decided what to do with it.
The boy took the cash and bought a few winter coats that he later sold in his stall at the local market. He then bough more coats and sold even more. One day, he bought fabrics, and started making his own coats, coats that were trendy, unlike others, they had fitted waists and made their buyers feel good about the way they looked.
In the 60s, the boy, or rather now a 30-something young man was hiring 20 tailors that would come and sew hundreds of coats in the cover of the night because the communist state condemned capitalist activities. 20 years after the day he was refused dinner, the day when his mother could not even afford to fix his shoes - the day has come: the boy became the first safe-made millionaire in the town of Chełm, Poland. This boy was my grandfather.
I don’t think I knew we were well-off when I was a child until I started high school and there was a conversation about toys we used to play with when we were kids. I talked about the huge amount of LEGO I had, electric mini-cars, walkie-talkies and so on and my peers would be like: how did you even get those things? Nobody could afford that before the 1989’s transformation!
Well, we were just like any other people in the end. We lived in a house and had a normal car. My parents would maw their front lawn and so on. Just that they had lots of bars of gold hidden in the basement. The same gold my grandfather bought in the Soviet Union 20 years earlier at the peek of his business.
Not sure exactly how, but all the gold was gone by the end of the 20th century. My grandfather was no longer a millionaire either, but he still owned several properties and the business (much smaller now) which would still make him a millionaire on paper, or a ‘paper millionaire’ if you wish.
The text comes from Chapter 1 of my upcoming book. Love, Matt x