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Strona głównaFelietonyMarszałek JoannaThank you, Coronavirus, for bringing me closer to my loved ones

Thank you, Coronavirus, for bringing me closer to my loved ones


Last week I made ‘COVID-19 Situation in the WHO European Region’ my homepage.

It started with the news about Poland shutting all schools, museums, and cinemas due to coronavirus. Two days later I heard about Poland closing its borders. The US president was still downplaying the coronavirus at the time.


As I look at the orange circles representing growing numbers of confirmed cases and deaths in Europe every day, my sight is always attracted to the familiar outline of my home country. An anxious feeling is creeping in. It is not entirely new to me, though: the feeling of not being able to see my loved ones.

It suddenly hit home. The first coronavirus cases were diagnosed in my niece’s high school. But, I didn’t learn it from her. I haven’t talked to my nieces for almost a year. I assume that liking their Instagram posts doesn’t count as talking.

I didn’t speak to my mom or sister for weeks. Mom was reaching out, but I always found an excuse to cut her off. I know very well that sending her heart emojis is not enough. Sister was sending messages too, but my response was always curt, because I am always busy.

Juggling kids and work, homework and activities, house chores and errands, cooking and cleaning, never-ending driving and never-ending laundry, I barely get a chance to steal some time for myself.

Sure, I don’t have time to talk to Mom. There is always the annoying time difference, and, of course, there is always the victim card. After all, nobody is here with me, nobody knows what I’m dealing with, nobody is helping.

This past week coronavirus helped me to interrupt my well-structured morning driving routine. It consists of a carefully timed news-music-prayer-podcast/audiobook ritual. Not having to drop off the kids at school allowed for some extra time. I decided to call as many loved ones overseas as I could.

Mom is fine. The weather is nice, so she is in the garden a lot. She trimmed the trees that dad planted years ago. She doesn’t go to the store, because she’s getting flashbacks of communism, when she sees empty shelves. She confesses that she struggles with many thoughts, but she’s ‘drowning them all in Hail marys’.

Sister is okay, enjoying the unexpected vacation at first, but now uncertain about the future. They did some painting at the house. My nieces are safe and healthy. She wants to know when we will do facials together again.

I reached out to some of my dear friends in England, Italy, Germany and Austria. They spread out all over Europe around 2004, when it opened its doors for Poland. I was the only one who decided to pursue happiness across the ocean.

The ocean that now seems even much bigger.

G. has two daughters, but I remembered just one being born. We share some crazy memories from parties at our dorm in Kraków. M. came out after high school, though it didn’t go well for him. He’s living a lonely, rural life, but is always such a great guy to talk to. T. continues to understand me best without many words. W. is going through a family crisis, but he’s not losing his philosophical spirit, trying to convince me that the pandemic is going to be a good thing for global society.

Most important, all of them and their families are safe and healthy.

I haven’t reached everyone yet. After all, if you don’t talk to people for months or years, they will not necessarily run to pick up a call from you.

As I am reading Mom’s message with recommendation to “boil onion and breathe in its fumes”, and as I receive another virtual rosary chain from my aunts, and cheer up memes from my cousins, I come up with a conclusion.

I can probably live with fever, dry cough, and maybe even respiratory issues. But, I definitely cannot live without the people I love.

Joanna Marszałek

Matka, żona, dziennikarka. Ustronianka, w USA od 2000 r. Duchem niepoważna smarkula, która przez większość czasu musi udawać dorosłą. Naiwna idealistka, szczególnie wyczulona na ludzką krzywdę i niesprawiedliwość na świecie. Tłumaczka, blogerka, kierowca, zaopatrzeniowiec, kucharka i sprzątaczka. Absolwentka Wydziału Dziennikarstwa Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego oraz Visual & Communication Department w City Colleges of Chicago. Od 2016 r. z dumą piastuje stanowisko kierownika działu społecznego „Dziennika Związkowego”.