Preparing to Leave
I now had to start making plans to leave the States and move to Poland and there was a lot to do. First, I had to work nights at a restaurant to earn enough cash for my fare and to ship over my few belongings. Apart from a few keep-sakes, momentos, books, and clothes, I owned almost nothing. I owned no property so that needed no disposing of as I lived at my parents' home in the vaccations and on campus at other times. I arranged to quit my English Litterature course in the spring and plannd to fly out to Warsaw in time for the spring festivals. The three month wait was the longest in my whole life, except when Mom lay critically ill in hospital after a heart attack and there was a life-and-death struggle for two weeks.
I applied to the Polish Embassy in Washington DC for a 3 month tourist visa while Stan figured a way of getting a me a resident permit in Poland as an employee of the family firm. Short of marrying him and getting a state licence there was no other way I could get into the country. He had married Sarah-Jane in Las Vegas, settled her in Poland as his "lawfully state-wedded wife", and then "divorced" her a year later. But even though he did not recognise the state's right to legislate marriage he hadn't liked the method and avowed not to do it again.
The only other solution was to get me in as a University student but he didn't want to waste time and money if it wasn't beneficial to the Zionic cause. It was simpler for all his other wives but Kasia because they held Polish nationality - Kasia was a Russian but had smartly arranged to move to Lithuania while it was still a Soviet republic. At independence she obtained Lithuanian citizenship, and as Lithuania and Poland had always had good relations, moving to Poland proved to be no problem. With Poland due to join the European Union, Stan hoped it would be easier for wives coming from other EU nations to move to Poland.
But North America was still a problem and the solutions few: state marriage, employment, or renewable tourist visas. One possibility, if we ever got rich enough, was that I might fly back to the USA on Church business four times a year and keep on renewing my tourist visa, but this was clumsy and created unneccessary disruptions in routine. But where there's a will, and if God is with you, there's always a way. In the end Stan employed me as a teacher of English in his home schooling system by incorporating it as a private school. After a few year's residence I would be entitled to settle permanently whether I officially married or not.
Everything seemed to be going smoothly. I sold off anything I didn't absolutely need both to raise needed cash and to reduce the amount of things I would need to transport. Stan's "job offer" killed two birds with one stone for it not only gave me the means of getting residence in Poland but also gave me a truthful and bone fide reason for wanting to quit my college education and leave the USA - I was being offered a good job as an English teacher in a newly started private school.
Mom and Dad weren't easily persuaded - they rightly didn't think quitting college mid-way was a good idea as I didn't have all the credits I needed.
"Why not wait until the summer, and at least complete the next semester?" they argued persuasively.
But I had worked out my answers - this was the opportunity of a life time to travel as well as get a school started. They knew, of course, that I had visited Lublin in October though weren't too happy about it being in the middle of a semester, nor were my reasons at the time - attending an important Christian Conference - particularly persuasive or, for that matter, truthful. That bugged my conscience for a while.
They had had misgivings about the trip especially as it was known that there was a high crime rate in the country following the fall of communism, and I hadn't been particularly forthcoming about what kind of Christians I was visiting. Both Mom and Dad were, and are, committed Baptists and wouldn't have liked Stan's theology one bit. How, if ever, I would break to them that I was marrying a polygamist was a problem I decided to postpone for now. More important for them would be to see me happily settled into a new life before breaking any earth-shattering news to them.
It's a struggle enough working your way to an understanding and acceptance of polygamy, but breaking the news to loved ones whom you know will be hurt by it is a hundred times worse. We have a built-in desire to please loved ones and especially parents who have sacrificed so much to bring us into the world and bring us up as best they know how. Having had a heart complaint I didn't want to put Mom back in hospital again and maybe even kill her. I had to seriously weigh up all the possibilities and the most loving thing to do and decided, in the end, not to say anything. Poland was conveniently far away but what if they wanted to come and visit? What if I had kids? Should I tell them? Wouldn't it be terrible not to tell them? Should I "marry" Stan and present him as a monogamous husband? Would that be deceptive and unacceptable for a Christian?
All kinds of moral dilemmas present themselves and you soon realise that the boundaries of "right" and "wrong" are not always easy to define. The most honest thing would, of course, to simply have come clean, and get all the pain over. Better to do that than conceal a matter and leave your parents and friends with the thought that you'd deceived them and so give Christ a bad name. But what if the harsh truth killed Mom? Would that be justified? Could I ever live my life with a clear conscience knowing that I could have kept her alive by just being quiet? I couldn't tell my friends and swear them to secrecy - what if one of them talked?
All of Stan's wives had their stories to tell in this regard, and none of them had been pain-free. In fact, it would be true to say that all of them had been through hell, and Stan himself through six hells. Let no-one think that the polygamous husband gets the easy end of the stick - he gets it multiplied several times over!
Suszana's parents had totally disowned Stan and had actually got him thrown out of the Protestant Church he had originally been a member of by informing the Pastor of his life-style. Suszana was disowned. Her father had died before she had remarried Stan polygamously but her mother was still alive and had simply frozen her out and would have nothing to do with her. She had lost all her friends.
Isabel's family had gone bezerk, especially her father, who threatened to kill Stan. She had told them the whole truth after she left Stan for the third time, preferring in the beginning to say nothing at all and keep it concealed. Isabel was all for total concealment. Her mother had been broken-hearted when she had returned to Raj and her father had cut her off.
Kryztina'a parents had also gone crazy, and knew nothing of what was actually going on until she got pregnant. They had tried to get Stan arrested and imprisoned for bigamy but since he had had no state licence they were powerless to do anything. But he had to lose his job when Kryztina's mother reported Stan's beliefs and practices to his boss at a locomotive engineering factory in Białystok.
Kasia was luckier for her parents had remarried several times and were of a liberal disposition. They disapproved but wished her well.
Sarah-Jane had not told her parents or friends, for reasons similar to my own, and didn't plan to until she got pregnant.
Anna's father was an alcoholic and wasn't even compus mentus and her mother totally disineterested in her and what she did, which created a different set of sorrows for her.
All had therefore suffered much to become polygamists, and none more so than Stan himself. Each time he took a new wife he knew that it would almost certainly bring trouble in its wake. We all discovered that polygamy was not for the half-hearted - it required complete commitment and a willingness to suffer for the truth's sake. This no doubt contributed towards our cohesiveness as a family for we were not only united by deep love but by suffering also.
One of the bitterest ironies, Stan said, was that in their blind rage those who had persecuted them with a view to splitting them up had achieved the opposite result. Stan had got his cue from communist Romania where Christian pastors had suffered terribly under the heel of a Stalinist dictorship. One Baptist Pastor was threatened with death if he did not stop preaching the Gospel and had said to his torturers: "The more you torture and imprison me, the more my words will speak. And if you kill me, my sermons will speak a hundred times louder!" So they released him, convinced of the truth of his words.
I therefore understood that to be a Christian polygamist meant to suffer for Christ's sake. This was to be no plastic Gospel we would be living, but one requiring us to put our lives on the line and to be ostracised by those very Christians who ought to be our brothers and sisters in the cross. I learned that Christian polygamy was not just about an alternative marriage style but about the whole teaching of Christ. Like nothing else it brought grace into sharp focus for me, taught me about love, and about suffering for a righteous cause. As time passed, I saw how essential polygamy was to Christianity. Stan was incarnating a vision of the millennial world to come which hardly anyone in Christendom was prepared for. And he once said that the cultural transition between present-day Christianity and the Christianity to come would be as severe as it was when Judaism was replaced by the New Covenant. Stan once said:
"In many ways, we best cope with change when it is gradual, and with few exceptions we resist violent change. Sudden change is usually painful. When communism fell in Poland the nation was in shock. Whereas before the people had leaned on state institutions for their bread and butter, suddenly they were on their own and it was every man for himself. Whereas before the state had done his thinking for him, now he had to do it for himself. Whereas before he had grown complacent and lazy in a world where everything was controlled, suddenly he had to wake up and take responsibility for his own life.
"Polygamy is an illusion-destroyer. It makes you wake up to the reality of the human condition like no other Gospel principle. When several people of unlike personality are thrust together under intimate circumstances, nothing can be taken for granted except the promises made in their marriage vows. Everything, in fact, hangs on those vows. They are fastened only to one thing - naked faith - which is the cement and bricks of the Gospel of Yah'shua. Even as we are saved by faith in Christ, so is our polygamous marriage saved by faith in mutual covenants and in the integrity and righteousness of the family head, the husband.
"You can take nothing for granted. Relationships must be worked at, you can't afford to slip into apathy and inactivity, or you'll drag everyone else down. When new wives come into the family, there is at once a major upheaval, like the shaking up of a jar of water filled with coloured sand. Until the sand settles, you don't know what pattern will result, and in many ways it seems to be a lucky dip. Without the presence of the Holy Spirit there is the potential for chaos and disaster, but with God in control, marvelous things begin to take place.
"You see the hand of God in action in so many different ways and on an almost daily basis. Because there are so many forces at work - the combined energies of so many different women and their husband, Yahweh is given the opportunity to build so many more diverse things. It's like a Lego set - the more bricks you buy, the more things you can build. God takes the raw elements of diverse personality and, through His patriarch-husband, welds something utterly unique and exciting. It may not be fun whilst all those sand particels are whirling around trying to find their place, but once they've settled, some wonderful things may be seen.
"Then along comes somebody else, the whole jar is shaken up again, and yet another new creation results. You see things from so many different persectives. You become creative as in no other situation because polygamy, by its very nature, is so intimate. Its not the same as a community like the Amish or Mennonites which themselves are remarkable, because marriage is so much deeper than brotherhood. But when you get several polygamous families working together in community amazing things can start to happen. There is some suffering, to be sure, but the blessings more than compensate. This is our vision and I wouldn't lose it for anything in the world."
Stan has a way of inspiring. He has a gift for painting complex things in a simple yet graphic way. And I could see that this was no theory - it was a living experience. But it was not always so.
"Starting is the hardest part. I had a vision, but nobody else shared it. I was alone. My first wives were sceptical and had only my word. They in a way risked everything for a vision which might have been a fantasy that exploded in our faces. Breaking away from an established way of being is always hard because everyone and everything is against you - your own misgivings, opposition from family and friends, cultural pressure, financial hardships, and loss of fellowship with other Christians convinced you are a heretic. So I take my hat off to my first wives. They had to walk in raw faith and trust what might just have been the cranky dream of a deluded fool. What if I had been a heretic and this wasn't Biblical? I stood to lose family and salvation. So I had to be sure"
My last few days in the States were nostalgic ones and for the first time I began to wonder what it was I was about to give up. I was not only about to enter a whole new way of life but leave all my past thousands of miles behind me, emmigrate to a new country and probably have to speak a new language. It was good to know that Sarah-Jane would be there, another North American, for we already had much in common. But Stan warned me not to start an "American clique" in Raj for it was expected of all of us, whether Pole, Russian, or American, to cultivate the new culture. We would harvest the best from all our respective cultures and graft it on to the new Zionic one Stan was trying to build.
March arrived, only five weeks to go. I was pretty well packed and had already said most of my farewells. During this time I spent an hour each day in the library emailing Stan and my future sister-wives - it was the high point of each day, making the day's work at college all the more worth while.
March 21st: Stan has written to me saying he has been to Germany to check out a possible new home for us - an old East German baronial estate on the island of Rügen near a place called Augustenhof in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The house is twice the size of Raj with some farmland and is only about 15 km from Sassnitz, the main ferry route between Germany and Sweden. He wants to get closer to our friends in Scandinavia and into more Protestant country. And I find this rather unsettling as I've been cultivating Raj in my mind now for five months. It's the thought of a new unknown. He thinks it will be easier to get me a permanent residence permit. Suszana and Sarah-Jane are all for it but the others are dead set against - Poles have a phobia about Germany even though there are many who live and work there already. Stan's and Suszana's German ancestry guarantees residential and even citizen rights if he wants it but he'd have to renounce his Polish passport. Anna says it's too far from an international airport and would make it difficult for people other than Scandinavians getting there. Though I know German would be easier and more useful for me to learn than Polish I'd prefer Lublin for now and have told Stan and the others. Suszana would like to move to Sweden when Poland is in the EU. I don't think anything will come of it.
March 25th: I've been looking at myself in the mirror. What if Stan doesn't like the way I look? I still can't shift those stomach ripples and I think my breasts are too large. Maybe I should get a medical check up. YIKES! I nearly forgot my medical! All prospective wives have to have a proper checkup for any trace of STD's (Sexually-Transmittable Diseases). You have to be careful in a polygamous family otherwise one sister can pass an STD to all the other sister-wives viâ Stan. I'll go in tomorrow and they can mail the result to me in Poland. Passport OK, tickets bought yesterday. Different route this time: direct to Paris, then Warsaw, and that old train again. Stan's going to pick me up himself this time. Yippee!
March 29th: Only one more day to go. Mom and Dad were in tears last night and made me feel terrible. Promised I'd come home again to see them but don't know when. Promised to write them regularly. They know the "salary" isn't too big. Said goodbye to Sandy - she's really upset too. Said she would write me.
March 30th: All ready to go. Goodbye, Kansas City, I wonder when I'll see you again? I didn't know it would hurt this much leaving . I hope I'm doing the right thing. Sure I am. I know I am. Lord, give me a safe flight.
I occupied my time on the flight from Kansas City to JFK looking out the window at the countryside, nostalgia biting deep into me. I remembered Mom and Dad waving me goodbye at the airport - I thought my heart would burst. I might not see them again for a very, very long time as Stan had almost no surplass money at all - the lifestyle was expensive and the Polish economy is not the best. I had my Bible, Stan's book and a little guide on Lublin in my cabin bag for reading material.
First the guide on Lublin which Stan had given me on my first visit. I had only glanced at it then, being at the time more interested in the family than in the local geography and history. But now Lublin would be my home I ought to know a bit more about it.
"LUBLIN - population 239,000. Voivodeship and district down and a municipality, situated on the River Bystrzyca. Important railway and road junction. Electrical engineering, garment and food-processing industries. Motor truck factory. University named M. Sklodowska-Curie, Catholic University of Lublin, Engineering School, Medical Academy and Higher School of Agriculture. Cultural centre - museums, Theatre named after Osterwa, Operetta, Puppet and Live Theatre, Philharmonic Orchestra."
Mmm, that looked pretty good. Plenty of interesting cultural activities there if I ever get the time. I knew Stan and Suszana's eldest son was at the Medical Academy and that Isabel loved operetta - not my kind of music but I was willing to learn. Stan loved classical music and often took his family to hear concerts played by the Philharmonic. My whole musical taste had to undergo somewhat of a change as no rock or pop was allowed at Raj - that was a part of our Zionic cultural retraining. There was a lot of resistance to this at first from some of the wives but Stan would not budge. He has succeeded in retraining all our ears to appreciate the finer harmonies and spiritual nuances that rock and pop drowns out, the goal being to make us more sensitive to the things of the Spirit. I certainly came to love Chopin and Debussy - you have to like Chopin in Poland!
"History. The settlement sprang up on the trade route linking Russia with the Hanseatic states on the Baltic Sea. In the 12th c. - a castellan's stronghold protecting Polish territories from the east. In the 13th c., repeatedly destroyed as a result of numerous invasions by Tartars, Ruthenians, Jacwings and Lithuanians. Town rights accorded in 1317. The 14th c. marks the beginning of the commercial development of the town. King Casimir the Great surrounded it with defence walls and enlarged the castle (after 1341)".
Americans don't have the same sense of history as Europeans and one of the things I really loved being able to do in the Old World was digging into the past and sensing something of my own French and German roots. The French in me, as I've said, at once identified with the artistic Polish spirit, with the German providing a scientific balance, as Stan would always say to me. With Polish and German roots himself he and I had a kind of genetic kinship and we understood well these two temprements in one another. One moment Stan could show gay abandon and the next be engrossed in some painstaking detailed study of something that required enormous patience. These two poles in his personality enabled him, I believe, to relate to all his wives who possessed different admixtures of both these qualities. He sometimes jokingly likened himself to a computer interfacing with lots of different kinds of peripherals!
After two hours of history on the Atlantic crossing and I eventually dozed off. It was a long haul to Paris though I slept through most of it. At Charles de Gaulle Airport I had a three hour wait for my flight on to Warsaw. Landing on French soil was, in a way, my symbolic break with the New World and my entry into the Old one which would now become my home.
This page was first created in 2002
Last updated on 5 March 2009
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