One of the great pleasures when reading, for me, is taking the words of the author and creating a vision in my mind of the characters and scenery as they unfurl on the page before me.
As much as Closure is a coming-of-age/murder mystery set in Australia, it is also a travelogue through a most beautiful part of southeastern Poland. Therefore, I thought I’d share with you snapshots from many of the places described in the novel. And for context, I’ve added the corresponding passage from the book (with, you may notice, a few subtle changes so as not to divulge the plot).
These were the visions in my mind’s eye when writing Closure. Any discrepancy with reality from the visions I planted in your mind lies solely at my feet.
Eastern Europe (Krakow) 2010
“I crossed from the west side of the square, scattering dozens of pigeons hunting and pecking in search of their morning meal, past the centuries-old Dominican church with its onion-domed spires and sat down at one of the many tables facing the park.” p. ix
“With a smile, the waitress delivered my coffee and then melted away from the table. From the south, a tram approached, its exterior was a faded red that had seen better days. It pulled to a stop with a screech of brakes opposite the park. The swallows took flight searching for quieter surroundings. The pigeons remained, unperturbed. Doors slid open, passengers disembarked, getting on with their lives. I sat back, sipped my coffee and thought back to another time and how it had led me here.” p. x
Jaroslaw – Rynek (Main Square).
“Our first winter under German occupation was as harsh as the weather . . .
My father and I had begun work in a road gang clearing the streets of snow.
. . . For our team of ten workers, our area to clear this day was the rynek. The cobblestoned streets that were to be kept clear circled the town hall and stretched approximately seventy metres on all four sides.”
– Piotr (1940) – p. 35
Majdanek Concentration Camp – Lublin
“We were taken by truck to Lublin . . .
In the beginning, the men from our town were put to work building the camp that would become Majdanek . . .
My number in the camp was 3,612, and mother’s was 3,611. I still have the small round badge that I wore around my neck. The camp would grow to hold 20,000 men and 20,000 women. No more. As new prisoners arrived, others were disposed of. Whether through beatings, starvation or the gas chambers. To the guards running the camp, it did not matter which.” (1941) – p. 168, 169
Krakow Glowny (Main) – train station
“The train station appeared little changed from the 1940s. Perhaps, for all I knew, even a century earlier. The main entrance to the elegant sandstone structure faced onto the square. The letters upon the roof, above the main entrance, spelt out Krakow Glowny (Krakow Main). Folks hurried across the square, heads bowed. It took very little imagination to picture Nazi soldiers on patrol, stopping the citizens at will, requesting to see their papers.” – p. 158
“. . . as (the train) approached Jaroslaw, (she) pointed out the spires of the Dominican church. The surrounding wall, many metres high and thick, had protected the church from invaders for centuries.
– p. 159
Catholic Church of the Transfiguration – Jaroslaw
“We spent the morning wandering through town. Stopping for coffee in the town square, sitting under the old town arcades, whose arches date back a century.
. . . (later), we strolled down a small, cobblestoned, lane that led off of the square to the Transfiguration Orthodox Church. Its onion-domed spires a testament to the town’s Austro-Hungarian past.”
– p. 162
Benedictine Abbey – Jaroslaw
“We continued heading east, finding ourselves on the grounds of the 17th century Benedictine abbey. From the outer walls we gazed east over the San River valley below. The river winding through the lush fields from south to north. It was my first view of the river that had meant so much to Piotr.”
– p. 162
River San – Jaroslaw
“From the bank where we stood, the river was perhaps thirty metres wide. It flowed swiftly at its centre, yet was frozen over for the first four or five metres from the edge. I looked around and found a fallen branch close by. I used it as a club to break through a large patch of ice, revealing the crystal clear, near freezing, water below.”
– p. 176
“At the river’s edge I turned to face the town, it rose above the valley from where I now stood, where Piotr once played as a child. I could make out the upper most spires on the Transfiguration Orthodox Church, and then further to the right, the ancient walls of the Abbey. The sun warmed my face as I stared up into the cloudless blue sky.”
– p. 176
Krakow – 1991
“. . . in Krakow, I walked for an entire day aimlessly through the city. From my hotel, through the park, skirting the barbican, into the old city.
. . . I ate pierogis at a small restaurant off of the square. Twenty plus varieties, they advertised. None could compare to (her’s).”
– p. 178
City Square & St. Mary’s church – Krakow 2010
“I sip the remainder of my cappuccino as I watch a young boy scatter the pigeons in the main square. He runs through the flock with gay abandon, arms spread wide.
. . . The bugler had just completed the Hejnal Mariacki from the tower of St. Mary’s Church, ending the five note anthem before its completion – as is the tradition. In 1241, legend has it, that a bugler played the Hejnal to warn the town of an imminent Mongol invasion. The city gates were closed in time, thus, saving Krakow. However, the bugler was struck in the throat by an arrow from the invading Tartars, abruptly ending the anthem. It has been played on the hour every hour from the tower of St. Mary’s virtually ever since.” – p. 181