Hidden Heroines – What Grandmas Can Teach Us About the Future

by Weronika Pukrop

Sometimes, the best role-models are right in front of us. Courageous, inspiring and wise women. Our grandmothers. They lived through various eras and powered through them. Their stories are unique – let’s listen to them

When people ask me who is the most inspiring person in my life, without one second of doubt I say: my grandmother. One could say I’m biased when I say her life was and still is truly significant; after all, she has always been the best grandma a girl can ask for. But she is also a living proof that impossible is nothing.

My grandma was born in a small village in the south of Poland and as lovely as it was, it didn’t offer many opportunities for a young girl to thrive. So she left and moved to a big city to get education. Sounds easy? Her sister was in political prison, due to communism regime, and therefore the government has forbidden my grandma to study her beloved English language at the University. If they thought they’d stop her from getting education, they clearly didn’t know who they were dealing with. My grandma signed up to study a then completely new course Zootechnology and happily became a university student as she always dreamt to. She never stopped pursuing her dreams.

Her youth didn’t fall in the exactly best times in Poland. Going abroad, getting to know other cultures and learning foreign languages was pretty much impossible. But my grandma doesn’t know this word. Her kindness and having a way with people allowed her to see the world that was technically out of reach for her, but she always longed for it anyway. Like helping an elderly woman, a complete stranger met on the street, with her shopping led to being able to go to England, because that stranger turned out to be a sister of an English Lady, who lived in Cambridge. My grandmother didn’t even know if she would be allowed to come back or if she wouldn’t have troubles after coming back with law, due to horrible political situation in Poland. But the urge to chase her dreams and see the world was stronger than fear.

“The urge to chase dreams was stronger than fear”

Yet, even being courageous has its limits. My grandmother had three children and a full-time job – she was an English teacher, as she managed to complete English-teaching course, so she couldn’t just drop her responsibilities and do as she pleased. Some dreams had to be put away. But not for long.

I think it’s safe to say that my grandma started her second life after she retired. In her mid 60’s, her kids were already grown up, with their own families and she no longer had a full-time job. So she’s decided to pursue a life-long passion of her – journalism. She always loved to write, but again, her circumstances never allowed her to do anything with it when she was younger. That was, however, not an obstacle for her. “It’s never too late” gets a whole new meaning.

“She never stops surprising me and our family and she never stops with her passions”

She signed up with a small, independent publication and fulfilled ambition from her youth. She got to travel the world, interview people, meet incredible personas and, well, live the life. My grandfather was never a big traveller, so my grandma said “Fine. I’ll go by myself”. And so she did. She travelled all around Europe, making lasting friendships wherever she went. Every Christmas, her house is flooded with postcards from various countries, all from friends she made while travelling and working as a journalist.

Frankly, I thought that at some point she would slow down. It’s only natural. How wrong was I! When she turned 78, she announced that she’s going to USA and Canada for three months. She always wanted to go and she made arrangements with people she wanted to interview there, so it was a perfect opportunity. She was going with her friend (who was over 80 at the time and who also was the designated driver) and they were going to road trip around the states and sleep in motels. When my mother, her daughter, heard of it, she couldn’t pretend not to be sceptical. She kept asking if my grandma was sure and if it was the best idea. My grandma’s reply? “If not now – then when?”.

Those words still ring with me until today. My grandma, now 86 years old, always showed me that determination, kindness and courage will take you exactly where you want to be. She is a living example that if you want something bad enough, if you try and work hard and, most importantly, never ever give up, you can achieve anything. Few years ago, she told me that she wanted to have her memories and adventures put in one place. So she wrote a book. She didn’t publish it, she wanted to keep it just for her family. The amount of work she put into this, writing down her life on a tablet (!), all while being in her 80’s is astonishing. She never stops surprising me and our family, she never stops with her passions and – she never stops dreaming.


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