The White Polish Eagle
I'll never forget last summer in Philadelphia. It was perfect. The days were long and the evenings warm enough to share a cool drink with mates on the deck. I remember hanging out at the art gallery studying canvases in large cool rooms and visiting the exhibitions. It was here that I caught a glimpse of the girl with the white eagle. I am sure I had seen her before, but it was the badge on her backpack that caught my attention. I have always loved studying birds, especially eagles. America is lucky enough to have beautiful examples of the Bold eagle and Golden eagle, but to see a White eagle is rare. I wondered why this girl had a badge of an eagle. I asked myself what the eagle stood for? Perhaps she liked eagles like I did. I resolved to ask her next time I saw her; if there was a next time.
A few weeks passed and I totally forgot about the girl and her backpack until she practically tripped over me doing up my lace at the gallery. She went red with embarrassment and looked at me with clear green eyes. I muttered a lame apology to her and helped her off the floor. This was my chance. I didn't want to sound like a geek and tried to think of something impressive to say. It turned out her name was Ania and she had come to Philadelphia to study for a year. We sat down together on one of the wooden benches designed for visitors to absorb the canvases on the walls. The first noticeable thing about Ania, apart from her green eyes, was her accent. It sounded almost French or maybe German I couldn't place it. Finally I worked up the courage to ask her what the eagle badge stood for. Ania replied that it was the symbol of her country Poland. She explained that the white eagle, although it has changed over the centuries, has always been Poland's symbol. She told me, as best she could, about the story of three brothers, one of whom, as the legend told, was the founder of Poland. This brother had seen a white eagle flying over a sunset and this image remains important to Poles. It was interesting to learn about the Polish flag, white and red, which supposedly symbolises the white eagle on a red sunset. Everything about Ania mystified me. I didn't want to lose my chance of seeing her again so I asked if she wanted to go get a coffee on South Street. Unfortunately she had to go to classes, but agreed to meet me the following day.
We have never been apart since that day. Ania continues to teach me about her culture and background which I find fascinating. We are planning on going to Poland for a holiday at the end of fall and hopefully everything will work out in America so she can stay. I haven't met many Polish women and cannot generalise, but Ania is patient, kind, mysterious and so passionate about learning as much as she can about America and about me. I have heard jokes about Polish people in America and had always laughed, but now I have Ania I know these jokes are misplaced and far from an accurate depiction of Poles.