Before transitioning from one country to another Bruno Novak’s young life in the small coal town to the southeast of Warsaw, Poland, was never going to be easy. His coalminer father, Jack, was ruthless. He allowed violence, and large quantities of vodka, to control his life. They were necessary allies. Whenever consuming the latter, the former was sure to follow.
Socially, a cat-and-mouse game had developed between Jack and his work colleagues. Deep underground mining had a set of rules completely different to those on the surface. With miners confined to claustrophobic spaces, and serious accidents a distinct a possibility, respect for their surroundings was paramount.
His work colleagues considered him a wild card, and one to be wary of, above ground, and beneath.
Locked into a life dictated by Jack’s propensity for the almost daily acts of violence, were the young Bruno and his mother, Ania. She tried to protect herself, and the child, but Jack’s brutality was empowering. To defend herself and her son, Ania was helpless. Jack ensured each beating more severe than of those given previously. Non-existent was his tolerance for defiance.
As Bruno grew older, he readily accepted his father’s beatings. Violence, unfortunately, had become a part of family life. A lack of respect also made it easier to call him ‘Jack’, rather than ‘Father’. It lessened the pain.