Day 164 - Hanna

Day 164 - Hanna (4th person I approached)

June 13, 2014 - Hanna was sitting by herself, rolling a cigarette behind the Broadway City Hall Canada Line Station. When I asked her if she would chat with me, she said she would, depending on how long it would take. I laughed and said that it all depended on how interesting she was. She smiled and agreed to chat.


Hanna is from Bielsko-Biala, a city in southern Poland near the Czech border.

“I grew up there, all my childhood. I have a brother, five years older than I am. Like all children, we fought. He used to hit me all the time. But then, when he was twenty and I was 15, he had been studying at university for a couple of years. His attitude toward women changed, it was like he suddenly matured, and we’ve been good friends ever since,” she said. Hanna told me that she liked school.

“Except in elementary school. Everyone learns a second language. I’m not sure how they decide who learns what. Perhaps my parents decided, I don’t know. But some classes learned English, some learned French. I got German and wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t really like that. Otherwise school was good. I had lots of friends. I’m still friends with people I’ve know from both elementary and high school,” said Hanna. A handsome young man on a bicycle rode over and stopped right behind where Hanna and were sitting. He didn’t say anything. Hanna looked at him and then at me and said

“This is my boyfriend.” I asked if she needed to end our conversation and without looking at him she said,

“No, that’s fine, he will wait.” She looked at him and smiled, as he said

“That’s fine, take your time.” And with that Konrad moved about five feet away from us and started tinkering with his bicycle.


In Poland, education is free.

“It is quite common for students to go directly to university after high school. Going to university was my first time moving away from home. I couldn’t wait to move. A lot of people in Poland stay living with their parents until they finish university. I was so happy to go to another city. It was wonderful. When I was 19 I applied to go on a school trip to New York for the summer. My parents were shocked. They couldn’t believe I would be okay traveling away from home by myself. I went with some people from school, and my best friend. She didn’t like it and left after one month. I stayed for four months,” said Hanna, putting both arms up in the air in a sign of victory!

“I took English language studies in my first year of university. I’ve always liked English. When I was a child, from the age of about seven years old, I remember my brother would watch cartoon shows that were in English. And then we watched MTV. I didn’t know what they were saying at first, but after watching it for a couple of years, I started to understand. That’s how I began to learn English; MTV and American cartoons,” Hanna said laughing.

“After being in university for one year, I added Fine Arts to my studies. I spent six years there in university,” Hanna said. 


When she graduated, Hanna was offered a job almost immediately.

“I was supposed to be a graphic designer. Well, ok I was a graphic designer, and I got a job at a publishing house. I was fortunate. My friends spent a lot of time looking for work, and I started right away. But after two years I couldn’t stand working in an office anymore, so I quit,” Hanna said.

“I needed to be doing something with my hands, not sitting at a desk all day. I started to make my own bags and purses (she showed me her own beautiful felt and suede purse that she was using, and had made herself). I have an online store and did that for about five years. I still have the online store, but I don’t have a sewing machine or anything just now,” she said.


Hanna and her boyfriend have been together for eight years.

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe eight or nine years. I’m not sure,” she told me. “We met in university.” They have been traveling together for years. I asked how many countries they have been to together and Hanna wasn’t sure.

“More than ten at least. Easily. In Europe there are countries that are very small. We’ve traveled a lot together. It is good because we get along so well, and we have very similar ideas about things,” said Hanna.

“We‘ve done most of Europe. We lived in Ireland for a while. And we just spent two years living in London, England. It’s easy when you’re from a European country because of the EEC (European Economic Community). Canada is the first place we’ve needed a working visa for. We are here for maybe a year or so, and then we want to go to America, maybe. I’d love to go back to New York. We might ride our bikes there. Konrad had a visa but it expired, so even though we are this close, we can’t go just now,” said Hanna. Konrad was sitting quietly, rolling a cigarette. I told him we wouldn’t be that much longer. He smiled and told us to take our time. 


Tomorrow, they are moving to Gabriola Island, just off the west coast of Canada, in the Gulf Islands.

“I got a job there. We’ve had some problems (Hanna and Konrad) because we’ve had some offers for both of us to work here in Vancouver. We have Czech friends here and really like the city. With the mountains and the ocean, it’s beautiful.  But after two years living in the concrete of London, I’d like to spend the summer living in nature. We went to Gabriola last week. It’s lovely. I got a job working for a woman who makes things, including purses, so she has lots of sewing machines. I took that as a sign. So Konrad is making this move for me. We’re only going to stay there for the summer, and then come back to Vancouver to live and work for a while. He (Konrad) has been working doing many different things. He does repairs, fixing things, making things, general maintenance. There’s a number of cottages on the property where we will be staying on Gabriola. So we will live and work on the property for the summer,” said Hanna.

“We are moving everything we have over there tomorrow, on our bicycles. Konrad just got that bike today, so I think he’s fixing it for the move,” looking over at him examining the bicycle’s kick stand.


I was curious to know why Hanna was sitting where she was, near the transit station, with them both having bicycles.

“These statues here,” she said, pointing to the tall metal figures behind the Canada Line Station.

“We rode by here last week and I thought the work looked familiar. So I wanted to come by and check them out. I told Konrad that they looked like the work of Abakanowicz, she is a Polish artist. And I was right as well, they are!”  #notastranger

"Walking Figures” - by Magdalena Abakanowicz -