Goodbye Lenin, Hello Poland

Several years ago I watched the excellent German film Goodbye Lenin, about a East Berlin boy whose mother falls into a coma and only wakes up after the fall of communism and reunification. The catch is that he is warned by the doctors that she must not be exposed to anything startling or else she may relapse, so he goes to extraordinary (and amusing) lengths to recreate a world that no longer existed and hide the rise of a capitalist state. Read more about the film here.

Well, it appears as if this story came to life this week…

(BBC) A Polish man has woken up from a 19-year coma to find the Communist party no longer in power and food no longer rationed, Polish TV reports.

Railway worker Jan Grzebski, 65, fell into a coma after he was hit by a train in 1988.

“Now I see people on the streets with mobile phones and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin,” he told Polish television.

He credits his survival to his wife, Gertruda, who cared for him.

Doctors gave him only two or three years to live after the accident.

A comatose patient is in a profound state of unconsciousness which renders them unaware of both self and the world around them, and from which they cannot be roused.

Although those in a coma do not respond to stimuli in a meaningful way, contrary to popular belief they do not always lie quiet and still – in some cases they can move, open their eyes and even talk.

Fall of communists

“It was Gertruda that saved me, and I’ll never forget it,” Mr Grzebski told news channel TVN24 of his recovery.

Mrs Grzebski is reported to have moved her husband every hour to prevent bed sores.

“I cried a lot, and I prayed a lot,” Mrs Grzebski said on Polsat television.

“Those who came to see us kept asking: ‘When is he going to die?’ But he’s not dead.”

When Mr Grzebski had his accident Poland was still ruled by its last communist leader, Wojciech Jaruzelski.

“When I went into a coma there was only tea and vinegar in the shops, meat was rationed and huge petrol queues were everywhere,” Mr Grzebski said.

The following year’s elections ushered in eastern Europe’s first post-communist government.

Poland joined the Nato alliance in 1999 and the European Union in 2004.

“What amazes me today is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and never stop moaning,” said Mr Grzebski.

“I’ve got nothing to complain about.”

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