A love letter to the Gocław flat

Khatia left Gocław flat just a few days ago, Dennis left it a few weeks ago and I left it a few months ago. 2 months ago to be precise (damn, 2 months already!). Vika is the only one remaining there right now, and she sent us a video after Khatia’s departure showing how empty the flat is at the moment. A chapter is ending. New volunteers will be coming in a couple of day, writing their own story in this flat, and a new chapter will begin. I guess now is a good time to share my own story with this flat.

Side note: this blog has been ready for ages and has been cooking somewhere in the files of my laptop all this time, I just never took the time to post it, and I never managed to choose which pictures to add. I saw Khatia’s blog literally yesterday, let go a few tears and now I guess is the right time to post it. Funny how both our blogs are so similar ♥

The very first time I entered Gocław flat was 1 year ago, it was super late at night. I was the first one to arrive and I was kind of overwhelmed. I was going in this new environment that would become my place for the next few months. Shortly after, the same night, Khatia came as well, so we would both be overwhelmed together. We were both starving but didn’t have anything to cook so we took someone’s pack of pasta from the previous volunteers (probably) some olive oil and decided to cook at something like 1 am. Then we decided to go choose the bedroom that would be ours; checking the mattresses, counting our steps to see which bedroom was the biggest, not being able to agree on which one was the biggest, eventually deciding we would be taking the first one on the right. We became surveyors for approximately 30 minutes. This is how I spent my first evening in Gocław flat; between excitement and fear. Funnily enough, on my last day, it was also Khatia and I only in the flat, so we decided to make pasta again, just to remember this very first night where we arrived feeling super lost in this city and this neighbourhood. One of the differences is that on this second time we were kind of the rush because we had to catch the taxi for the airport lol (btw sorry for leaving my mess in the sink, thanks for cleaning, love ya :)). The other major difference is that we had 10 months of memories with us, and we knew this flat and the neighbourhood like the back of our hand. If I am being honest, it was a weird feeling to know that now it was my time to go back home, I was dreading this moment so much, because I loved it so much. Leaving this flat was just as overwhelming as going there for the first time. In this blog, I’m going to try to explain how it was to live in Gocław and why I have such a big amount of love for this flat.

I loved the way this flat was just screaming Life with a capital L when I entered the first time. It’s actually one of the first impression I got from it. When you enter, you can feel that so many people lived there before and that they left their marks. They left their marks in the furniture full of games, puzzles and old papers, the wall with all the post cards, the other wall with the maps of Poland and Europe, the bathrooms full of some many products, and of course the famous bats (thank you to the 2020/2021 volunteers crew for those). Somehow, it helped me to feel more home. And I knew I wanted to do something similar in order to make this place scream Life even louder. The next day, was the day of Dennis’ arrival. Khatia and I went down to welcome him and he literally lit up the whole flat in a matter of seconds with his energy. He was already talking sooo much and I remember thinking that I was glad to work with him because we would probably get along very well (spoiler alert: we did! Maybe even a little too much at times).

Looking back, it’s funny and sometimes a little bit overwhelming to realise how used we got to live there with one another. We often mentioned how strange it was to know the bus stops by heart, be able to actually pronounce them and just be able to go around our neighbourhood and the city so easily. The first few days, we were not even able pronounce the name of our closest bus stop (Reichnewskiego, you were a tricky one). How proud we were the first time we managed to say it, to say the other bus stops and to know where to go out without asking to our best friend, Google Maps. It’s quite funny how you can get used to people and know them so well is such a short amount of time. I feel like I’ve know my flatmates for so long now because we spent so much time together, chilling in the living room, or in the bathrooms, or the kitchen, or even in the entrance hall. Being able to predict their reactions, knowing their schedules, their habits. In our flat, it was kind of a sibling like relationship or mothers/children dynamic, even an old couple or best friend’s relationship. Most probably something in the middle of all this. Screaming at Dennis (especially me) because he was leaving some tomato sauce on the floor. Having a debate in the bathroom while getting prepared to out. Fighting and arguing to have the bathroom first when coming back from clubs. Cooking and dinner reunions where the kitchen was a mess. Vibing to Abba or Harry Styles or having a movie night session with some shitty bad rom-com. Doing some puzzles on Saturday nights instead of going out. Running late for the bus, as usual. Eventually missing it. Those were the moments, sheer joy and pure happiness.

Here is a summary of some of the striking, happy or sad memories, from my 10 months living in Gocław flat (attached some picture because what better way to show the happiness in this flat):

Coming to this flat at 11pm at night so completely lost. First time meeting Kate who came back 1 week after us. Celebrating Mezei’s birthday and our Halloween party, we got to know each other a little better just a couple of weeks after the beginning of the project. The day we turned to winter time and seeing the sun setting at 14.30 already. Random evenings where we were deciding to do puzzles. My friend Théo visiting me in Warsaw and spending the whole night talking on the couch. Preparing and eating dinners from our home countries. Celebrating Dennis’ birthday. Coming back to the flat after Kate’s departure, seeing her empty room, feeling like the flat will never be whole again. My friend Lisa and Mathilde visiting me from France. Meeting Vika for the first time. Coming back home after an exhausting white school trip with my organisation. Having Twilight movies sessions and finishing the saga in a week. Putting my speaker on and randomly deciding to have a dance session in the middle of the living room. Packing and unpacking again and again for trips. Chilling on the balcony, with beer in hand, while gossiping. Taking shots in the kitchen before going out partying (big glasses, thanks Dennis). Playing Skull King and fighting for the points. Gocław flat being finally free again (if you know, you know). Celebrating Khatia’s birthday. Packing one last time for my departure.

It’s hard to believe that all of this really happened in just one place. Making so many good memories in one place, especially your place, is so extremely special and I don’t want to take it for granted. It just made this place even more special and lovable. Even when the flat was breaking apart or during the Sunday weekly cleanings sessions, I still loved this flat. (Don’t get me wrong: those were incredibly annoying on the moment, but we were making fun of it and made so many random memories out of it. Also, thank you Khatia for forcing us to maintain a clean flat). It’s also strange actually, to know that other people will be making memories in this flat after us. I hope theirs will be as good as mine were.

However, as much as you love your flat, you realise that time is passing by and that your own on departure is approaching. You knew this moment would come, but it came much faster than expected. We were counting down the months with my flatmates, “3 months already how?”, “No way! Where did those 6 months go?”, but it never really felt real. When Kate left, it was of course very sad, especially coming back to her empty bedroom, as I mentioned. However, our own departures felt so far away at the time. Just like when something happens to other people but not to you. Then one day it’s your turn, you have to pack your suitcases, suitcases full of memories. So full, it literally hardly fits. You have to pack 10 months of your life, but how are you supposed to do that? When you live in a place where you were so happy, a flat that literally feels like your home, where you made memories for life, and where you know you will probably never put a foot again. But it happens, you leave, just like so many people did before you. You are leaving a familiar place to go back to another familiar place, and that’s the weirdest part. Having two familiar places, two homes, that are so different from another. Now look at us, nearly everybody left, following other adventures or endeavours, more or less exciting. Life goes on, but we all keep something with us from living together in Gocław flat.

Gocław, thank you for being my familiar place. I love you. I hope I left my mark in this flat. Khatia, thanks for being my crying buddy and my partner in crime during this whole time. Meeting sesh in your bedroom won’t be forgotten. Dennis, sorry for yelling at you for the tomato sauce but I know you love me anyway :). Kate, I wish we could have had more time together in Warsaw, you were missing to my adventures in the city. And Vika, I hope you’re glad I’m not waking you up at 2 am anymore because of my very messed up sleeping schedule, you probably miss it though. Thank you all for bringing light and joy to this flat, for making it even more cosy, especially during some of our tougher times :)).

To the next Gocław flat residents, we’re waiting for you to add your mark: please continue the Scrabble of Emotions, don’t remove the bats from the wall (okay, I admit, I stole two of those when I left the flat, I couldn’t help it), neither the pins from the Europe map. And please put postcards on the wall.

But most importantly, don’t ever take time for granted, you don’t realise it yet, but you will be writing the last paragraph of your chapter in Gocław flat before you even realise what is happening, so make the most out of it and write a masterpiece. It may be the end of our chapter, but it’s not the end Gocław flat’s story. A story I’m so thankful I got the chance to be part of.

With love,