A topical re-telling of the book of Ruth, for the week in which Britain leaves the European Union. Re published here as a single volume instead of a series of posts.
Ruth Declares her Loyalty to Naomi. Pieter Lastman c 1583 – 1633
Elek Mazur brought his family to the United Kingdom soon after Poland had been admitted to the European Union. In 2005 he took his family from a small flat, in a rundown block in Wroclaw to live in Milton Keynes. Elek and Nadzia had been married 17 years when they arrived and had two sons, 15 year old Keilijan and Mahary, 13.
Soon after arriving in the UK, Elek started a small handyman business and in time, when the boys were old enough, they joined him transforming it into a thriving family concern. The boys had each learned different skills. Electrics for Kielijan, plumbing for Mahary while Elek continued the trade learned from his father, carpentry.
Together they they grew what Elek had started as a tiny, backyard business into a successful enterprise, which a few years after the boys joined their father in work outgrew their home and had to move into its own premises.
There was not a big Polish contingent around Milton Keynes, so as Keilijan and Mahary grew up, as well as joining Elek in the family business, they began to date local girls. In time both the boys married. First was the younger Mahary who married Ruth and a year later, Keilijan married Orlah, who had come to Milton Keynes from Ireland.
Not long after the second wedding, Elek died when the floor collapsed in an old house he had been working in, ironically to replace rotten wooden joists to make it safe.
The boys, who now had wives to support, carried on the business bringing in outside carpenters when needed on short term contracts. While the Mazur company supported the boys and their mother it no longer thrived and grew after the death of Elek.
All was not well in the remaining family. The boys had inherited a genetic disorder from their father, Elek. It was never discovered because of his premature, accidental death. So a few years later, it claimed the younger Mahary first and in one more year, Keilijan. Leaving a family of widows to fend for themselves.
At first Orlah and Ruth tried to manage the business, hiring in necessary skills. Slowly orders dried up as it seemed with the death death of the founders the good name was gone, The hired hands, with no stake in the business, were never as conscientious as Elek, Keilijan and Mahary.
To make matters worse, there had been a referendum in the United Kingdom and Nadzia’s adopted home had voted to leave the European Union. She had been in the UK many years and had even applied for and acquired a British citizenship, but after the vote to leave, Brexit as it was being called, Nadzia began to detect an undercurrent of if not hostility, certainly of some unfriendliness where there had been none before.
Nadzia resolved to return to Poland, though it grieved her to leave her daughters-in-law, the only remaining connection to her dead family. With Ruth and Orlah she set about winding up the business and distributing its assets between herself and the two girls. There wasn’t much to share out after settling some outstanding business loans. Terminating the mortgages on their homes, brought in a little extra, from the accumulated equity.
There wasn’t much money but Nadzia thought she had enough to return to Wroclaw, where she hoped she could find work before the money she had set aside to rent a small home ran out. The only thing left to do now before she packed up and left for Poland, was to tell Ruth and Orlah.
When Nadzia explained to Orlah and Ruth her intentions, Orlah decided almost immediately that she would go back to live with her family in Ireland. Ruth seemed unsure what to do for the best and withdrew into herself, while she considered her situation.
Early the next day, Ruth quietly let herself into Nadzia’s home, she and Orlah both had a key each, and started to prepare breakfast for herself and her mother-in-law. It was almost ready when Nadzia came through the kitchen door. They sat down together for their meal, making desultory conversation until Nadzia could no longer put off the question unanswered since the day before.
‘What will you do when I return to Poland’ Nadzia asked her daughter-in-law. Ruth slowly raised her eyes from her breakfast plate to meet those of her mother-in-law, holding them in silence for a few seconds before replying ‘I’m coming with you.’
Nadzia looked relieved but still asked why Ruth wouldn’t return to her own family or stay in England, where she had been born. ‘I loved your son and you are the closest I can be to him now he’s gone. Don’t make me stay.’ What about your parents, your mother.’ Nadzia asked. ‘I love them of course I do, but I’ve never been so close to mother as I have become with you. Please, don’t go without me.’
After Nadzia and Ruth had found a cheap place to live on the outskirts of Wroclaw, they had to find a way to support themselves. They had a little money brought with them that would last a couple of months but after that, if they couldn’t find work they would have trouble.
Nadzia had a distant relative in the nearby town of Siechnice, Bozydar Janda a cousin of her dead husband. She sought him out hoping he might be able to give her some work. He had nothing, at least nothing she could do in his forestry and sawmills. They needed another idea. It was Ruth who came up with it.
Both women were good cooks, so they began to prepare food that they could take to the sawmill and up into the forest, for Ruth to sell the men working for Bozydar. They had been doing this for a few weeks, not making much money but enough to cover their rent, when Bozydar took on a new manager.
When the new manager arrived to check on some of Bozydar’s lumberjacks and found Ruth selling food and snacks to the men from her basket he ordered her away, saying she was keeping the men from their work. On her way back down the wooded track, a car came bumping past Ruth on the rough ground going in the opposite direction. It was Bozydar, though she didn’t know it. He had noticed her.
Bozydar was a good businessman and employer. He treated his workers well and liked to support those trying to make their way through their own hard work and initiative. After finding out what the manager had done, he was annoyed and at a later date, for another incident the manager was eventually sacked.
Driving back down the hill Bozydar again saw Ruth on her way down, with her basket of food that today would be wasted. He stopped to offer Ruth a lift back down the hill. She was grateful and accepted appreciatively, and as they chatted while they bumped along he said she was still welcome to sell food to his men. They liked it as well as helping her.
Bozydar took Ruth home to where she lived with Nadzia, stopping on the way at his sawmill where Ruth could sell some of her snacks, lessening the days losses caused by the manager. As he dropped Ruth off, Bozydar bought some of Ruth’s food himself to take home for his evening meal. Before he resumed his drive home, he saw Nadzia at the door as Ruth went in. It was then that he realised who Ruth was.
‘Did you know who that was?’ Nadzia asked as she and Ruth sat down to their own meal that evening, finishing some of the unsold food in Ruth’s basket. ‘It was Elek’s cousin, Bozydar.’ So Ruth told her mother-in-law about how he had helped her that day.
The next day, about mid-morning, there was an unexpected knock at Ruth and Nadzia’s door and when Ruth opened it was surprised to find Bozydar standing there. ‘I thought you might like a lift’ he said. ‘I shall be going up to the men working in the forest again, if you’d like to bring some of your food to sell.’
After Bozydar had spoken with his men and Ruth sold them food and snacks for their lunch, they sat down together on a freshly felled log. Bozydar seemed in no hurry to get back to the sawmill from the forest, so they shared food and chatted, until they noticed the men resuming logging.
Bozydar took Ruth home again after their work that day, and on many more days when he had to check on the work of his men in the forest, which sometimes ,Ruth suspected, was really just an excuse.
It didn’t take Nadzia too long to notice how often Bozydar was bringing Ruth home, or the time she lingered at the door of their small home watching him drive away each time.
After this had continued for a while, one evening over their meal Nadzia broached the subject that one day Ruth would want a home of her own, and maybe starting her own family. Although Ruth wasn’t happy about the thought of leaving Nadzia, she could see the sense of it. The home they shared was only just big enough for them.
“What about our business.” Ruth asked. “There’s no reason we can’t continue that. And besides, I’m getting a few extra orders from friends of people you’ve sold food to who have heard of us. We’re going viral.” added Nadzia.
A few days after their discussion, Nadzia heard Bozydar drop off Ruth and before driving away ask her out for an evening. ‘Where’s he taking you’ Nadzia couldn’t resist asking as Ruth came in. ‘Oh my what big ears you have.’ Laughed Ruth. ‘He’s asked me to a social evening that he gives every year for his staff. I haven’t said yes yet.’ ‘You will, won’t you’ Nadzia said, ‘and since you’re not an employee, you’ll be his date for the night. You like him, I know you do.’
On the night of the social, although Nadzia was already in bed, she couldn’t resist getting up and peeping out of the window for a moment when she heard Bozydar’s car draw up outside their home. Usually Nadzia heard the car door shut and a few seconds later drive away. Tonight it went quiet as the engine was turned off. Nadzia returned to her bed and smiled to herself as she went back to sleep.
A few weeks later, Ruth was in no hurry to leave Nadzia, even though she was growing closer and closer to Bozydar, property details started landing on the doormat with the daily post. It saddened them both a little but they could see the practicalities.
Then one day in amongst the property details an official looking letter addressed to Nadzia dropped onto the doormat too. She opened it with some trepidation and began to read through it, her face slowly brightening as she did so. ‘It seems,’ Nadzia told Ruth later ‘that through a number of distant family deaths I have inherited some property that would have become Elek’s.’ Then she asked Ruth, who confirmed what Nadzia thought, to read it too to make sure she had understood it correctly.
‘Do you think Bozydar might drive us over there to look it over’ Nadzia asked Ruth. ‘I’ll ask him. He’s picking me up later. Perhaps he could take us at the weekend.’
The next weekend Nadzia was sitting in the back of Bozydar’s car behind Ruth, on their way to Nadzia’s inherited house. They went first to Oporow, where Nadzia signed papers at the adwocat’s office and collected keys from him. Then they drove on out to Smolec, to Nadzia’s property.
‘That can’t be mine.’ Nadzia exclaimed as the house came into sight. ‘It is.’ replied Ruth. ‘I can’t live in a place that big, not on my own.’ ‘We might as well take a look inside since we’re here anyway’ added Bozydar, as he drew the car up in front of the door. Ruth helped Nadzia out of the car and together they went up the steps to the door. Bozydar had to help Nadzia unlock it, as the lock hadn’t been used for a while and was stiff.
As they wandered through the house, looking around, Nadzia said to Ruth, ‘If I still had all my family, I’d love this place but I can’t live here on my own.’ Coming to the kitchen Ruth said as they looked around, ‘This would be good for our little business. So much easier to work here than in our tiny kitchen.’
Bozydar took Ruth and Nadzia home, but didn’t linger as he often would when taking Ruth back. After leaving the ladies he drove hurriedly back to his own home, and pausing only to make a drink began making a series of phone calls to various relatives, and to one other number that he had to look up, though he had the name and address.
For the next few days Ruth hardly saw Bozydar. When she did he seemed preoccupied and not his usual self and when he dropped her off he left quickly, seemingly with something on his mind. Ruth began to worry that she had upset him in some way.
Five days after the visit to Nadzia’s inherited house, Ruth didn’t see Bozydar at all. Unbeknown to Nadzia and Ruth that same day Bozydar had assembled a cohort of his family, for a family conference. He had something important he needed to discuss with them. Bozydar’s Mother, his Father had died years before he met Ruth, his two brothers with their wives and his unmarried sister were all assembled in his home.
Bozydar’s family had arrived early in the evening. It was well after midnight by the time they had all left. After they had, Bozydar went to bed but barely slept that night. After scarcely four hours in bed and less sleep, he gave got up and made coffee, not because he wanted it but simply as something to do. He made cup after cup that he didn’t really want until it was a time he could reasonably phone Ruth. He arranged with her to collect her the next Saturday morning. He wouldn’t say why, asking only that she bring Nadzia accompany them.
10:00am promptly Bozydar arrived to pick up the two ladies. He drove off still without telling them where he was taking them or why. It took about half an hour driving before Bozydar turned into a road in Smolec. They had all been there before but Bozydar had arrived by a different route. Ruth was the first to realise where they were and a moment later Nadzia gave a startled exclamation ‘What are we doing here.’ as they pulled up at the house she had inherited.
As Nadzia turned to the house getting out of Bozydar’s car, she was even more surprised when the front door swung back and her adwocat Dominik Dąbrowski, stood at the top of the step smiling and beckoning them in. ‘What are you doing here? We don’t have an appointment.’ ‘No.’ he replied ‘we don’t but I have some good news and wanted to tell you personally. I’ve found you a buyer for the house already. It’s a good price. You won’t be rich but with a little care, you should be able to live comfortably for the rest of your life. You just need to sigh these papers he added’.
‘Who’s the buyer,’ Nadzier asked ‘who wants my house?’ I can’t see the name on these papers.’ ‘The buyers adwocat is acting on his behalf until the sale is complete.’ Dominik Dąbrowski said. ‘I am not allowed to tell you the name until after you sign the papers.’ he added. ‘It’s what you wanted, what have you to lose. Sign them.’ Nadzia looked at Ruth as she spoke, ‘You think it’s allright?’ she asked. Ruth nodded and held out a pen. Nadzia hesitated for a few moments longer before taking the pen and letting it hover over the papers for an instant before adding her signature.
Underlining her signature Nadzia looked up at her adwocat. Dominik Dąbrowski spoke up ‘I can now tell you who the buyer is,’ he paused a moment ‘or maybe I should let him introduce himself.’ he said taking a step back and leaving the room still and silent with just the four of them. ‘Well’ said Nadzia ‘how long do we have to wait for him?’. ‘No time at all.’ uttered Bozydar stepping forward.
Both Nadzia’s and Ruth’s eyes widened as they realised who had bought the house. ‘I’ve been busy with my family this last few days’ Bozydar said. They’ve lent me the money I couldn’t raise myself to buy this house. But it’s not a house I want, it’s a home. You said it was too big for you Nadzia,’ he went on ‘but it’s not too big for a family.’ A family of three perhaps at first, then later, well later who knows.
‘You’re asking us to come and live with you?’ Ruth asked Bozydar. When he looked directly at her before continuing his eyes softened meeting hers, ‘That’s partly what I’m asking, but it’s not all. I’m asking Nadzia if she would come and live with us, Ruth.’ Bozydar paused, his voice softening as his eyes had earlier. ‘I’m asking you to marry me?’
Ruth could barely speak as she turned to Nadzia with tears in her eyes. The older woman just smiled and nodded.