Folha de S.Paulo > Ilustríssima > November 27th, 2011
I looked more like a cat, sprawled on the rug.
It was late morning of the leaden January 25th, 2004, the 450th anniversary of the city of São Paulo.
Three years earlier, the already-elected-but-not-yet-inaugurated Mayor of São Paulo, Marta Suplicy, had called me to repurpose the spaces of Matarazzo building, as to set there the mayor’s cabinet and all city secretariats.
It was long, rewarding and hard work. Finally, the day before the opening, I set each thing in its place. The rug, the furniture, the pictures, the flags, and went home to get some sleep. The next morning, I arrived early and walked the whole building by myself.
Upon entering the empty cabinet, in daylight, I noticed the rug was covered in threads and piles – even expected, for a new rug.
I think they had forgotten to vacuum-clean it. And I, obviously, would never find a vacuum cleaner at that time.
I did not hesitate: got down to the floor and started picking out piles, which were never-ending.
After a while, I tilted my face up slowly and noticed the drapes swaying, as someone who wants to squeeze out through the French door, ajar.
With a fixed gaze, seeing the city of São Paulo through the drape material, I recalled my father, Gregório. He had passed a while earlier. Although he would have preferred me to follow in his footsteps into the weaving mill he had founded, he had always respected and supported my choice to go a different way.
I thought he would have been proud to know his son had worked in the project for the new head office of São Paulo City Hall, a city he always loved, defended, and thought of as the best place in the world to live.
The city that welcomed him after the great suffering experienced in the World War. He had been born and raised in a small hamlet set deep in Poland, whose name was impossible to pronounce, Koprzywnica.
My grandparents owned a small mill and lived with their four children – my father, a brother and two sisters.
When the war broke out, they paid their neighbors bags of flour to hide them– the parents in the basement of one house, the children, in another’s.
One evening, from the basement where they stayed for more than three years, under the bed of the lady who sheltered them, the children overheard a conversation and learned that their parents had been executed in the village, that very afternoon.
(Years later, on a trip to Poland, I found the little town, the mill, the house, the basement, the documents, the people and my history).
World War II ended, and the four siblings crossed some countries in Central Europe before settling in Italy.
Years later, in search of a new life, they disembarked at the port of Santos, in a country they did not know, but that – so they had heard –, was a country of opportunities, the country of the future.
My father was asked: Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo? He wanted to know: “Whichever is less hot?”
The young man who answered him could never know the importance of his reply.
Suddenly, the double door to the mayor’s cabinet opens and there walks in, decidedly, Marta Suplicy, followed by a few of her secretaries. Surprised, she stops and smiles upon seeing me stretched on the floor, picking out loose cotton threads.
I had a pleased gaze, lost across the drapes dancing through the French doors.
Folha de S.Paulo
November 27th, 2011