First communion

One late spring afternoon Hania was playing football with a few boys in the green area of a neighbourhood, about 10 minutes’ walk from her own home. It was 1970s Warsaw, Hania was eight years old, she loved kicking the ball even though she was always the only girl playing. That spring, she felt good about her football skills and enjoyed getting rare praise from the boys she played with. Her hair was short, she wore trousers and she was used to being irritated by people mistaking her for a boy. So, after a short time of playing that afternoon, she and one of the regular boys she played with found themselves alone. They decided to go and visit another boy and try to get him to come and join them. They entered the block of flats, took a loft, went up to the 8th floor and rang the bell of their friend’s flat. But the friend wasn’t there. Disappointed, they got back into the lift, pressed the button to the ground floor talking about what to do next. Hania was wearing dusty trousers, a short sleeved blouse and muddy trainers. Her arms were smudged with dirt. Suddenly, the lift stopped on the third floor, and into the lift came two of Hania’s classmates: Ela and Teresa. Both girls were wearing lacy white long dresses, white shoes, elegant smooth nylon tights, fluffy white capes and had pretty tiny handbags. Their hair was clean, neat and each had hair bands decorated with white flowers. Both girls looked beautiful and were on their way to dress rehearsal for their First Holy Communion in their local church. Suddenly Hania felt the lift was very small. It is not that she wanted to have been baptised, like all the other children in her class. She didn’t really care much about that as she did not believe in God, and she actually thought her own atheist outlook was more grown up. But she did feel that not attending religious classes twice a week in a parish church, and now, especially not going to the first communion made her stand out from all the other children. Standing dusty, with her hair dishevelled and her hands clutching a football, she wished she wasn’t there.