As the sun's fiery glow fades in the Upper Silesian sky, three boys gather coal from the side of a railway track. They climbed into one of the trucks of a slow-moving freight train and opened its side door, spilling its precious payload. Now they have to bag it. They won't get much money for their efforts, but for fourteen-year-old Greg it's enough to feed him, his sick mother, and younger sister; something which his alcoholic father is rarely capable of doing. After loading the heavy sacks of coal into a van parked near the railway, the boys collapse in an exhausted heap, their hands blacker than the evening sky. A beer-bellied man of about forty stands in front of them, holding a wad of banknotes.
"Nice work, lads."
Greg takes his hard-earned pay and heads for his block on the edge of town, stopping only to wash his hands and face in a nearby pond. That night, he stares up at the stars through the window as he lies in bed. He starts to count them but can barely keep his eyes open. He dined well on dumplings together with his mother and sister, and the flat is again peaceful in his father's absence. As he surrenders to sleep, he tries to imagine the vastness of the universe, filled with burning stars that belong to no-one.
15 April 2014