Date: Sat, 07 Mar 1998 22:07:10 +0000
From: stefan grass <>
Organization: Terra Incognita
Subject: Tales from Irena

Thanks, Colleen - it's a lovely feeling to be appreciated, so, as a reward for your kind words, here are a couple more stories about that old time-forgotten village. I haven't been there for centuries (or it seems like it) but I have very vivid memories of the place and for a good reason. My great-grandfather who was French fell in love with a Polish girl (I suspect that might have come with Napoleon's army) and settled in Irena where he was an estate manager.

Shortly after the birth of my grandfather, great-grandpa Andre shot himself accidentally with a shotgun while alighting from a chaise- the horse suddenly shied, he stumbled; the safety catch wasn't on... Villagers used to mutter darkly that there was a witch who lived in a hut in the forest and that she would frighten horses with her spells. I remember very vividly a sight that also frightened me on a walk through the forest: hanging from a branch of an oak there was a dead viper with her jaws wide open; underneath her head was a cut loaf of bread and the venom from her teeth was dripping very slowly into the bread. We told the potter about it, but he said it would be better not to touch it. And then crossed himself.

My last memory from vacations in Irena is of a spiritualistic séance -my first and only one. I was about 14 then and we were sitting in complete darkness holding hands while my eldest sister who was psychic started calling up the spirits. For a long time there were no sound and no sign of anything happening. Then we heard a noise outside the room - it sounded as if somebody was sweeping the floor with a very heavy broom; then we heard close to us a rasping, rattling breathing and at that point two of the younger girls in the group became hysterical and we had to break the circle. At first nobody wanted to go out of the room to see if there was anything in the corridor outside. Finally one of the young men plucked up his courage and opened the door. Leaning against it was a large juniper bush torn out with roots. We have never found out how it got there...

Goodnight and sweet dreams

Stefan Grass