Wednesday, March 03, 2010


As a child I lived near this machine for quite some time, spending many of my summers with my grandmothers.  My great-grand mother would start sewing, and i would play low down, close to the ground, with the pedal - if you sat on one side, it would start moving, and eventually shift underneath my weight.  Then there were the letters, the imposing metal structure, the serious black color inspiring respect and consideration.

The interesting part of this story is that all this was happening during 1980s, in the middle of nowhere in the heart of Ukrainian Carpaty, the mountains where Drakula is supposed to have erected his castle in the neighboring Romania - or more prosaically a rather poor, systemically under-developed province of the already chronically lagging Galicia, part of the Western Ukraine.  So what this 130-year old machine, invented in 1850 in the US was doing at 1500m, in the house of my great-grand mother, 1 hour walk from any road, and many hours away from what one could potentially call civilization??

To make any sense of this memory of mine one has to first realize that Western Ukraine used to be part of Austro-Hungarian empire before joining Poland after WWI, and finally 'joining' again the Soviet Union for the lack of a better option, or should i say alternative, after WWII.  The family of my great-grandmother, wealthy farmers at the time, bought the Singer as the sign of the upcoming prosperity and technological progress of the brave new world.  They were convinced by one of the representatives of the great American multinational, the Singer company, that happened to ramble into this far-away land inhabited by strange Hutsuls.  Globalization was knocking at their door, it was the end of the 19th century, the glorious days of infinite progress and unlimited hope.  

As a child, I would hear stories about how my great-grandma had run across the village to save the Singer, the only possession left, before, and then after another bombing, after another invasion, by another army, of enemies or friends, to have crossed the mountains again.

Sometimes, people go - but things stay.  Now the Singer has moved again, to Belgium, to another lonely, cold and humid place.  It remains - an American invention in the midst of the crazy complex world of ours, the symbol of globalization, for me the symbol of my youth, of my grandma and great-grandma, of the freedom and running across the mountain, of making my first steps in the vicinity of the machine.  Technology - always present, but only us, humans, can make it valuable.
This is how I imagine my great-great grand father, just after he bought the Singer...picture by Kyrylo Horiszny.

"Waiting For The Miracle"

Baby, I've been waiting,
I've been waiting night and day.
I didn't see the time,
I waited half my life away.
There were lots of invitations
and I know you sent me some,
but I was waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.
I know you really loved me.
but, you see, my hands were tied.
I know it must have hurt you,
it must have hurt your pride
to have to stand beneath my window
with your bugle and your drum,
and me I'm up there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Ah I don't believe you'd like it,
You wouldn't like it here.
There ain't no entertainment
and the judgements are severe.
The Maestro says it's Mozart
but it sounds like bubble gum
when you're waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Waiting for the miracle
There's nothing left to do.
I haven't been this happy
since the end of World War II.

Nothing left to do
when you know that you've been taken.
Nothing left to do
when you're begging for a crumb
Nothing left to do
when you've got to go on waiting
waiting for the miracle to come.

I dreamed about you, baby.
It was just the other night.
Most of you was naked
Ah but some of you was light.
The sands of time were falling
from your fingers and your thumb,
and you were waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come

Ah baby, let's get married,
we've been alone too long.
Let's be alone together.
Let's see if we're that strong.
Yeah let's do something crazy,
something absolutely wrong
while we're waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

Nothing left to do ...

When you've fallen on the highway
and you're lying in the rain,
and they ask you how you're doing
of course you'll say you can't complain --
If you're squeezed for information,
that's when you've got to play it dumb:
You just say you're out there waiting
for the miracle, for the miracle to come.


ackho said...

Amazing History...think all of us have a "singer" at grandma's home...that sales man was very efficient!!!!

You are really improving your writing style...

World allways changes, as time pass in that moments of reflexion, when you see right back, as you realize that History is the melting pot of all that individual histories, and, at the same time, you see that all that histories were eaten by the mainstream of the HISTORY...

Is like change the perspective looking at all and , then, being able to understand the lines of so much lifes...

Allways loved to listen far existences...passing your hand over that engine must give you feeling of so ancient vibrations, as a silent piece of human work that has been there, unanimated and just looking how joy and sadness, and LIFE, passed by...

Good poetry ( song?) at the end...

ackho said...

sorry i did'n linked the title of the song. I've already done it...never liker cohen so much...maybe i shopuld change my mind...

Anonymous said...

Yes, i very well remember playing with Singers as a child. I was fascinated by the pedal and the big wheel, but no interest in the actual sewing mechanism - probably wasn't tall enough to see what was going on there. Later on i may even have used one.. they were much better than the newer types for thick fabric - like for sewing together a backpack. Your "multinational representative" was most likely from a nearby town - Singers were produced all over Europe and sold by local dealers.

Patolé said...

Me encantó la historia, una visita a las raíces llena de significado y ganas de vivir.

Gracias por compartirla!

uasunflower said...

thanks for the thanks, and Pato - so happy it all went well for you..!

Remi said...

Great post!! Amazing how the perspective of people completely has to change after a few decades - just to think of the Singer story (and tech) will look like to the kids of today, who are born virtually with a mobile phone in their hands!

uasunflower said...

yes, and even more interesting - what is YOUR kid now going to be growing up with? iPAD?