with dedication to my aunt Maria “Kruszyna” Drausowska
and her sister and my grandmother Zofia B. Patoka (1911-2001)
The title of this article is by no coincidence an allusion to a Polish documentary film from 1957, included in the compilation “Black Series - Polish School of Documentary Movies,” “Paragraph Zero” by Włodzimierz Borowik. The film is sort of critical approach to the question of female prostitution in the communist Poland of the 50s. Though I am a very young person and I have not experienced the troubles of everyday life during communist regime, this film and many others from the period have been an important source of knowledge for me to get at least a blind idea of what life was like at the time. As a young filmmaker I know they shaped my sensitivity to the world and people around me. That is why I know that though the times have changed and we live in a free and sovereign country today, I regret to admit that some things seem not to have changed and there still seems to exist such a thing as Paragraph Zero. According to me, today Paragraph Zero concerns old people.
Here I would like to share with you my experience with elderly people and dillemas that are connected with old age. There are many reasons why I have decided to write this article. I am going to explain them all to you here, but probably the most important reason is that lately it has become clear to me that Polish, if not worldwide, society has given sort of quiet consent to bury old people in their lifetime. Apart from my personal experience, I got a strong impression from the media and press that the question of old age is continually swept under the carpet while it does no longer concern only old people but the whole society. Media and press provide us with hundreds of solutions and suggestions how to deal with the problem. Paradoxically, they only strengthen the social phobia about old age instead of providing the society with means of accepting and perceiving old people as integral and equal members of "healthy" and "balanced" family.
I believe that the negation of old age is one of the factors of the alarming phenomena concerning contemporary family. Among others, the deficit of childbirth and the growing imbalance between the generations that has lately become a matter of social distress. Old age is certainly a taboo: a question to be avoided and not to be discussed in public, because it no longer matches the ideal of contemporary lifestyle as it is preached by the media and press. I would like to break this taboo and I hope that with this article I will inspire you to consider each on their own the question of the attitude to old age.