Hi everyone, as we get closer to the release of The Forgetting Flower, I thought it would be fun to do an introduction for a few of the characters. First up is my protagonist, Renia, and her sister Estera.
Renia Baranczka is a young woman who grew up on the outskirts of Kraków in Poland. She comes from an intact family, albeit a working class one, and has one sibling, a twin sister. Renia’s mother named Renia the Polish word for “queen” and her sister Estera the word for “star” because she’s old fashioned but aspires for her daughters to be special. Plus, she believes that God blessed her twice with the birth of twins. When her daughters were young, she raised them with a stern, religious hand. There was no misbehaving, no loud rude voices, no fighting, and lots of chores and hard work. Plus, mass every Sunday. Also, because the family lacked money, the two were expected to earn good grades so they could grow up and find sufficient jobs.
Twin Girls, Different Personalities
While Renia was obedient and learned at an early age that bickering with her parents wasn’t fruitful, her sister, Estera, did not. She was more extroverted and emotional. While Renia was shy and examined each move she made in life, Estera often dove in on impulse. These two approaches followed them through their schooling and sometimes got Estera into trouble with her teachers. Then, at age 18, Renia applied to earn an art history degree at a university and Estera went to vocational school for horticulture. This led to Estera later landing a job on an estate as a gardener and Renia essentially being unemployed. She worked at odd jobs in a museum, as a gardener, and an office assistant at the hospital where her mother worked.
While growing up, both Renia and Estera heard stories about Paris and France from their uncle Feliks. As a young man, he’d met a French student in Kraków who he’d followed back to France and eventually married. Nanette. She was the daughter of a farmer and Uncle Feliks helped her father by working on his farm for a few years before he started selling vegetables and flowers on the side. He soon started a wholesale plant nursery, growing vegetables, perennials, and annuals. After another five years, he and Nanette inherited a small bit of money and bought a few acres in the countryside outside of Paris. There, they grew their nursery into a large business.
The Dream of Paris
At hearing the stories of Paris and Uncle Feliks’s success in France, both Renia and Estera longed to go there. Paris captured their imagination. Later, as teenagers, they visited their Uncle and Aunt on their small farm during a few summers. Renia fell in love with the art and culture of Paris, Estera fell in love with the worldliness and vibrancy of the city. At that point, they made a plan to move there someday. Renia would work in some capacity related to art and Estera would work somehow with plants.
Unfortunately, by the time their mid-twenties rolled around, both women were working but with their parents’ lack of funds and opportunities, much of their money went to keeping the family afloat. Their father, Feodor, worked in construction management but would sometimes be let go when the economy weakened and building suffered. He had long bouts of unemployment. Though their mother worked as a nurse steadily in a hospital, the family didn’t have enough money to pay for a broken car or plumbing around the home and so Estera and Renia had to financially help with those emergencies. They didn’t have much money to help their parents buy groceries, let alone move to Paris.
An Unexpected Gift
In their late twenties, life changed drastically for both sisters. Estera was given a special plant by the old estate owner that she worked for. It was a unique hybrid he’d made that was both ugly and beautiful at the same time. Estera adored this plant. She loved that the owner had made it for his wife and she loved that she, a nobody in the horticulture world, was given the opportunity to care for the plant while she worked on the estate. But that gift ended up complicating both women’s lives. Those complications are what form the story, The Forgetting Flower.
If you’d like to read about what happened to Renia and Estera, click here. Thanks!
Photo by Daiga Ellaby