The girl with the long green nails

It all started when Ela got a day late for a wedding and got lucky.

Luck #1 – A wedding not the wedding

It was her fellow student flatmate’s wedding who, oddly enough, decided to be getting married on a Friday, rather than on the most traditional and popular Saturday. So when Ela finally got her outfit right and boarded the train, it was already over. The couple were happily married. The toasts had been raised. The guests had gone home after dancing all night.

Luck #2 – A second chance

Luckily enough, those days in Poland people actually got married twice. Once at the registry office and second time at the church. That was the only way they could formally be husband and wife for the public administration and get the blessing while being united in the holy matrimony. That meant there were even more occasions to celebrate. That also meant that Ela got another invitation to the wedding and she solemnly swear not to miss that one.

shades of green artwork
Shades of green by Natasha
Luck #3 – A green catch

It was right after the critically acclaimed and award-winning Cabaret  premiered. Liza Minelli and her long green nails make an impact and inspired Ela and many others. Still, the fact that hundreds of girls desired green nails, did not necessary mean that every girl could have them. The reason was very simple yet significant. In 1972 green nail polish was as scarce as Krakowska sausage. In other words it was no where to be found. People were surrounded by all shades of grey and black-and-white and any splash of colour was like a breathe of fresh air. One day, Ela came across a little bottle of green nail polish in a lock stock and barrel shop and knew right away what a rare catch that was. It felt as if she was carrying a tiny pot of gold in her purse going home. The next day she carefully painted her long nails green and wore them green ever since.

Liza Minnelli Cabaret and Ela Collage
Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” and Ela – the girl with the green nails
Luck #4 Meeting that special someone

Wearing her trendy silky hand-painted dress by Milanowek and her green nails Ela arrived at the second wedding. The wedding that was not to be missed for more than one reason. Once, it was a splendid wedding in the picturesque Polish eastern province. Then, Ela met the first love of her life.

#5 As luck would have it

It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.

Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones’s Diary

Ela was head over hills in love and far too occupied with rich and engaging student social life to study the peculiarities of the Old English Grammar. The bottom line was she failed the exam, failed the resit and faced a gap year back at home with a strictly imposed curfew and a daily study schedule. “No,” screamed the voice inside. “Don’t give in!” And Ela did not give in. Or gave up on love. She decided to move on. A friend of a friend recommended she could move to the University in Krakow to study Polish Philology. With a bit of luck, she might not only be accepted for the course but also could get some of her previous modules recognized. Not to mention that Zbyszek, the special someone she met at the wedding, was studying in Krakow as well. It was worth trying. It was worth fighting for. Even if you had to fight tooth and nail.

Luck #6 – First impression

Ela always knew how important the first impression was. The plan was simple. Meet the all-mighty yet good-natured Dean, be absolutely charming and convince him what a great and life-saving decision it would be to enroll a student like Ela. The plan was great. Except for  a tiny little hiccup. The Dean was away on that day. Ela entered the Dean’s Office and saw his deputy behind the desk – an esteemed,  firm and prudent lady. The Professor gave Ela, who was desperately trying to make her short skirt slightly longer by pulling it down with her long green nails, one of those up-and-down looks and ordered her in. Surely, deep inside she must have been a fan of Cabaret as she accepted the application and offered Ela a first year place.

Liza Minelli Cabaret and Ela Collage

#7 Love and hard work

From then on things went all hunky dory. Love flourished and turned into a serious relationship. The student social life in Krakow was even richer and more engaging but this time Ela found time to study and passed all the exams with flying colours and with different nail polish shades.

Student Girl in Krakow 1970s

There are years that are full of opportunities and strokes of good luck.  There are years when coincidence meets fortune and you feel like you finally got to the end of the rainbow and caught the Leprechaun by his feet. For Ela, the year 1972 was lucky. And nothing brings good luck like green nails, it seems. So maybe while getting ready for St Patrick’s Day, paint your nails green and see what can happen.

I want to thank my mum, Ela, for sharing this story with me and to my daughter, Natasha, for creating the artwork for the post. I love you most.



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