The Delicate Handing of the Cup

The Captive Mind (1953) by Nobel Laureate Czesław Miłosz (1911-2004)

“In my wanderings at the beginning of the Second World War, I happened to find myself, for a very short while, in the Soviet Union. I was waiting for a train at a station in one of the large cities of Ukraine…As I was passing through the station I suddenly stopped and looked. A peasant family – husband and wife and two children – had settled down by the wall. They were sitting on baskets and bundles. The wife was feeding the younger child; the husband, who had a dark, wrinkled face and black, drooping mustache, was pouring tea out of a kettle into a cup for the other boy. They were whispering to each other in Polish. I gazed at them until I felt moved to the point of tears. What had stopped my steps so suddenly and touched me so profoundly was their difference.

“This was a human group, an island in a crowd that lacked something proper to humble, ordinary human life. The gesture of a hand pouring tea, the careful, delicate handing of the cup to the child, the worried words I guessed from the movement of their lips, their isolation, their privacy in the midst of the crowd – that is what moved me. For a moment, then, I understood something that quickly slipped from my grasp.”

~ Czeslaw Milosz (trans. Jane Zielonko, 1955), The Captive Mind (1953)


Image Credit:

Featured: Czeslaw Milosz, Wikipedia [Public Domain]




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