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  • Writer's pictureMel @ wood_job

The Treehouse

Today marks exactly seven years since I left my family home in Warsaw, Poland to start a new life in the United Kingdom. Boy, what a crazy ride it has been since then! I was 19 years old, and I was starting to get depressed in this godforsaken country as I was struggling to find a proper job after finishing school – believe it or not, I’m a confectioner by profession 😉 I’m eternally grateful to my cousin for dragging me to live with her, her two baby girls and her partner in Oxfordshire. ‘Inviting me’ would have been a gross understatement, as I was VERY stubborn and very reluctant to move to another country and leaving Maciej behind after only a few months of dating. But in the end I did it, and it was one of my best life decisions. I’ve lived in Oxfordshire, worked as a waitress in Swindon, a barmaid in Longworth, and from there I moved to London. And never in my life I would have thought that my next stop after London will be… Trzcianka, Poland.

When we first started this business in September 2019, Maciej was doing the parquet cleaning in an old chocolate factory (I know, right?!) in Poznan. When covid hit, he was pretty much stuck in Poland and he started to spend a lot of time at his old friend’s house. It was the main reason why in May 2020, Maciej rented a warehouse in Trzcianka. Later that year we’ve cut the toxic friend loose (a story for another time, perhaps), but the space remained. That year we spent three long months in Poland, since June until September and that was the first time during that year we got to stay together for that long. Before that I was in London with Rita and Maciej was cleaning the floors by hand in PL and then he would come home, pick us up and we’d go all together to do the deliveries to our clients in a rented curtain side van. Fun times! Felt like we were separated. But in all honesty, it sucked.

Anyway, in September 2020 we drove back home (and by home I mean London) – Maciej and Rita in our famous red van which we bought only a month before that, and myself driving my car. That was the first time I drove all this way by myself 😉

Shortly after that Maciej went back to Poland again – he was preparing the orders with two of our friends who back then were in a financial difficulty. So we helped each other out – Maciej had help with the parquet cleaning and our friends had a paying job! A few deliveries later, he came home for Christmas. On the 25th of December 2020, to be exact. We celebrated the New Year’s Eve in our house, filled with hope for what 2021 would bring and totally unaware of what it had in store for us...!

The business was slow, so we stayed home until the beginning of February 2021. At the end of January we’ve decided we’re going to go to Trzcianka all three of us; me, Maciej and Rita. For a month. That was to prepare the current orders, get more stock in, organize the warehouse, hire people to do the work for us etc… We went only for a month, leaving my car parked outside our house.

Well, let me tell you this: that month is still going! And that’s where the proper story begins.

When we’ve arrived, we’ve rented the only property that made any sense to us and was available at the time – a cabin by the lake. Mind you, it was -20’C and there was snow everywhere. A LOT of snow. We went to Poznan for a few days, to pick up our white nissan elgrand van which was parked safely on the premises of the school where Maciej’s ex-wife works – let me shock you here; she’s our Rita’s favourite aunt 😉

So anyway, after we picked it up, two days later we went to Trzcianka. The three of us, both of our vans and our friend Piotr, to once again help Maciej at work.

When we got to the cabin, it turned out that… the water pipes froze! That meant we had no running water there. For about four days we would take a shower at the warehouse – the temperature outside was still -20’C, and inside the warehouse it was about 7-10’C. Our only heating was an old furnace and an IR lamp which Maciej fixed above a table where I worked on my computer. The shower consisted of a piece of a floor separated by a ‘home-made’ brick knee-high ‘fence’ and a bucket embedded in the floor instead of a draining system. We were using a 2 litre coca-cola bottle to take the water out of the bucket and to prevent the floor from flooding. Talk about sacrifice!

The first milestone for a long time was when the contractors hired by the landlord of the cabin managed to defrost the pipes. He left us a note on the kitchen table which basically said: ‘the water is there, everything is there’ so naturally, that became one of our favourite phrases during that time. A credo! After a few weeks the sales were still very close to none and it became apparent that we’re going to have to stay there for longer. We slept at the cabin by the lake at night and until the snow started to melt, every morning we would do a sleigh ride to the warehouse; I was driving elgrand with Maciej and Rita on a sleigh strapped to it. Piotr was filming and taking photos (I’ll share those on our Instagram, it was so much fun!). It was one of the darkest times of our lives, so we would do anything to make it at least a bit more positive. Several times we even went for a walk on a frozen lake…

In March we were 100% sure it’ll take us at least one more month to ‘bounce back’. The money was melting faster than the snow outside, and that’s when Maciej came up with an idea of building ‘the treehouse’ as I call it – a separated space inside the warehouse where we could sleep, work, the whole package. It was quiet for the business, so Piotr was cleaning the blocks and Maciej started building the walls around a red corner sofa we brought from the UK with us a month earlier. It was our neighbour’s old sofa which she was getting rid of just when we were leaving.

In March there were no orders at all. There was also a problem with transportation, due to Brexit-related bullshit. If you’re reading this, Mark and Rachel McD – once again, THANK YOU for being so wonderfully patient with us during that dark, sad time, we’ll never forget it!

We spent our first night in our newly built treehouse at the warehouse on the 23rd of March 2021. Maciej used old pine planks which used to sit under one of the parquet floors we bought several months before that. We’re very proud of it, especially that all of the stuff used for making our new ‘home’ are reclaimed, second hand.

In April 2021 I bought a pack of cigarettes and a bag of apples with literally our last money. I remember us fighting a lot back then, and I also remember throwing the parquet blocks around the warehouse (not at people, don’t worry), scared shitless of what the future would bring and screaming that I’m tired of this whole fucking bullshit. We were very close to burning this whole thing to the ground and just starting over. It was that bad. Two days after I spent our last money a miracle happened – that client who seven months later gave me the phone number of the Man with a Van who saved our butts when crafter broke down on our first delivery trip after such a long time, had placed an order. Quick reminder: since February until November 2021 we were using services of other couriers who later made us decide it will be best to go back to doing the deliveries by ourselves.

That April order gave us hope to keep going. Sometimes it’s all it takes – this little light at the end of the tunnel.

Our friend has gone back to Poznan by then, so it was just the three of us once again – the three of us, the treehouse, and a warehouse full of parquet blocks.

At the end of April, around Maciej’s 49th birthday, our white van broke down. That’s when I started to drive crafter, which back then was our only car, as mine was still 1300 km away, parked outside our house in London. I’ve learned to drive it quickly. Even better so, I’ve learned to park that red bastard anywhere in Trzcianka! Again, I’m super fucking proud of that – every time I would sit behind the wheel, it was my moment to shine, haha! 😉

May have passed and June came – that’s when I’ve signed Rita up to the nursery, which is about 50 m away from our warehouse. I had to, because otherwise it was impossible to do the work. And it was just unfair to her to be stuck at the warehouse with us. I remember thanking God that she loved the nursery so much – it made our lives a lot easier.

In August the nursery was closed, but the lady running it agreed to look after Rita on a daily basis. I was dropping Rita off in the morning and I was picking her up in the evening. During that time I worked with Maciej at the warehouse, preparing the orders. After Rita went to sleep, we were working nights too, to make it in time for when the delivery guys would come to pick up the orders.

I will never forget that one time in May when we just bought the machine which Maciej turned into parquet cleaning machine, and the bitumen dust burned my face – it puts a smile on my face now, but back then I still felt like going back to being a waitress. Thank God that I’ve pulled through all this! Thank God we all did.

In September Maciej fixed elgrand and also built my office – an addition to the treehouse. The very office I’m sitting in now while writing those words. He built me a desk out of old door which used to be at an old prosecutor’s office, where we got one of our parquets from. In mid-October we went away for the weekend to meet my friend who used to work with me at the last restaurant I worked at back in the day – she came over to visit her mum, and she brought Maciej’s new bank card with her. We stayed at a hotel where our cat, Uma adopted us – literally. She came out of nowhere, the owner of the hotel told us she’s a stray cat and that we can keep her if we want to. Rita wanted to, so the cat came back with us to Trzcianka. The reason I’m mentioning this is, that ever since that cat came along, things started to look up for us. On our journey back we were talking about hiring someone, and believe me or not – the next day a guy showed up asking for a job. So we took him in. In case you’re wondering - I named the cat Uma to honor Uma Thurman and Pulp Fiction – I knew that film by heart by the time I was three years old (don’t you fucking dare judging me! :P)

About a month later Rita got invited to her nursery friend Lilliana’s birthday party – funnily enough, it was the day after I helped that friend of mine to move into our house after an ugly fight she got into with her then-fiancée. That was the day I called the Man with a Van mentioned above for the first time 😉

Rita went to Lilliana’s birthday party and afterwards we both went to pick her up – Lilliana’s mother, Patrycja invited us for a coffee and cake, and apparently, we were the only parents who were brave enough to take her up on the offer (that’s Poland for you, ergh). From one word to another, it turned out that her and her partner, Patryk were looking for something to do that wasn’t a job at a factory. That was on Friday, and on Wednesday the following week they came for a trial run. On a Sunday night I’ve received a message from Patrycja saying: ‘hey, guess what? We quit our jobs! See you Monday!’.

I looked at Maciej, terrified, he looked at me, and then I said to him: ‘oh, fuck, I need to start selling more, then!’ That was another milestone we’ve reached.

Two weeks later we went to the UK for the first time in nine months (I wrote a story about it called ‘Those who want to have a mule without fault, must walk on foot’) and ever since then we’re doing the deliveries ourselves – several round trips a month at the moment.

The treehouse serves its purpose to this day, only now I’m pleased to say that we’ve expanded! The sad part is, that one of the neighbours was a proper fucking asshole almost the whole time we’ve been here – so, long story short, we’ve offered to rent her flat and soon after she’d decided herself to move out (another miracle, if you ask me).

Since her flat shares a wall with our warehouse, we knocked one door out and boom! We’ve expanded our living space here; it is now the treehouse inside the warehouse joined with a flat next door, where I finally have a proper kitchen! It’s reclaimed, of course – we brought it back from the UK this year.

To sum it up: we came for a month, we ended up staying here for a year and eight months and this is still going. You’re probably wondering why we didn’t get a space in the UK by now. I have one word/number for you: 2020. That’s why. I’m sure you can relate.

We’ve worked our arses off to get where we are today, and I couldn’t be prouder and more grateful for what we’ve achieved here. Rest assured, we’re planning to keep going. I never thought I’d be able to go through things we’ve gone through during that time, and I’m extremely grateful to all of the clients and people who had joined us on this crazy ride and continue to do so.

We have one last winter ahead of us that we’re going to spend here, at our treehouse, and after that – well, just wait and see! I wrote this story to give you a better understanding of what we've been through, and that the journey to where we are today was full of thorns rather than rose petals, and also many, many sacrifices. Thank you for reading!

I’ll post some photos of the treehouse on our Instagram soon, so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

With love and gratitude always,

Mel xxx

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