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Polish rock star Gienek Loska between life and death in Belarus
Gienek Loska / @Agencja Gazeta
Gienek Loska, the Belarus-born musician who won the first edition of the X Factor in Poland, turned 45 years on 8 January. But he could not throw a party to celebrate his birthday. Since May 2018, Gienek has been paralyzed and bed-driven in his mother's flat in Belaaziorsk, western Belarus.
Doctors describe Gienek's condition as extremely serious. He does not move or speak but remains conscious.
"He is trying. When someone not from the family enters the flat, he tries to see who came. I turn his head, lower the bed so that he can watch. He is glad when people come," says Liudmila Paulauna, Gienek Loska's mother. "I talk to him. Sometimes, his eyes get red. I ask him: "Gienek, do you have a headache?" He blinks quickly in response. It means he has a strong headache. Some time back, he was able to raise his knee or pull his hand towards his chest. Now he can only move his right-hand thumb."
Right after the news about the situation broke, Poland's Consul in Brest Kryzysztof Rosinski arrived in Belaaziorsk. The plan was to move Gienek to Poland for rehabilitation. But it turned out to be undoable, the mother says.
"My boy remains in bed," says Liudmila Paulauna. "Our doctors passed their conclusions to the Polish doctors but chances are scarce. Yet I want to hope because sometimes a miracle happens and people get up."
He washed his passport and stayed in Poland
Gienek Loska was born in Bielaaziorsk, Brest region. Since childhood, he sang, went to a music school and played guitar. After school, he entered vocational school in Hrodna. Together with his friends, he set up a blues band Seven B. In 1992, they went to the Basowiszcza festival in Poland.
Freedom across the border turned the 17-year-olds' heads and they decided to stay in Poland and earn money by playing music in the streets. Gienek also washed his passport together with jeans in a washing machine - an excuse he used not to return to Belarus. The musician signed up for the English language school and stayed in Poland for many years.
"I did not let my parents know about my life, because I wanted to prove something to them. What could I tell them? That I play in the streets? That I have no place to live?" recalled Loska about his first years of living abroad. He admitted that he missed home a lot.
СWith time, the guys were granted Polish citizenship. The Seven B trio grew into a hard-blues quintet, started to tour around Poland and released albums. "They did not get lost on the Polish rock-blues scene, which is much more congested than in Belarus. Seven B managed to make a breakthrough, nevertheless," wrote Belarusian music critic Zmicier Padbiarezski in his review on the band's second album for the JazzQuadrat magazine.
A spit in the face of the Polish concept of stardom
When Gienek Loska fell from stairs in 1999, he developed brain swelling and had to undergo several surgeries. Doctors replaced part of his skull with a plate. "Friends fetched me back home in Belarus. Mom was shocked: What have they done to you? But I didn't care. I thought: My God, I will never sing again," Loska recalled.
But he managed to restore his health and could again enjoy music in his life. Gienek lived in Wroclaw for some time, got married. His daughter Alesia was born. As always, the musician liked to play in the street. Many videos can be found online in which he is seen performing outdoors. "The street gigs give me the feeling of truth and naturality," Gienek explained.
In 2011, the Belarusian appeared on the first season of The X Factor Polish edition.
"I watched him on The X Factor show in 2011. He stood out there like a black sheep and eventually won. He got me interested because he played in the streets and had arrived in Poland from Belarus. After he won The X Factor, I heard nothing about him. He did not appear on TV much," says musician Siarhei Akhramovich who now lives in Poland.
Loska admitted in the past that he participated in The X Factor for one reason only: to profile his new Gienek Loska Band. The victory on the show made him famous. He received 100 000 zl and a record deal as the prize. Together with his band, Losek released a debut album Hazardzista, later called their golden CD.
The musician always stressed that he did not look at himself as a celebrity and would never be a star. "I am dull as a tailor, a sociopath. A Belarusian in Poland and a sociopath – an excellent combination."
Polish TV personality Kuba Wojewodski once said about Loska: "Gienek is a spit in the face of Polish concept of the word "star". And I am thankful to him for this."
"He went up like a rocket, won The X Factor and released a golden album. But everything ended abruptly," cries the musician's mother Ludmila Paulauna.
Wake up, Gienek!
Four years ago, Gienek suffered a micro stroke, which paralyzed his tongue and part of the jaw, affecting the speech. In 2018, Gienek came to Belaaziorsk to process a Belarus residence permit so that he could visit his mother aged 69 more often. However, before his departure in early May he suffered another stroke that left him paralyzed.
In Belarus, the musician was granted a disability pension in the amount of BYN245 ($117). The state also pays additionally to buy pampers. Local doctors pay regular visits to the family.
The Polish Music Foundation (Polska Fundacja Muzyczna) collects donations to support Gienek Loska. In 2019, it organized a charitable fundraiser titled Wake Up, Gienek, which raised several thousand zlotys. His mother says the money should be enough for several months. It is used to buy specialized protein food for the musician, medicines and personal supplies.
Liudmila Paulauna's grandchildren – the children of the oldest son who died several years ago - also gave a helping hand. The woman also has serious health issues – diabetes, heart problems, and back pain. But the only assistance she would not refuse from is a massage for her son.
Euroradio is in contact with Gienek Loska's family. If you wish and can support the musician, please write to [email protected]