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Ania had not dressed for a cocktail reception and she was not sure how to address the elegant lady to whose table she and Tom were directed at the reception. Tom, imitating some equally well dressed men, attempted to kiss her hand, but the elegant lady laughed and said there was no need for young foreigners to copy her pretentious relatives. She was linked to almost half of those present either by blood or by marriage, she informed them.
'Of course it's good for business if you can keep things in the family. First, that means you can trust them. Second, you can work them harder. I don't think my husband's firm would be where it is today without the dedication shown by his distant cousins, who joined us from the provinces on day one and worked around the clock for almost nothing during our start-up period. They quit in the end of course, and never showed any gratitude for all that we taught them. But we still have family in all the key supervisory positions.'
'What line of business are you in?' asked Ania.
'Historically we were in ironmongery, but it's completely different today. Now we run the biggest network of fitness centers and solariums in South Poland.'
Tom asked about family history. 'We belong to the szlachta nobility,' said the elegant lady, with evident pride. 'We can trace our family tree back to the Middle Ages. We were especially famous in the Habsburg period, when my great great grandfather was deputy Governor of Galicia. One of his cousins was called Malinowski and he became a famous professor in London - perhaps you've heard of him? Of course the communists tried to level out everything. It was easy for them to confiscate our material property, and then to mismanage and squander it. But they could never take our spiritual property, our culture. The values of our ancestors were passed on within the family. Quite a few of us managed to achieve important positions even under communism, because they needed our knowledge and skills. Then at last, when that system finally collapsed, we could step forward openly once more, to play our proper role in the economy and in the life of the nation.'
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