Clair Wills, 18 November 2021
I am haunted by the figure of Rolanda Polonsky, walking through those hospital corridors. If my eight-year-old self had opened the doors that frightened me I might have found her, back then, exactly as she is now in the film I watch on my laptop. And it appears to me now that that’s why I was fearful: I didn’t want to hear the message she had for me. But she hovers like an uninvited guest from a half-remembered past – and she will not go away. What is it that she wants me to see that I do not want to see? What is it that she wants me to know? The ‘moral careers’ of Rolanda Polonsky and my mother were parallel to each other, and indeed dependent on each other. They both arrived at the hospital around the same time, and they both spent most of their adult lives inhabiting, and inhabited by, the institution. We were all walking those same corridors in the 1970s, but some of us came from the outside, and some were locked in. Polonsky was clearly ill, or had been, but by the 1970s part of her affliction was the hospital itself.