I would like to know what "for each flat" means in the following sentences:

I had known him almost all my life, Beniek. He lived around the corner from us, in our neighbourhood in Wrocław, composed of rounded streets and three-storey apartment buildings that from the air formed a giant eagle, the symbol of our nation. There were hedges and wide courtyards with a little garden for each flat, and cool, damp cellars and dusty attics. It hadn’t even been twenty years since any of our families had come to live there. Our postboxes still said ‘Briefe’ in German. Everyone – the people who’d lived here before and the people who replaced them – had been forced to leave their home. From one day to the next, the continent’s borders had shifted, redrawn like the chalk lines of the hopscotch we played on the pavement. At the end of the war, the east of Germany became Poland and the east of Poland became the Soviet Union. Granny’s family were forced to leave their land near Lwów. The Soviets took their house and hauled them on the same cattle trains that had brought the Jews to the camps a year or two earlier. They ended up in Wrocław, a city inhabited by the Germans for hundreds of years, in a flat only just deserted by some family we’d never know, their dishes still in the sink, their breadcrumbs on the table. This is where I grew up.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he used to hang out with his friends including his first love Beniek in his hometown of Wrocław when he was nine years old.

In this part, I wonder whether the "flat" here means each storey in an apartment building, or an apartment building itself. I am confused because the sentence has a description saying that "each flat" had "hedges, wide courtyards with a garden, and cellars and dusty attics." So I thought, how can a single one-storied "flat" can have hedges and gardens and cellars and attics? So I wanted to ask you.

I am an English learner from South Korea. I would very much appreciate your help. :)


Every apartment in the building is a flat. See sense 5 of the noun flat at Merriam-Webster:

chiefly British : an apartment on one floor.

The courtyards of the building are divided into separate plots. Each apartment in the building has one of those plots as their own garden.

  • Dear verbose, thank you very much for the explanation. I didn't know that the courtyards were usually divided into separate plots to be allocated to each household! So "flat" here means a unit of house on one floor for one household. I sincerely appreciate your help. :) Dec 17 '20 at 10:13
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    The courtyard is not usually divided. This is an unusual arrangement. Also, just to be clear, while a flat is all on one level (i.e., the apartment has no internal stairs), each floor can have multiple flats.
    – verbose
    Dec 17 '20 at 10:15
  • Dear @verbose, thank you very much for the explanation. As I ponder upon the text here, I came to wonder whether it would be right to understand that "each flat" had hedges and courtyards but not cellars and attics, because "for each flat" is inserted after the hedges and courtyards. In short, I wonder whether "each flat" incorporates hedges, courtyards and cellars and attics, or only hedges and courtyards, the cellars and attics being used like a common area rather than privately allocated spaces. Dec 26 '20 at 13:23
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    I don't understand what you're asking. Yes, the courtyard is divided up so that there is one little garden per flat.
    – verbose
    Dec 26 '20 at 15:03
  • 1
    Oh I get it now, sorry I hadn't noticed you had two comments and only saw the second. Yes, "for each flat" modifies just the garden.
    – verbose
    Dec 27 '20 at 7:02

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