I would like to know what "referred from the centre for student accommodation" means in the following sentences:

When I arrived in the flat, it seemed smaller to me than before. The kitchen was to the right, as soon as you entered. It was long and narrow and only big enough to hold my landlady, Pani Kolecka. This was her territory. No matter how scarce the supplies, no matter how harsh the rationing, she was always in there, baking. Somehow, there would always be sugar and flour and something she’d scrape up or exchange. There’d be szarlotka apple tarts or babeczka cakes with cream, or layered gingerbread with plum jam. She baked like her life depended on it, and maybe it did. I had loved her ever since I’d moved in, fresh from Wrocław, referred from the centre for student accommodation. I loved her warm voice and soft presence, and her small childlike face. She seemed so old it almost made her ageless, like a being from another world. Usually she’d sleep on the brown couch in the living room, next to the table where we ate and the cabinet with the collection of rocks her husband had left behind. But in the summer the block heated up like a glasshouse, and sometimes, when I got up at night to go to the bathroom, I’d see her sleeping there on the tiled floor of the kitchen with the door open, large and peaceful like some creature swept up by the sea.

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 stayed at the house of his landlady Mrs. Kolecka to take lessons at the university at Warsaw, whereas his hometown was Wrocław.

In this part, I wonder what it means to be "referred from" the center. Does it mean perhaps he requested the center about his accommodation in Warsaw, and the center mediated the contract between Ludwik and Mrs. Kolecka, introducing Ludwik to her?

I am an English learner from South Korea, so thank you for your patience in advance as I may not know obvious things. I would very much appreciate your help. :)

1 Answer 1


The narrator was "referred [to Ms Kolecka] from the centre for student accommodation", in other words, the centre that arranges accommodation for students had either (a) given him her address so he could ask whether he could stay at her place, or (b) (more likely in a regime that organises compulsory agricultural camps for students) told him he must stay at Ms Kolecka's pace.

This meaning of "refer" does not directly match any of the meanings listed on Wiktionary. The Oxford English Reference Dictionary (1996) lists 10 definitions for "refer", the closest of which is the fifth:

send or direct (a person) to a medical specialist etc.

If you interpret the "etc" at the end of that definition in a broad sense, it can also refer to a landlord or landlady.

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