Chapter 9: Lilly's Objection
Lilly was not happy attending the girl’s school number two. She wanted to go to the class in school number one, where her neighbor and good friend Bozena Smirdnowna attended. Her request was denied because she was Jewish.
Lilly rebelled, and one day came into the classroom in school number one and sat down next to Bozena. When the teacher noticed her sitting in the classroom, he walked up to her and just stood there staring at her. The class fell silent waiting to see what would happen. Lilly lifted her head and looked directly into the teacher’s eyes that was standing right in front of her and waited for him to speak. Lilly did not blink just stared back at hm.
’How is your father?” he asked.
“He is making steady progress. Everything will be fine,” she answered.
She knew that his questioning would not end at this time, so she pre-empted him and aggressively asked, “Is there a problem if I want to attend your class?”
“We will have to speak to the principal. Meantime, you can stay in the class for this lesson,” he replied. Lilly then rose from her seat and announced, “I will go back to my original school. I realize that I am embarrassing some of you”. She then walked to the door and left.
That evening there was a knock at the door. When Ida opened the door, there stood the teacher, who asked, “May I enter?”
Lilly opened the door of her bedroom that she shared with Davidek to see who had come. As soon as she saw the guest, she locked herself in the room. Fortunately the teacher did not ask to see her and was probably even pleased that she remained in her room.
“I came to apologize for the shameful incident that occurred at school today” he began. “I am not a politician and I do not make the decisions about prohibitions and restrictions. I am a teacher and an educator. I have come to express my opinion about the situation. I am unequivocally against the banning of Jewish student from the school. However, since I am a law abiding public servant and a man of order, I must accept the ruling and adhere to it.”
Ida, who thought that he had come to discuss Lilly’s rejection by the principal from attending the school, waved a hand dismissively and said, “We are used to all types of discriminations and restrictions leveled against us. It seems that we are destined to be second class citizens.”
She then complimented the teacher and said, “It is nice to know that there are still honest and brave Poles around like you.”
The guest cleared his throat and said,” I am not brave. I will only voice my objection in your house. I would not dare mention it anyplace else.”
As he descended the stairs, he turned around to Ida and said, “Lilly is a brave girl.” Ida, who did not know about the incident, had no idea what the teacher was referring to. Later that evening at dinner, Lilly told Ida and Grandma Paulina what had taken place at school.
The next day, Lilly returned to her class. She especially liked geography lessons. She loved to show off to her friends during quizzes where she solve questions like, “In which country is Paris?” or “Which river crosses Florence?” She nearly always rejected the answer given by her peers, especially when she was right, thus placing her friends in embarrassing situations for several seconds. Then, with her infectious laugh she would shout “ten points for me.”
There was no greater joy then when Aunt Roza suggested to Lilly and Davidek that she would take them to Warsaw to visit their aunt Cesia and uncle Moses. Lilly dressed in festive clothes, put on her lacquered red shoes that her father had bought her on one of his trips. She even wrapped a small gift for one year old Jerzy in brown paper. She was so excited about going that she sat in Wolf’s room all ready for hours before they were bound to leave.
By early afternoon, Roza came to pick up the children. Ida went to talk to Roza and the two stood at the gate for a long time and talked. Ida spoke in a very animated fashion and it was clear that she was very excited about something. The excitement was because she was trying to impress upon Roza the importance of delivering a message to their sister Cesia about Davidek’s future. Ida really wanted him to study in Warsaw and perhaps continue there in university. “Here in Wloszczowa, his future is rather bleak. All we have here are cobblers, carpenters, butchers and horse thieves. There is no future for him here,” she remarked.
The driver of the Zaidenbaum family was coming to pick them up and take them to Kielce, where they were going to take the train for Warsaw.
As they waited at their door, Lolek passed by on his bicycle. He looked at Lilly as if he was hypnotized and turned his head back as he passed by, without noticing the pot hole in the road. He was thrown off his bicycle and fell into the nearby puddle. Lilly burst out into a roaring laugh while Lolek who was embarrassed sat in the water with his head bowed.
Roza who saw what had happened, ran up to him and asked, “Are you okay, young boy? Are you hurt?” Lolek did not answer, as tears of pain and shame ran down his cheeks. Roza helped him out of the water and brought him his bike. He thanked her and went home limping.
When Roza returned, the driver was already waiting. They got into the car and drove off. On the way, Roza scolded Lilly for her malicious behavior. ”I actually happen to like him. It was just so funny,” she said, with a sly smile all over her face.