Chapter 11: A Sympathetic Ear
On one of his infrequent visits to his parents, David and the family went to see a school performance in which Lilly had a leading role.
It seemed that Wolf was slowly was getting back to himself, as this was the first time he had been out without his cane.
David was genuinely impressed by his younger sister, who suddenly had grown into a beautiful and talented girl. She walked about the stage so naturally with such poise, and recited texts brilliantly without a single mistake and with much feeling.
After the show, the family members stood up and applauded her for a long time. David was extremely proud of his sister. When they met backstage he ran to embrace her and compliment her on her performance. Lilly expressed great happiness that he had come to see her perform.
That night at dinner, while they were all sitting around the table and talking, David raised the issue of discrimination against Jews at the university.
Wolf, who did not like to hear those arguments, kept repeating, “Stop complaining. Despite all, you have completed high school and were accepted by the university.”
“I am a Polish citizen and have rights. They must let me study at the university,” replied David. Thus the debate continued throughout the meal.
“Look what happened when the Austro-Hungarians came,” said Wolf, “they canceled all the restrictive and discriminatory laws against the Jews.”
Slamming his hand angrily on the table, he continued, “After they left and the Republic of Poland was established, the Poles adopted and continued with all the benefits that we received. So what are you complaining about?”
Everyone suddenly fell silent, as Paulina, who was sitting at the head of the table, waved her hand and said, “Enough with politics already. Relax and eat. We Jews are approximately twenty percent of the population and it is impossible to ignore our existence and impose discriminatory laws against us.”
Ida served steaming borscht. “This is in honor of Davidek” she said.
“Hopefully, he will come more often,” Lilly added laughingly.
Early the next morning, David and Lilly went out bike riding in town. They rode along the main road until they turned off onto a trail that led to a newly planted grove. They rode for a few hundred meters and stopped. They left their bicycles on the wet grass while they found a dry log and sat down.
Davidek began by asking Lilly, “Lilly, tell me a little about what you do? Are you seeing anybody? How do you find father’s health?”
“Actually I thought you would tell me all about Warsaw and the girls you have met,” Lilly responded.
“I will tell you,” Davidek replied. “I really do not have much free time, as I spend most of it studying. I did however, work for a short while at Uncle Elia, where I met Stefania and Mila. Stefania will be getting married in the near future and Mila, although beautiful, is still rather young.
I do have a girlfriend whom I met in high school. We meet each other every now and then, but I have no intention of getting married just yet.”
“What is her name?” Lilly asked.
“Klara” he answered.
“Is she Jewish?” she questioned.
“Yes. Does it really make a difference?” Davidek replied.
“No, not really. I just asked out of curiosity,” was her reply.
Davidek then became philosophical and asked, “Would it bother anybody if she were a Polish Catholic girl?”
“But you said she was Jewish, did you not?” Lilly commented.
“Yes, she is Jewish,“he answered.
“I would never go out with a man who is not Jewish,” Lilly suddenly blurted out.
“Since when did that matter to you so much,” he asked.
“Society still does not accept mixed marriages and whoever does so, suffers from both sides,” she explained.
“It may be true in a small town like Wloszczowa, but in Warsaw it is quite acceptable. There are many mixed marriages and nobody seems to mind,” he answered.
“What about the children? They certainly must identify with somebody,” she asked
“Now you are touching upon very difficult and sensitive matter. I really did not delve into the matter so deeply. Now tell me, Lilly, with whom do you spend your time?” Davidek asked.
“I will tell you something, but only if you swear not to talk to anybody about it,” she said. “Promise me.”
“I swear not to talk to anybody about it,” David replied, and made the three-fingered scouts sign when he recited the promise.
“Lolek, the pharmacist’s son is in love with me. He sends me notes through one of the girls during recess at school, and sometimes comes to our home to help mother with Izio, so that he can be close to me.”
“What do you say to him?” David asked.
“I am evasive and unresponsive, as I do not want him think that I am interested in him,” she answered.
“Why are you not interested in him? He’s good looking, is blond with blue eyes and comes from a respectable family,” David replied anxiously awaiting her response.
“Did I not tell you that I would not go out with anybody who is not Jewish,” Lilly replied.
“Next time I come, we will take along food and spend the day along the river at Maluszyn. Do you remember when we were young we would spend a lot of time there in the white sand at the beautiful beach?” David reminisced.
“Sure I remember. We were there several summers with our friends. Those summers were great. I remember that we rented boats and sailed up and down the river,” Lilly mused.
“In that case, we are fixed for the next time I come,” David said.
“Confirmed,” she replied with a big smile on her face.
David was Lilly’s big brother, friend and confidant. He was the brother she loved, the brother she worshiped and everything he said was important to her. Although Lilly was also very close to her father, he was not a friend, he was a father; a man of authority and head of the family. She could not confide in him about the personal feelings that were in her heart. She also found it difficult to confide in her mother, Ida. If at all, it was easier for her to talk to her unmarried Aunt Roza, or her beloved Uncle Stanislaw. For David she had an extra soft spot in her heart, and she knew that in time of need he would always be on her side.