Chapter 14: Noblesse Oblige
Many times on his frequent visits to Maluszyn, Wolf would take Lilly along and leave her with Anya, daughter of his artist friend Boris Nikolai who lived and worked in the town. Lilly was familiar with the town because that was where they went swimming on hot summer days, in the Pilica River.
The one place in the town that she had never been to was the estate of Count Jan Sosnowski, and Wolf had promised her that he would take her there some time. On this trip he decided to fulfill his promise and take her there.
The estate was neglected; even the lawn and the rose garden had seen better days. Over the years, many of the residents of the estate had been members of the Polish aristocracy. The economic situation and the invasion of the German army had taken a toll on the current residents and they were forced to live very modestly with a limited income.
When Count Jan Sosnowski saw their vehicle stop at the house he opened the door for them himself with his wife Countess Janina standing next to him. Wolf and Lilly climbed out of their vehicle, and approached entrance.
“Boze moj,” Lilly remarked in astonishment when she saw the size of the place as they entered the inner courtyard. Lilly, who was at a loss as what to do, bowed. Janina approached her, shook her hand and said,” There is no need to do that. We are people just like you. Those days are gone.” Wolf kissed the hand of Countess Janina and asked, “How are things?” He did not expect to get an answer, just a cold smile. Countess Janina, had no special affection for the Jews, restrained herself and received Wolf warmly according to the instructions of her husband. After all, Wolf was his financial adviser and helped him retain his estate and the land.
As they moved from room to room on their way to the reception area, Lilly took note of the peeling walls, the bare floors and the lack of furniture. She later found out that the expensive carpeting and heavy style furniture had been sold off to raise much needed cash. She also noticed the lack of domestic help in the house.
While sitting in the large reception room, her father and the count moved off to the side, sat at a small table near the porch and began speaking in whispers to each other. Lilly walked around the room and marveled at the ancient paintings that hung from the walls, the crystal chandeliers that descended from the high ceiling and at the giant marble fireplace in the center of the wall in which a fire burned slowly. She just stood there thrilled to tears and thought to herself, “Who is going to believe me when I tell them that I was in the mansion of the count and sat in his company.”
The countess’ dog, a Doberman Pincher puppy, came into the room. He responded to the gestures that Lilly made to him and he slowly approached her. He wagged his tail with delight as she petted him and even lay on his back so that she could scratch his stomach. They got along wonderfully. That was until Countess Janina came into the room called, “Knish, come to mama.” The puppy ran to the countess, who quickly shut the door behind her.
“Knish,” Lilly laughed. “Isn’t that a type of potato-filled pastry? What kind of name is that to give a dog?”
“I wonder how much time she spent coming up with that name,” she thought to herself.
The conversation between Wolf and the count came to an end. They both looked very pleased and shook hands warmly.
On their way out, Lilly glanced into a room and saw a girl about her age lying on a bed covered with a blanket while a nurse in white draped a towel over her forehead.
“Who was that girl? What is wrong with her?” Lilly quizzed her father as they drove back home to Wloszczowa.
“She is Bozena, the count’s daughter. She is the same age as you are and is very ill with an incurable disease. Doctors from all over Europe have examined her and no treatment seems to do any good. Her parents have spent a fortune on medication, however, now due to their financial situation they can no longer afford to continue with the treatment,” Wolf told Lilly.
“If so, she will die without treatment,” Lilly commented.
“The treatment did not cure her, only prolonged her life for a bit. It is now two months that she has not gotten off her bed,” Wolf said with sadness in his voice.
“May I visit her and try to cheer her up?” Lilly asked.
“I do not think it is a good idea,” Wolf replied, “but I promise to ask the count on my next visit.”
Bozena died a week later. The funeral was held in the grounds of the estate in the family burial plot. The count requested that people refrain from coming to pay condolence calls.