Chapter 8: The Results
The quiet city of Wloszczowa which lies halfway between Warsaw and Krakow, with Kielce to its east and Czestochowa to its west, and surrounded by dozens of small towns and villages, attracted many new residents. Jews who came from nearby cities moved there and opened new businesses. Two flour mills were built by Jews who came from Lodz, as well as a factory for the production of oil. Due to the high demand, stores and businesses which opened following the Austro-Hungarian occupation, experienced unprecedented abundance. However, several years after the withdrawal, the situation turned around, people became unemployed and stores were forced to close.
More than half the population of the city of Wloszczowa was Jewish. They built a synagogue, founded associations that provided for the needy, youth clubs and schools. Most of the Jews who lived in the center of town were modern Jews and members of the Enlightenment (Reform) movement. They adopted a secular way of life; their children attended public schools and they befriended their Catholic neighbors with whom they lived in harmony. This harmonious relation between the Jewish population and the Polish Catholic population was prevalent mostly in the large cities. That is because these two groups didn’t view each other as being so different since they dressed alike and spoke the same language.
One of the most respected Jews living in Wloszczowa, was Isaac Zaidenbaum, an extremely wealthy businessman. He was shrewd, honest and fair and everybody liked to do business with him. He made his money by selling lumber to furniture manufacturers. He rented entire forests from the municipality, cut the trees down and processed them into boards in the saw mill that he built near the forest. He then sold the boards directly to the furniture factory in Lodz. He transported all the material in a truck that he owned. A year later, he rented an additional forest, this one close to the city of Lodz, and built another saw mill. He thus saved on the cost of transportation.
Isaac had two sons, Simon and Edek. At the age of thirteen, Simon the older one was already working and helping his father in the saw mill. Edek on the other hand was delicate and frail and was not particularly fond of the saw mill. From a young age, he told anybody who was interested in listening to him, that when he grows up he wants to be a doctor.
Simon was the same age as Davidek, while Edek was Lilly’s age. When Isaac and his wife, Sarah would come to visit Wolf and Ida, very often they would take their sons along. Lilly did not like any of the two brothers and did not play with them. When Ida would ask her why she did not play with the boys, she replied, “Because when their noses run, they wipe it with their sleeves.”
On the other hand, she liked Lolek, and would call him Loczek (curl in Polish) because of the eternal curl that hung from his forehead.
Wolf hardly left the house anymore. He refused to return to his previous full time job. However, he resumed working part time for the count. He thus lived off his pension and the little money that he earned from Count Sosnowski.
Davidek would take private violin lessons several times a week and would go by bike to the teacher. One afternoon, a particularly foggy one, Davidek was riding on the gravel road through the woods that led to Count Sosnowski’s estate where he was to meet his father, when in a distance he saw burning headlamps of a car. He cycled towards the vehicle and when he got close enough, he noticed that it was his father’s car. The engine was running but he didn’t see anybody inside.
Davidek got off his bike and peered through the window. He was shocked to see his father lying folded on the seat and not moving. Apparently, Wolf had been driving when suddenly he fainted.
Davidek opened the door of the car and touched his father who felt rather warm but was unconscious. He jumped back on to his bike and flew down the road towards the house to summon help.
As he got closer to town, he met a group of workers returning from their work in the fields and on their way home.
“Please,” he yelled excitedly. “You must come to help me. My father is lying unconscious in the car.” The workers looked at him apathetically and laughingly said, “Why are you so excited? That means one Jew less.”
It was already getting dark as Davidek pedaled towards home as fast as he could. He suddenly noticed a car approaching. He got off his bike and ran into the road waving his hands for the car to stop. It was a stranger who had came to town to visit relatives. Davidek explained to him what had happened and he immediately told Davidek to get into the car.
When they reached Wolf’s car, the two of them put Wolf in the man’s car and sped towards the hospital.
“All signs point to a brain hemorrhage, but it is still difficult to determine the extent of the damage,” the attending physician who examined Wolf said.
Out of nowhere, Ida suddenly appeared, with Stanislaw and Roza right behind.
When Ida had heard the news, she fell to the floor.
“They killed my husband,” she said to Roza. Everybody knew whom she was referring to.
The next few days were the most critical. Wolf did not eat or drink, just lay motionless with his eyes shut and mouth curved. If he had to scratch his nose, he would try to do so by lifting his left hand, which he did with great difficulty. Other than draining his blood several times a day, he received no other treatment.
After about a week he began to mumble, although the words were incomprehensible. Shortly thereafter, he began to write while holding the pencil in his left hand. It was impossible to decipher what he wrote.
Roza and Ida took turns staying with Wolf at the hospital. When eventually the color returned to his cheeks and he stopped complaining about pains, they tried sitting him up in bed by placing large pillows behind his back. However, he was not able to sit straight and always fell to his right, due to the paralysis on that side.
Roza summoned Dr. Herman to the hospital to examine Wolf. Despite the snow covered roads he made the trip from Lodz. After his examination, he confirmed that the treatment Wolf had received was indeed correct, but added that they should immediately begin with physiotherapy. They should start with easy exercises in bed and then take him off the bed and continue the therapy in an armchair. This will strengthen his muscles and ensure the flow of blood in his arms and legs.
Wolf was very weak, uncooperative, and would constantly wave his left hand as if he was chasing flies away. In a inaudible voice, he mumbled fragmented and unintelligible words. When he became frustrated that people did not understand him, he began hitting the iron railing of his bed.
On the tenth day of hospitalization, Roza brought Lilly to visit him. Wolf was sitting in an armchair wearing a fresh pajamas, when she ran up to him and hugged him. A crooked little smile jutted from the corner of his mouth, as he looked at her with loving eyes and said “Lillynka”. That was the first complete and understandable word that he uttered since he fell ill.
A few days later, he returned home.
Ida converted his studio which was on the ground floor near the kitchen into his own private bedroom. A physical therapist came every day for one hour and practiced various muscle strengthening exercises with him.
His appetite slowly returned. Ida would say “This is the best sign of recovery.” As a result of his lack of movement and his laying in bed all day, he began to gain weight.
Ida instructed the therapist to toughen and strengthen Wolf. That was indeed what he did, and the results were apparent almost immediately. With the help of a cane, he began to walk a little. Although his right hand was folded down towards his body and his leg was very weak, he was able to walk again and balance himself. His speech also slowly began coming back to him. It seemed that Wolf was on his way to recovery.