“I want to go with you to the station,” Grunia said, “Please Pytor. I will get my sister to watch Ya… I mean Frederick.”
Pytor was still in his undershirt. His brown leather valise was on the bed. He could hear raindrops pelt the one window in the bedroom. It was morning although it was as dark night outside. He tuned his wife out and gazed at his small shabby dresser. He didn’t know how long he would be gone---a few days, weeks? Damn. He grabbed several pairs of socks and underwear and threw them into the suitcase. He reached for his three white shirts and folded them carefully.
His wife interrupted his concentration. “They’ll wrinkle,” she said
He looked up. He hesitated to respond, but gave in. “What can I do?” He then took his only two pairs of pants and folded them too. “I know,” his voice rose. He turned towards her. “You want to go with me? Why? You think you’d persuade them not to send me? Look around Grunia. We Jews have spent a nice ten years, but our Jewish-Polish history is catching up.”
“Pytor I want to go. It’s my place to see you off.”
He grabbed her wrists. “This is not the movies. You are not some Hollywood star. Besides, I’m sure they’ll be watching. You’ll be followed. This trip is enough of a problem.”
“You’re hurting me. Let go.”
She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and then pulled the edges of her robe closer. “Where will you be staying? How do I reach you?” She let seconds of silence go by.
He took a deep breath. “Pan Kuda is meeting me at the station with the train tickets and hotel information. I will call you when I arrive in Berlin. It’s about a five-hour trip. If everything goes well.”
She turned away. She picked up the baby from the bassinette that was next to their bed. “Say good-bye to your father,” she cooed, “Your dada is leaving.”
Pytor looked at his son. The baby’s eyes opened wide. He stretched his little body and made a keh sound.
A baby’s smile always chases away the gloom. Pytor smiled back. “You be a good boy, Frederick. Don’t keep your mother up to all hours of the night. You understand?” He then said softly in Yiddish, “myyn kynd, my child.”
The moment of happiness faded as he grabbed an old belt from the closet to tie the suitcase. Then he looked at his watch. “It’s getting late. I don’t want Pan Kuda to worry that I made other plans. Grunia, I’ll bring you good German strudel and other treats.”
“What will you do there?”
He finished dressing in the tweed jacket he’d worn yesterday. “I’ll tell him what I’m sure he already knows. He wants me to be his witness.”
“What a terrible man. And you will do this thing?
He stared at her. She looked angry and scared at the same time.
She covered her mouth with her hand.
“I’m going now,” he said.
She put the baby in the bassinette. “Pytor I’m sorry. I’m worried.” She went to him and wrapped her arms around him.
He kissed her then picked up his suitcase. He opened the door and walked down the three flights of stairs. He didn’t trust himself to look back.
The rain splattered his hat and drenched his coat. He took a trolley to the main station on Jerozolimskie street. It was a formidable looking building of heavy brick and cathedral like spires. Pan Kuda and two other men stood at the main entrance.
“Gen dobrai,” Pan Kuda said. “It’s good Polish weather to travel.” He took a silver flask out of his pocket and had a drink. “You want?”
“That’s okay, it’s a little early for me.”
One of Kuda’s men took Pytor’s suitcase as they entered the station.
Inside, Kuda took another swallow and then laughed. “Never too early, Dr. Rakowski.” He shoved the flask into his coat pocket. He took Rakowski by his elbow and led him to a dim corner of the main floor. He reached into his suit jacket and withdrew an envelope. “There are a 100 Reich marks, your passport, train tickets, and hotel reservations. Tomorrow, you are to go to Berlin University and meet with Dr. Reinhart Gertz. He will direct you in your research. We’ll meet here in two weeks, same time.” He handed the envelope over.
Rakowski took it but didn’t put it in his pocket. He tried to be emotionless, but failed.
“You look unhappy,” Kuda said, “You are doing your country a great service. The sooner we get a handle on our Jews the better Poland will be. I will leave you in the hands of my assistants Pawel and Jan. They will show you to the gate. Dobrą podróż, have a good trip.”
Rakowski thanked him for his wishes and waited for his two guards who were steps away to escort him.