CURVE BALL

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Chapter Eight

Grunia Rakowski was a short not yet plump woman. Her dark curly hair dangled to her shoulders. She had met her husband in gymnasium---high school. It was their love of music that brought them together. She had trained as a concert pianist. It was both their dream to one day afford one for their home. She thought of that as she put the evening’s dishes away and then placed the baby in his crib. She sang as many lullabies as she could remember, but it took thirty minutes before he stopped fussing and fell asleep. She closed the door to their bedroom and sat in the living room across from Pytor.

“Are you sick?” she asked. “You didn’t eat much of your dinner.”

He didn’t look up from his newspaper. “I wasn’t hungry.”

“Did I do something wrong? It’s not easy to cook and clean and take care of our child. Was it the food?”

“No, the food was fine.”

“You are not acting yourself, Pytor. You didn’t even hold Yacub.”

He threw the paper down. “His name is Frederick. Listen. Do not, Grunia, ever call him Yakub. Ever.”

She recoiled in her chair. “What has gotten into you? Yacub is our son. That is his name. In this house we swore, we would call him Yacub.”

“I know what we said.” He leaned forward. His voice was taut. “If you want him to survive, use his Polish name and forget about Yacub. Pilsudski is dead and Poland is different now.”

“What are you talking? It’s just a few crazies. Anti Semitism is in the past. Our Government would not dare dishonor General Pilsudski so soon after his death.”

He gazed into her face. “I was called to the Foreign Office this morning. I met with a real grubbamensch.” He had an embarrassed smile. “I mean a swine… a Pan Kuda. He’s an assistant to Foreign Minister Jozef Beck.”

“You were at the Foreign Office? You didn’t say. Pytor.” She put her hands to her face.

“It wasn’t by choice. Someone called the University. We had an interesting conversation.”

“My Pytor met with Jozef Beck?”

“No Grunia, you’re not listening. I was with his assistant Pan Kuda.” Pytor stood and paced between the chair and the entrance to the kitchen. “Kida believes the Nazi’s are doing a hell-of-a-job regarding the Jews.”

“Pytor stop. I don’t want to hear. You’re frightening me.”

“He wants, I should say, he ordered me to go to Berlin.”

“Berlin? Germany?.”

“He wants me to attend a conference on the Jewish Question and report on the effects of Nazi policies on the Jews.”

Grunia’s face paled.

“He thinks Poland should follow Germany. It would keep our German neighbor happy, and put an end to the Jewish question in Poland.”

“Pytor, I can’t believe…” Her eyes teared up. “Pytor, you’re not, you can’t…”

“What am I to do?” He reached for her hand. “Grunia, where are we to go? There is no place to hide. If I refuse, the University will throw me out.”

“No it is not so. Doktor Jazinski would never…”

He shook his head. “Poland has changed, Grunia. That’s what I’m telling you. He’d be forced to.”

Gott in himel, why are we so cursed? What have we done to deserve this?”

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