Chapter 4

I traveled with my cousin Edek. Edek was on the way to continue his study at the University of Pisa in Italy. He had to change trains in Berlin. I was frightened, at being left alone in a country that was far from being friendly.  In my compartment were traveling two gentlemen from Latvia. Edek asked them to take care of me and they did.

It was November 1938.  The compartment was not fully occupied for the most of the trip.  In Berlin, a middle-aged woman entered the compartment. As soon as she took her seat, she took out a needle and started knitting. She did not react to us, the three foreigners, at all. On railroad stations I saw many brown uniformed men of all ages. Brown uniforms were worn by the members of the Nazi Party. Was I frightened ?  Not at all. Was I interested? I do not think so. But somehow the image stayed with me for years.

There was a two-hour stop in Lille, Belgium. The two Latvian gentlemen invited me to visit the center of the city. It was full of lights and people but I was not interested. Before the stop in Lille we passed Cologne and the Ruhr .The landscape was magnificent with the lights of fire from the factories illuminating the darkness of the night.

We arrived in Paris early in the morning. I was met by two of my friends We left my trunk in storage and we went to search for a room for me. We walked miles. Every hotel I liked happened to be in the Red Light District.  After many unsuccessful tries, we decided to take a room in a small hotel on the Left Bank of Seine River. One of my friends David Metropolitanski went out to buy a pot, a hot plate and clams with the needed spices. David was an excellent cook. David survived the war in France. He was fighting in the French Resistance. When we met in 1958, he had not lost his cooking skills.

Finally my friends left.  I was alone in a room in a small French hotel. I was a young girl from a small Polish town. I was frightened. The noise of a big city was a new experience. The night was not restful. The following morning, David and his friend came over and we went to register at the University. We had a meal in the student cafeteria of the Association General des Etudients. The day after, I was on my own. I wrote to a girl from Lida, who attended the University in Nancy, and she encouraged me to transfer to Nancy. I did. And it was a good move. Nancy is a relatively small university town in Alsace. There were many students from Poland. The girls Fanya Chwilewicki and Gala Feder rented me a single room in the same hotel in which they stayed  My room was on the first floor. Gala and Fanya shared a room on the second floor. Their neighbors were two male students named Strum and Rosenstrum.  I was a late arrival in Nancy and it took time to get into the crowd. But finally, I became one of them. The only problem was that everyone I knew had a boyfriend or a girlfriend and I was alone. And again, it was not an important problem because whatever we did, we were all together, as a group.

New Year’s Eve was a turning point in my social life. We went as a group to a big affair in a popular nightclub. I got drunk on Champagne and I was in a silly mood. There it was a young man (Bubi Herzig) following me around. It started our puppy love affair. Since that night we were always together. He did not talk much. He was handsome and a good friend. I was not alone anymore. I was attached to a man.

Spring came. The political situation was unsettled. Hitler entered Austria and Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. The Munich agreement followed.  General Franco won the Spanish Civil War. The volunteer opponents of Franco were returning to France. We, the students, participated in several demonstrations. At one point, some of us considered dropping out of school and returning home. I left France after passing the examinations. It was in mid-June of 1939. Bubi stayed in France.

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