Theirs was the generation who fought so that we might explore our heritage of freedom without want in a relative peace. The great majority of them have left us now, but what would they have made of the current America? Would they be proud? Understanding? Sad? Would they recognize our struggles as extensions of their own? On this Veteran’s Day 2011, a salute to two soldiers through whom much life was generated, recalling the day when their own lives were first joined.
~ BISIA ~
A stinging snow had been whipping out of the east all day reducing Lublin to a cauldron of white. Now as Bisia huddled alone outside town attempting to hitchhike south to Krakow as per her orders, along with the toe-numbing cold came a sense of hopelessness, both in her own prospects for a ride, and in the plight of Poland’s future.
The Polish Home Army had been forcibly disbanded in November 1944 as the Soviet Red Army swept west pushing the Germans back toward ultimate defeat. Now under Soviet control Bisia’s unit had been re-assigned to the newly created Berling Division, commanded by the Polish General Zygmund Berling. After two months of tank training near Lublin, she had a short period to report south to the front for assignment.
As the sky slid from a brutish gray to an encompanssing black, Bisia pulled her coat in tighter, then began walking back to the city through the wind-blown snow with her head down, beyond weary, arriving a little past 6 p.m.
I knew that my sister-in-law Gusia and our friend Olga Wiktor, whose husband had property not far from our home in Lesko, were in Lublin at the time, because it was not along the front lines. So I headed to the Artist’s Cafe which was where I knew Gusia would probably be.
The Artist’s Cafe occupied the first floor corner of a gray stone building at 1 Peowiaków Street a few blocks north of Plac Unia Lubelska, the main plaza in town named for the union of Poland and Lithuania in 1556. The cafe was run by a group of movie and radio artists who had no work because of the war. So they banded together to run this small cafe.
The frigid wind whipped her hair as Bisia pulled open the heavy wooden door from the street. Then, as she held aside the woolen blanket that helped insulate the inner room, she entered the cafe proper where the clink and clatter of piano and conversation mingled with the cigarette smoke hanging like a cloud from the ceiling.
Shaking the snow from her shoulders Bisia scanned the room and saw Gusia and Olga sitting together at a table on the right with some strange looking men in very odd looking uniforms. She gave them a little wave. On the small stage to the left a man was singing, accompanying himself on piano.
“Bisia, what would you like for me to sing for you?” he asked as she came in.
As she unbuttoned her coat, Bisia recalled her cousin, Henris Rostworski, who was in an officer’s POW camp in Germany. He was a writer, and one of his letters from this camp was a poem which they had put to music. It was called “A Letter from the Prisoner of War Camp.” This is what she asked him to sing.
~ ISHAM ~
Isham sat listening to the music as Billy spoke with the two Polish women who had joined them at their table. Then she walked through the doorway. Her hair was pure black and rolled off a full, oval-shaped face from which two piercing brown eyes took in the room. A centering widow’s peak added to the look of a bird of prey. She wasn’t tall, in fact, rather petite, but she walked like there was no one above her. She was the most beautiful woman Isham had ever seen. (more…)