Marriage

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Well, my darling son, you want me to continue my memoirs. I wrote them a few years ago and as far as I remember I came to the point when I and your father got married. If it were a fairy tale I would write: and we lived happily ever after. But fairy tale it was not. I will try and remember how everything happened and slowly put it on paper since I think that my life was far from a usual one. I often envy people who were born, brought up, married and died in one house, however monotonous it might seem.

From my earlier memoirs you have seen that in my childhood we shifted quite a few times, but it was nothing in comparison with what happened later in my life. Also from those memoirs I hope you understood how much we, I mean I and your father, were in love. We were happy to be married at last, however poor we were at that time. This was a time of depression, and of dowries, the richer a girl was, the quicker she got married. As I had no dowry, your father’s family was much against me, and there were other rich girls who would be only too happy to marry him, he was also very ambitious and wanted to go very much up in his life, so he was reluctant to marry a poor girl, but love was stronger than anything, and it won.

We were happy. But your father was a very jealous man, and it made me very unhappy, especially at the beginning of our marriage. I was an attractive girl, and he could not stand it if I even talked with another man; and if I dared to smile to somebody or just lightly flirt with someone, it was something terrible. Before the marriage, when he had no right to tell me anything, he just stopped talking to me, in the beginning I did not know why, but after a while I realized what the reason was. I suppose I was a born flirt, but without any special reason, I suppose I enjoyed that men liked me, but I loved your father and he knew that, and I did not think of anybody else, nobody else existed for me. He knew that too, I suppose he could not help himself.
We had a brief honeymoon. We went to some guest house about 60 miles from Warsaw, it was Xmas time, plenty of snow everywhere, a beautiful place. By chance we met there one of our friends, who had tried to go out with me for some time before my marriage. I used to like that man, and during the first evening we just spoke a little, I suppose I gave him a smile or two. After we came to our room, the first scene in our married life happened.
That night I understood that I would have to be as my husband wanted me to be or I would have to leave him. As I loved him so much I could not leave him, so I had to be a person that I was not. I was a merry, gay girl, especially at that time when I got married and I was happy, but I had to start to pretend that I was not gay, I had to be a sinister, respectable matron, who never as much as dared to smile at another man just from sheer politeness. It was a very difficult thing to do and caused me much suffering. As we worked at the same office, and I was sitting at the window, mostly talking to customers bringing casual advertisements in, I was instructed by the director of our firm to be nice, polite and smiling to the customers. Your father did not like that, dear, he also did not like it if sometimes I had to stay about 10 minutes longer in the office. I think it was an obsession. He thought that every man was in love with me, and I in love with every man. As the years went by and you were already in the world, darling, I had to swear on your life, dear, which was the most important to me, that I was never unfaithful to him. And it was true of course.
Well, after this first scene on our honeymoon, I did everything to avoid any scene, I think I was and still am allergic to them. So I was a good wife smiling to only one man, whom I loved.

As I said before, we were very poor, though we were both working. My mother gave us her little flat. I did not want to take it, but she insisted, poor Mother, she knew that we would never get married if I didn’t have the flat, in those days you couldn’t get a flat in Warsaw, only for very high key money, which we didn’t have. And my brother was supposed to pay for our furniture. There were only 2 rooms and a kitchen, not even an inside bathroom, only one shared with other tenants of the building. We chose some nice furniture for the dining room and bedroom, and my brother signed promissory notes because of course he had no money. So that is how we started. Just before the wedding I had to borrow some money for clothes, and so did your father. After the wedding we had no money at all, we had to wait till our next wages. The telephone was cut off, because the bill had not been paid, and we had hardly anything to eat. But we were in love and everything seemed wonderful.
The next wages came and we started paying off the debts, but my brother did not start paying the promissory notes on the furniture and never paid any of them, and as we did not want to part with the furniture we had to pay for it. From then on your father stopped talking to my brother and consequently we never met again. Your father started to hate him, and some of that he also felt for my mother. Of course he could not stop me from seeing her, or her from coming to see us. He knew that I loved her too much. I rang her every single day and saw her at least twice a week. But he was not nice to her when she came down to see us and it brought me and her much sorrow and unhappiness. But what could I do. You can’t force people’s feelings. But he was sorry for that just before he died, he told me one day, of course he did not know that he was dying, he said that God is probably punishing him for being bad to my mother. And he said that when the war ended he would make it up to her. Unfortunately he could not keep that promise, neither of them came out alive after the war ended…
After realizing that my brother would not pay the debts for the furniture your father was very angry and his nerves went very bad, and his hair started to fall out in circle-like patches. It was terrible, to see him getting a new circle of baldness on his head every few days. It took about a year till he got all his hair back, but it was never so nice and thick as before.

As I said we married during the Depression and during the Depression married women were often dismissed from their jobs. This happened to me after I’d been married for six months, but I got paid a few months severance pay, and we did not despair. Your father already had plans for that money; he already saw a way of making money with it. He did not tell me at first but I sensed something, because he spent hours just thinking. After some weeks of thinking, he told me what it was all about. He intended to leave his job. As he worked in our office as an agent and had direct contact with customers, he decided to talk to our Director ask him to let him keep his customers and open a small agency. The money I received could be used to pay the newspaper accounts until the customers started paying. We would work in our own flat, I would do the office work and he would bring the advertisements. All depended on the Director, if he would agree.
I must say that when I lost the job and we did not touch the severance money, the wages and commissions your Father earned on were not enough for us. We had debts to pay, we were young and we liked going out now and then and also entertained people. Your father was one of the best-dressed young men in Warsaw in those times. He knew how to dress and was a pedant about that. His suits were made by the best tailors in Warsaw. He was a wonderful bridge player, and as he did not work long hours in the office, he played bridge a few times a week in the afternoons and evenings, and as he usually won it helped us during the most difficult financial times I had with your father.
Our Director, who was much older, was a friend of your father, liked him very much and used to play tennis with him very often. In the summer he used to come especially for tennis to your father’s parents’ villa about 20 kilometers from Warsaw, where there was a tennis court, and they played tennis for hours. He was very good to us. He let your father take all his clients, and put in a good word for him with the newspapers that wanted references, in one word he really helped us in starting this agency. Besides that your father got a job as advertising consultant for one of our biggest clients, which meant that besides earning 300 zloty a month for two hours work a week, he had charge of the firm’s advertising budget, which he located very wisely, doing the best he could for the firm, and letting the newspapers know about it, so that he got a bigger commission from the newspapers as well. He was a very clever businessman.
The boss of this firm was very satisfied with his work, and we became friends with him. He was a very rich man, had a beautiful villa not far from Warsaw, nest to ex-President Pilsudski. He used to invite us there sometimes. He was an older man at this time, divorced from an actress wife, and he had a beautiful young Russian girlfriend, She was about my age then. She came to his home as a housekeeper. but later he married her. We became very good friends. The nicest presents we ever got to our house were from him. I remember for one wedding anniversary we got from him a huge Turkish carpet, so thick, that your feet came deep inside when you walked. It was in our bedroom, which was a huge room. In this bedroom, on this carpet, you, dear, played with your motor train on the railway that your father brought you from London, you played there with it on the day we started our run when the Germans started bombing Warsaw, it was left there on that carpet, on that day, the 6th of September 1939…

We finally started our office in the two-room flat. We bought a typewriter and a desk and fitted it in the bedroom. It was 1935, and we were quite successful.
Then, one day, there came to Warsaw a hypnotist, whom one of your father’s friends, a journalist, knew very well. He was an Indian, and that friend had been in India for some time and met him, and of course when he came to Warsaw he contacted him, he needed plenty advertising. This friend, whose name was Maciek, came to your father and told him about this, and again your father showed that he was clever, and offered Maciek fifty per cent of all commissions he would get from the newspapers for this client. It was like “strike it rich”, like finding a gold mine. This hypnotist spent a lot on advertising, and both your father and Maciek made a lot of commission. From then on all our financial troubles were over, we started to think about getting a better flat, and about having a baby.

I remember it was summer and your Father went for a holiday to some resort that had special mineral water for stomach trouble, which he was suffering from. I was left alone to do all the office work. Clients rang me their orders, some I visited, but Maciek used to come. I knew that Maciek liked me and I liked him, but nothing more. One day he invited me to a cafe for a cup of coffee and I accepted. I did not write about it to your father, knowing him, I knew he would not approve, but Maciek, who did not know him as I did, when writing to him about a business matter, mentioned it. Well, that was another tragedy. Your father rang me from that resort as soon as he got the letter, and forbade me to see Maciek again, and next day he cut his holidays short and came home. It took me quite a time to explain that there was nothing in it. After that I liked Maciek much more and I think he liked me very much too. He divorced at this time, but I was a faithful wife. Next section →

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