LES CHOSES DE LA VIE
Memoirs of Maurice Lament
Ecrit en 1998
Part 1: Early childhood memories of the family in Warsaw 1918 - 1929
We had a nanny. She stayed at home, and often on Sunday, which was her day off, with the permission of my parents, she took me for a walk. But instead she went to church. or rather in front of the church. She wrapped me in a shawl, giving the nanny a look of unhappy poor woman, and begging, as do some people currently in the corridors of the subway.
It must have been before the birth of my brother David, that this ploy was discovered by a neighbor who hurried to reveal it to my parents.
With memories we grow up fast.
For example: the moment when it was necessary to save on everything including clothes. Being the third child, I often wore my sister's belongings, although re-arranged for me, with the buttons on the girl's side, a coat, a bodice, a shirt, socks etc. You can guess that my boyish pride took a hit !My mother had a brother, Heiman, a rather fat man who he had an obsession. We could give him food, but he could not help himself, even though he was still hungry. My mother saved up some money and bought him a special (large) bowl, like a soup tureen. The problem was solved. He was no longer hungry.
School in Poland.
In Poland, schools were divided between girls and boys, Jews and Catholics. The Jews went to school in the morning, and in the afternoon I went to the "CHEDER", a school to learn to read and write Hebrew. We always went to school with a homemade stick to defend ourselves against the Polish boys who attacked us with war cries. Self-defense was necessary for a long time even in France in the early days.Everyday life.
Sometimes we would be barricaded in our apartment with our mother saying nothing, making no noise, waiting for the storm pass. It was the bailiffs who came to take things away.
To announce themselves, they drummed loudly with a cane on the door, and our mother, in order to calm us down, told us that it reminded her of the theater and the music of a concert. Boum Boum Boum Boum ... Boum Boum ....There was a takeover or insurrection in Poland, I do not remember the year but I think it was 1922. Part of the windows of our apartment were on the street and soldiers were firing everywhere, including at the windows.
Butter and butter money.
My father (Szmul) was a butter maker for a while. He had depots in villages around Warsaw. There were rounds to collect the milk and especially the cream processed with centrifuges which were deposited with the cattle breeders who prepared the cream.During the holidays, I went with my brother Serge on a pickup tour. Harnessed to a cart, there was a horse that stopped in front of every peasant. Of course, the horse knew the route and the stops, and we often slept, leaving the horse to complete the route on its own. The horse returned peacefully to the dairy to make the butter.
My father, a wise and progressive trader, was looking for additional outlets because he had a large production of butter. He got in touch with Polish emigrants in England, and sold them a very large quantity of butter.It was winter and my father was cutting ice blocks in the Vistula, which he had put in sawdust to protect the cargo that was leaving by boat via the port of Gdansk.
Butter, ice blocks and sawdust were loaded into the holds of the boat. The expected duration of the journey was 8 days. No problem for the merchandise considering the outside temperature.
My father, amongst others things , was a manufacturer of jute bags for mill flour, sugar, etc. Above all my father was a trader and made a good living with all the ups and downs.Another event ( it must have been in 1924), during a very cold winter when we lacked everything in Warsaw. My father went to Berlin. He decided to do a very important two- in-one deal. He sold a building recently acquired in Berlin, and bought a whole train loaded with potatoes. The train suffered a considerable delay because of bad weather, the cargo arrived frozen in Warsaw, and it was still necessary to pay to clear the rot.
To start again was often his lot. He never got discouraged.In another business adventure he formed a theatrical troupe. He needed to go on tour in the provinces, and my mother, jealous, did not support this new profession; it almost turned sour. I witnessed the domestic scene.
Contact with nature.
One day I wanted to go horseback riding. We had a mare with a foal. As I was little, I rode on the colt, without a saddle of course, and held the mane as a guide.
With a few jumps, I found myself at the end of my horse, I slipped and slipped, and in the end, to avoid falling I held onto the animal's tail ... My foal to get rid of this burden, gave me a nice kick with a hoof in the jaw; which made an additional opening to my mouth!
I was brought back urgently to Warsaw, I do not remember by what means of transport, as I was a little unconscious. We arrived in the morning, and in Twarda street where we lived there was a hairdresser who at that time served as a nurse.He was called a FELCHER, and he sewed up my chin.
I had to use this barber again, a time when I clung to a streetcar like all the kids in my street, and I fell on my forehead making a bump like a billiard ball.
We have as much fun as we could, jumping from the wardrobe onto the couch. Moving all the furniture and stacking it on our child's table making a cart. This table was designed with a bench on each side, which we used for our school homework.
Before the holidays, live chickens were bought and stored on the balcony on the courtyard side of the building. David and I tied a string to the hen's leg and we had fun making it fly, lowering it, putting it back on the string again. This balcony at times served as a refuge for us.
School in Poland.
One of the memories that struck me most came from my teacher Mr KLEIJMAN. Talking about the year 2000, he pointed his finger at the class and he said: "Some of you will reach the year 2000". Of course I felt charged with this mission, being a child who lived in a dream, surrounded by a bubble isolating me from the hostile world.
To move to a higher class, not being a brilliant student, my mother had to plead my cause as best as she could. The only thing I've heard is that she promised to put me to work during the holidays.
Holidays were a real move. In those days when we went on vacation, we rented a house in the countryside or elsewhere, but what we rented was empty of any furniture.We loaded all the furniture, crockery, sheets, clothes, all that could be used for a period of two to three months, on a horse drawn cart. The maid, the coachman and I travelled together to a rented house in the countryside by a river not far from Warsaw.
On some members of my family.
I had a cousin Bolek Papier, a year younger than me. We were very close. His parents had a fish shop in the Warsaw market hall. Often for Shabbat, we were invited to his home, and I remember when my uncle was talking, his teeth were playing castanets !!!
Uncle Lajbele, was my mother's brother. He and his wife sold poultry in the market. One day to prepare a feast, they received a shipment of geese by rail. My uncle, to avoid transport costs, had to drive his herd through the streets of Warsaw to the market.
He was arrested by the police and fined but did not respond, which led him to court. As he had not declared that he was working, he said it was a voluntary service, which he rendered by leading the flock of geese through the streets of Warsaw.
Then the judge asks him how he does to make a living. My uncle answers him: "ich draj meeh" (I turn)
The judge tells him that if he turns he will not make a living. My uncle replied that if he turns around the judge, then he will make a living! !
Authentic ! It could be a joke.
Preparations for Departure 1929
The winter of our departure from Warsaw to Paris was brutal; as usual in this case the lack of coal, everything, and even money was common. My father went on a scouting trip with Anna and Serge. My father was not in very good shape, suffering with stomach pains.
My mother, David and I, stayed in Warsaw to liquidate the rest of the business, some goods, furniture, crockery, linens, anything that could be exchanged for cash. As the winter was very harsh, -30 °, nothing could be sold, everything was covered by snow.
My mother never wanted to believe me, she believed that I stole at the bakery, which I did often, but, this time it was not the case. What intrigued my mother, though, was that the bakery's packaging was as usual, so she believed in a miracle and said, "Got falost nicht." (God do not forget us!). Face was saved, with regard to the cousin, and she was able to serve him without revealing anything.
The cousin, wise, but maybe not enough, said he did not understand that we were going to leave all this to go abroad ? God knows where? Who was right? He was deported during the 39-45 war.
There were also her sisters, Fella, and Frania who was married to an accountant with a good reputation. They came to see us at the same time as cousin Bein, and the miraculous cakes were served with some oranges cut in four, and of course the tea served again in Ulica Twarda 28.
After making some money, for example, giving the apartment to a doctor, my mother bought me and my brother David a navy coat with a black velvet collar and polished shoes.
We are in 1929, November or December. I am eleven and a half years old.
Already in charge of my teacher's mission for the year 2000, in charge of my little brother David, like any big brother must do, my mother tells me to look after David. I took this responsibility seriously, and he was always my little brother, even though he was more thoughtful than me.
We were accompanied to the Warsaw railway station by a large family, weeping, urging us to be careful, and with regrets that we are leaving, because the pillar of the family was leaving.
The journey took place by train, sitting in a 3rd class compartment, an international main line, with maximum comfort for the time, lasting three nights and two days.The landscape that one could see through the frost filled windows showed the countryside under the snow. We passed through Berlin, with a two hours stop over,to be supplied with food by the organization that prepared the trip.
My mother tells us what we are going to discover, about the new life that will be offered to us.
We had a tourist visa to be able to travel and stay in Paris. But with a "MACHER", (maker) and money, we got a residence permit for two years. The solution for dealing with the prefecture: A Macher plus more money equals residence card ...
Next Chapter: The Arrival in Paris ..... coming soon
Last update August 2021