Rebuilding life within the domain of a communist regime, established in Poland under the ruthless “supervision” of the Soviet neighbour, was a formidable task for any family. Having political connections with the pre-war establishment, however, was especially problematic and resulted in constant fear of being arrested, imprisoned, or deported.
By 1951, my family lost everything, including the family business. We had to move to sub-standard living quarters. In spite of various pressures, my parents stood firm, successfully distancing themselves from the communist party.
In 1956, there was an uprising in Hungary and some serious clashes with the communist forces in Poland. I was a naive nine-year-old youth when, at school, I took a stand for justice – to the utter horror of my parents. The same year, for the first time I went to see the ruins of Warsaw. The effects of the Nazi occupation and the unsuccessful Warsaw Uprising left a deep imprint on my inner self.
On March 5, 1953 Stalin was dead. Every front page of every newspaper carried photographs of him embedded in what seemed like a never ending blanket of flowers. (Apparently, all local flowers were directed to his funeral – there were none left for other people, among them Prokofiev, who died the same day!)
To a youth of five it looked as though he was resting in a Botanical Garden, specially created for the occasion. To my mother, it made no difference, as she had to stand in line in a butcher store waiting for some kind of delivery. I was with her, somewhere nearby.
Suddenly, my mother heard a loud argument at the back of the store. She recognized my voice and immediately knew that something was amiss.
What happened was this: some months earlier my parents took me to an impressive botanical garden in Lodz, located next door to the zoological garden. Obviously, I confused the two names and got myself involved in a dramatic argument with another fellow about my age, insisting that Stalin was put to rest in a ZOOLOGICAL GARDEN!
Obviously, I was wrong, but my mother did not wait for the outcome of the argument. She grabbed me and pulled me away from the store, empty handed. She just lost several hours standing in line, but she got away with her life, and my own. One never knew who was standing next to you and what the next day could bring…