Zygmunt Frankel


Chapter 1

Such A Lovely Summer Gone

6th May 1939
This diary, with its beautiful soft white leather binding, a gold-plated lock, and two little intricate keys, is a birthday present from my beloved husband. He says they did not have one with a lock of real gold - he had asked - but that it might be better this way, so as not to lead the servants into temptation. He did, however, add a little golden chain for the tiny keys to wear around my neck if I wanted to.
"But darling," I said, "you know I don't have any secrets from you."
He hesitated, perhaps realising for the first time that the present could be a slightly tricky one.
"Well, the servants again," he said breezily. (There is the cook and the maid.) "You can't imagine how nosy they can be. Why, I remember my maiden aunt Aniela when she was young and pretty and the servants would whisper... anyway, they seem to feel that they participate more in the life of the upper classes if they share their secrets or thoughts or plans. A diary is a very private thing which perhaps even the best of husbands should not read. I know I'll hear all the important things from your own lovely lips." And he kissed them.
A thought: could he grow so curious one day that he might want to pick the lock and read it? He is a mechanical engineer so the lock should be no problem for him; he might have even made a copy of the keys before he gave it to me. But no; he is a true Polish gentleman and in love with me, and wouldn't stoop so low. What's more, there are standard detective novel tricks: a hair, the diary placed at a certain angle to other objects in the drawer, and so on; no, he wouldn't dare even if he wanted to.
What shall I start with? All right; I am twenty-two years old, one meter seventy centimeters tall, and I weigh seventy-four kilograms. I have curly blond hair and blue eyes. My face is oval and my lips full, with slightly upcurled corners. I am considered to be very pretty or even beautiful. I am not particularly worried about my weight. Had I been born fifty years earlier, my figure would be driving everyone crazy. Nowadays, skinnier - would it be very unkind to call them underfed? - women are in fashion, but, thank God, not all men - certainly not my husband and some of our friends - are slaves to this, let us hope, passing, fashion. I have slim ankles, wrists, and waist, and only carry the extra volume where it seems most desirable - in my breasts and hips. One of our friends, Leo Goldberg, once protested when I said I was fat - I was fishing for comliments of course - and described me as "deliciously plump" instead. It was so lovely and apt that I keep the expression in a warm little corner of my heart and call on it to cheer me up whenever my spirits are low.
And then of course if I were born fifty years earlier it would have been under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with the Great War still to come, and no cinema, no tango, no gramophone, and also no aviation and no smart airforce uniforms like that of Lieutenant Sarna.
Our closest friends are Mimi and Henryk Podolski, a young married couple like ourselves; Marta and Antek Dobosz, a slightly older couple who already have a little boy, a real spoiled brat; the above-mentioned Lieutenant Sarna, a young fighter pilot; Major Albert Serbenski, a cavalry officer and the oldest among us, pushing forty, married and the father of three children; and Leo Goldberg, a young doctor, the only Jew among us, and, like Lieutenant Sarna, still a bachelor.
The oldest friendship here is that of mine and Mimi's husbands, both mechanical engineers who were students together. They are both tall, handsome, and blond, with my husband more of an athletic type while Henryk is slimmer, quieter, fond of music, and has a soft upcurled moustache. Mimi is dark, vivacious, and slimmer than me; exactly today's fashion, though by no means flat anywhere. Her real name is Maria, but, like her husband, she is fond of music, especially light classical and opera, and the first time her future husband took her out it was to see La Boheme, and afterwards, on the way home, took her hand - it was a cold winter evening - and intoned "Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen", which she answered with "They call me Mimi"- they both have nice voices and sometimes sing together by the piano - and the nickname stuck.
Major Serbenski did bring his wife a couple of times when she was in town - a sour lady with a disapproving look - but mostly he comes alone. His family lives in a smaller town some fifty kilometers from ours, and when he can get away from his regiment, stationed on the outskirts of our town, for a few hours only, he spends them at the officers' club or with us. The women are thus outnumbered by the men, although Lieutenant Sarna occasionally brings a young lady of his acquaintance, not always the same one.
Leo - Dr. Leon Goldberg, to give him his full name and title - had seen Marta and Antek's little son safely through a nasty bout of diphteria, had become a good friend of the parents, and through them, ours. Still young, he has a fast-growing professional reputation, with a couple of research papers published in medical journals abroad, and is a charming man and conversationalist. Knowing him, it is difficult to understand what antisemitism is about, and the other men gallantly abstain from mentioning the subject or, God forbid, telling Jewish jokes when he is present. He has curly black hair, dark passionate eyes, and a slightly aquiline nose which gives his face a somewhat predatory expression. Once, when he was absent, Lieutenant Sarna said that Leo would make a very handsome fighter pilot.
We meet at our flat for afternoon coffee and cakes, or, later in the evening, for a full dinner, and afterwards sit around and smoke and talk, and often dance to the gramophone or the piano.

18th May 1939
Another one of those amusing arguments between Major Serbenski and Lieutenant Sarna: aviation versus cavalry, or rather modern technology versus tradition, because Lieutenant Sarna also speaks for tanks, lorries, cars, and motorcycles, while Major Serbenski sees himself as the representative of both the mounted warrior and the lowly foot soldier. They are both very polite and often agree on some point, but only the better to take the wind out of each other's sails. Cavalrymen and foot soldiers, Lieutenant Sarna says, only keep going until they get tired and have to rest or sleep. True, Major Serbenski agrees, but an engine only pulls along until it runs out of fuel or breaks down, while a horse nibbles on the local grass and keeps carrying its rider through terrain where a lorry or even a tank might get stuck, not to mention crossing rivers. And if need be the cavalryman can always dismount and fight on foot. He even has instant cover available if he orders his horse to lie down, while a plane is badly exposed to fire from the ground, and practically useless in bad weather or at night while the cavalry keeps moving. And, last but not least, a dead engine is a dead engine, while the right sort of soldier led by the right sort of officer will keep going and fighting even three-quarters dead of fatigue and strain. Try appealing to the patriotism and bravery of a broken gearbox or an empty petrol tank.
They always finally agree that both technology and tradition are of great importance in a well-balanced army, and I have a feeling that the argument is not so much to convince each other as to impress the civilians present, especially the wives. Then they switch to politics, which enables the civilians to participate on equal footing. Hitler is regarded with suspicion and dislike, and Mussolini seems to have forged Italy into a world power, and the two have grown chummy of late, while Russia remains a colossus on clay feet. Even united, Germany and Italy would stand little chance against an entente of England, France, and Poland, and Major Serbenski talks of a "cavalry ride to Berlin".
There is something slightly pompous in their seriousness and expertise, as if they were going to be consulted by the powers that be. It is usually at this stage that Marta, Mimi, and I excuse ourselves and drift with our cups of coffee to a quiet corner across the room, to endulge in the latest gossip and fashions to our hearts' delight.
And then, after the guests have left, we go to bed.
This large and comfortable double bed, with its soft eiderdown covers and pillows, is, for me, the centre of this flat and house, and this house, perhaps with the adjoining streets and the Roma caf- is the centre of the town, and the town, the center of Poland. Funny things happen to the geography and history they teach you at school. If there are thirty million Poles, there must be thirty million Polands, each at least slightly different, shaped and coloured by each person's past, experience, and character. I know the map of Poland, with Warsaw its capital and Cracow, not far from here, a sort of second, more ancient, capital, and the sea in the north and the Carpathians in the south - I have visited all four with my parents, but my real homeland and home had been the family estate, as they slightly pompously call it because it is more of a large and prosperous farm. My bed at home - I was a virgin until I married - was a place of refuge and rest where I could be alone with my thoughts and dreams. (And lovers, because every girl plays with herself in bed, and however technically virgin she may be on her way to the altar she has already experienced extasies in bed with Rudolph Valentino and the physics teacher and, in my case, an awfully handsome young peasant from the village. It's all perfectly secret and safe, and you feel very naughty and happy afterwards.) All the same, how different this bed is! There is this wonderful feeling when your husband's member fills you up, greater than anything your fingers could do, and the weight of his body on top of yours, the intertwined limbs and the movements, and the abandon, and the pumping and throbbing of it inside you afterwards. I don't suppose I am developing into a nymphomaniac, but I do love it, and the more I do it the more I love it. The only problem are the precautions we have to take until we decide to have our first child, in about a year's time, after we have "sown our wild oats" as my husband calls it: parties, dances, theatre, opera, cinema, restaurants, all sorts of late nights, unworried by how the baby is doing and how reliable the nanny is. The process of getting pregnant is something to really look forward to: no more interrupting caresses to put on a condom and slip in a pessary, and no more getting out of the warm bed afterwards to take a douch while all you want is to fall asleep in your husband's arms.
My father used to say that you get used to the good things in life very quickly and stop appreciating them, but to the bad ones, never, and the longer you are deprived of something, the more you miss it. I don't think I'll ever stop appreciating this, but is it possible that I am getting used to it? And even cheating without being really unfaithful? Because, of late, I seem to have transplated into this our marital bed the secrecy, safety, and, above all, the variety of my virginal one at home by sometimes imagining, with my eyes closed, that it is not my husband but Leo Goldberg or Lieutenant Sarna or even Major Serbenski or Mimi's or Marta's husband who are making love to me, and it adds a sense of mischief and adventure without hurting anyone.
An awful thought: could my husband be doing the same? Imagining himself in bed with Mimi or Marta or some pretty typist from the office? Or even our maid or cook, both of them quite young and attractive, each in her own way? Perish the thought, but if he must, better this way than really; everyone seems to agree that men are more promiscuous than women, that it's something in their nature, that it's not as serious with them as it is with us, and so on. I don't know. So long as we are together every night, I suppose the rules hold, but if I were to be separated from my husband for any considerable time, God only knows what I would do; go crazy after a while or something. I can't quite imagine how it is between Major Serbenski and his wife who sees him on weekends only, and not every weekend either. Do her three children keep her off it? Marta once said, jokingly: "Before, we had sex; now we have little Lolek." Is there some truth behind the joke, especially seeing how Mimi and I go gogo over the kid when she lets us play with him? Or does one need it less as one grows older? Or does she have someone on the side? Do husbands, after two or three children who resemble them, grow more tolerant, especially if their own concience is not too clean? One does grow to understand better, and to appreciate, that little passage about not leading us into temptation.
Which applies to food as well. What with the cakes and the restaurants, I have gained two kilograms since my marriage a year ago, and am now going to start getting a hold on myself: only one spoonful of sugar and one slice of cake with my coffee, and careful with bread, butter, potatoes, and midnight snacks.

18th August 1939
What a lovely summer! As early as the warmer days of May, while still in town, we started having afternoon coffees on the balcony of our flat, watching the sun set beyond the town, and only later, when it grew dark and chilly, would go indoors and put a record on the gramophone and dance. And now my husband managed to get a full month's summer vacation and we are here on my parents' farm, whoops, sorry, estate, riding, swimming, sunbathing, fishing, rowing our old rowboat up and down the little river - there isn't much difference because the current is sluggish - gathering mushrooms and berries in the woods, going to bed late and sleeping late, and in general having no end of fun. Actually my husband does have to hop into town for a few hours or a whole day from time to time to "keep his finger on the pulse" at his place of work - a factory specialising in modern techniques of mass production of conserve tins, whose owner and director is a distant relative of his mother, which is how my husband got a rather responsible position on a correspondingly high salary right after his graduation. But most of the time we are here together, and his riding has improved enormously; he was rather hopeless at first. On the other hand, he is a much better swimmer than I. In view of the wild strawberries with cream and the rich country cooking in general, I should get a medal for having managed to lose two of my seventy-four kilograms since we got here, and shall try to throw off another couple before we get back. And my family so happy to have me with them, for the first time since my marriage except for brief weekend visits, like a prodigal daughter come home. And they are equally welcoming towards our friends who occasionally drop in for a weekend: Mimi with her husband, and Marta with hers and the little brat, and Lieutenant Sarna and Dr. Goldberg. (The only one missing is Major Serbenski because when he can get a full weekend off he has to spend it with his family.) Funny how different and more intimate we are on the grassy bank of the little river, wearing only our bathing suits. There was some shyness at first, a fear of appearing in worse light than hitherto. Mimi's husband's chest and shoulders are a bit narrower than they seemed when he was fully dressed; men's jackets, of course, have padded shoulders. Lieutenant Sarna's legs are perhaps a bit short in proportion to the rest of his body. Leo Goldberg was a pleasant surprise. He is finely built, and had managed to put on a nice tan at the town's outdoor swimming pool before coming here. The size of their penises cannot be accurately judged through the thick woolen bathing suits; they all seem to be about the same size, with Leo's perhaps slightly larger. (There is also this curiosity about what a circumsized penis looks - and feels? - like, with that circular ridge of the exposed glans penis which is supposed to add extra titillation, like those French condoms with all sorts of protrusions my husband once got somewhere as an experiment. We did not continue with it because he seemed to feel that artificial appendages were unnatural and demeaning to the man; a pity.) The difficulty of judging true size is further compounded by the shrinking effect of cold water and the fact that whenever one of them starts getting an erection he immediately turns onto his belly until it subsides. We women do not seem to have disappointed anyone. Marta's face and neck may bear a few minor reminders that she is a few years older than Mimi and me, but her figure is quite good, unaffected by having borne the spoiled brat. Mimi has the perfect body of her fashionable type, while I am wearing a black swimming suit which makes my waist - quite slim as it is - appear even slimmer, without deducting anything from my breasts and hips. The men whistled politely and appreciatively when we first emerged from behind the riverside bushes in our bathing suits, except Leo; for the first few moments the poor man had eyes only for me, has gone rather pale in the face, and made a heroic effort to conceal it; I don't think anyone else noticed.

24th August 1939
For God's sake, it's happened, last weekend. And so quickly, easily, and naturally that one begins to wonder about the worth of anything we'd been taught about being good girls and virtuous wives. Do the Muslims who keep their wives in harems under the supervision of eunuchs know something we Europeans don't discover until it's too late? It was a moment of madness about which both of us felt terribly sorry and guilty immediately afterwards - or was it only terribly guilty? - and swore that it will never happen again and will remain a secret forever, and I even wept bitterly for a while on Leo's shoulder while he held me tight and stroked my hair and made comforting sounds, but then I stopped and washed my eyes in the cold river water before my sister came back from the nearby woods with the small basket of wild strawberries she had gone to gather while the two of us sunbathed on the bank. It was a bushy bank upstream, some distance from our usual bathing place, close to the woods, and we had beached the boat on the narrow strip of sand. Then the three of us got back into the boat and rejoined Mimi and her husband who were spending the weekend with us. (Mine was not there, having gone to town on the morning train for some pulse-keeping at the factory and was only due to return in the afternoon.) While Leo was tying the boat to a tree, I whispered to my sister that for the sake of appearances it would be best if people thought the three of us had been together all the time, and she nodded imperceptibly in a surprisingly grown-up and conspirational manner. I think Leo and I just about managed to behave as if nothing had happened, and there may have been just the tiniest quizzical look from Mimi whom I have easily stared down pretending not to understand. In spite of strong temptation I don't think I shall ever tell her; my father maintains that you don't tell friends what your enemies shouldn't know. When my husband got back we hugged and kissed as usual, and later, at night, made love with our old abandon, and I finally fell asleep feeling much better and happier than I imagined I possibly could, especially since I had felt the first signs of an approaching period that morning; I have always been very regular, and it was twenty-six days since my last one; I hoped things could not get reversed at the last moment, and indeed the next day I got it in full; a great relief because poor passionate Leo took me without a condom - he couldn't have carried one with just his bathing trunks on - and ejaculated inside me as well. It would seem a married woman has to be careful with bachelors. Leo seemed very relieved when I phoned him in town the day after and told him everything was all right, and we promised each other once more that it would never happen again and would remain a secret forever.
Yes, there is something about that circular ridge of the circumcised penis, but difficult to define on the basis of a single brief session in the bushes on the bank of a river with both partners very excited and confused. We have promised each other that it won't happen again so I suppose it won't unless it gets out of hand, especially seeing that Leo has a bachelor apartment adjoining his office in town and, I suppose, if I ever felt ill he would be as suitable a doctor to call on as any other.
One good thing: it may have been helpful, in part at least, in my throwing off an extra kilo in the last days of the summer vacation.

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1997 Zygmunt Frankel - All Rights Reserved.
You are welcome to print-out this material for your personal reading, but it is illegal to modify or sell it

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