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All That Was: Chapter Thirty-Nine - The End Of A Dream

...We were so intensely happy in the seclusion of Nogent-sur-Seine that for the time being the making of any plans or decisions was postponed. In our world of fancy we willed the time to stand still...

But time moves on. Lusia Przybyszewicz and her lover Marcel were soon to go their seperate ways.

Lusia's story of the horrors of the war years, and her life after the Nazi regime had been defeated is more gripping and vivid than a novel - and far better written than most novels. To read earlier chapters please click on All That Was in the menu on this page.

The book is available from Lusia at PO 404 Vaucluse, NSW 2030, Australia ($25 Australian, plus postage).

Over time our yearning for each other became unbearable. By mid-September 1945 all our appeals to reason came to naught. Marcel travelled from Bordeaux to Nogent-sur-Seine to be with me. We had been apart for what seemed an eternity. Now we were both so wholly enthralled by that reunion that the merest possibility of another separation seemed unthinkable.

To savour every moment of our togetherness, Marcel participated in all my duties and activities within the Polish Community. My classes reaped the benefit of his teaching experience and so did I personally. His expertise in the profession made a lasting impact on my subsequent teaching career. That summer he helped me also to stage a very successful school play, which he transposed from La Fontaine's famous fable 'Les Animaux Malades de la Peste.'
We were so intensely happy in the seclusion of Nogent-sur-Seine that for the time being the making of any plans or decisions was postponed. In our world of fancy we willed the time to stand still.

But the lull was short-lived. Soon, the dismal spectacle of the approaching autumn cast gloom over our dreams. Our mood changed as we contemplated the gusty winds and rain transforming the unpaved streets of the town into a sea of mud strewn with dead leaves. We knew then that we were running out of time and that serious decisions had to be made!

When at last one foul autumn day we risked broaching the subject of our future, we found ourselves right away on a collision course. Whereas I sought some decisive action once and for all, Marcel appeared to dither and play for time.

He suggested we move to Arcachon, a port and holiday resort on the shores of the Atlantic in the vicinity of Bordeaux. There, he claimed, we could live cheaply during the off season and take things easy for a while. In the fullness of time we might plot our strategies for the future.

Even though his suggestion sounded most appealing, I was dead set against it from the start.

Having wasted six years of my life in the war, I could not afford to lose another moment. I wanted passionately to catch up on every aspect of my unfulfilled existence. The freedom of choice had eluded me for too long. I longed for the sensation of feeling reborn, of being in touch with every throb and thrill that my new life had to offer.

All of a sudden, and for the first time ever, we found ourselves worlds apart. I felt angry at my man's perceived apathy, and he was taken aback by my stubbornness and impatience. We desperately tried for another miserable week to patch up our differences, for we did not wish to admit openly that we had reached an impasse.

In hindsight, I recognize that the precise grounds for this conflict were complex and indelibly linked to the euphoria of Liberation. Over the years of incarceration we both had lost the ability to act autonomously or to consider the future. That is not to say that in our hearts we did not long for freedom. It simply meant that in captivity our minds remained focused on coping with our plight there and then. Soul-searching had to wait for better times.

When the great moment of release did hit us, it imposed an entirely new set of concerns. Suddenly, confronted with unlimited choices, we were guided by what I would call each one's own 'raison d'etre'. In the process cracks emerged

in our perception of what were once clear goals. We discovered that we belonged to two different worlds and that they affected us in contrasting ways. Owing to this revelation, our sworn commitment to each other became less attractive.
Following a few more days of soul-searching, Marcel left. Even after his departure we still corresponded for a while and tried in vain to patch up our relationship. Eventually he informed me that he had received a posting to a township adjacent of Bordeaux and that was that!

We did remain in contact for a very long time after our break-up, but we never saw each other again. Years later, when I began claims for compensation for war crimes, Marcel was one of my key witnesses. He was very forthcoming with a written statement that subsequently contributed towards my obtaining the Wiedergutmachung payments from Germany.

In the autumn of 1995 on one of my trips to France I ventured into the region of la Gironde, with the purpose of spending a few days in Bordeaux. As I walked trough the town, I recognized many landmarks that he had described to me in his long letters or exposed to view in his old postcards, still in my possession.

I explored them thoroughly. I found the city captivating in every way apart from attempting to engage the locals in conversation. What a fiasco! Parochial beyond belief, they called to my mind the typical representatives of the French 'closed society,' so perfectly captured by Pierre Danino’s book 'Les Carnets du major W. Marmaduke Thompson.'

Arcachon is indeed a charming holiday place, with a superb beach and a huge fishing port. Unfortunately, in October most hotels, restaurants, and places of entertainment were already shut for the winter. There was not a soul on the beach. This discouraged me from having a swim, even though I had brought all the necessary gear with me and the sea felt warm.

The whole place seemed deserted. 'I had obviously made the right decision all those years ago,' I thought to myself.
For old time’s sake, I phoned Marcel from my hotel. I felt awkward talking to him after all this time. We managed, between pauses, to exchange news about the present and recall the past.

'Did you receive compensation from Poland?,' he wanted to know.

I thought to myself in amazement: 'How well he remembers the details of my childhood!' And I thanked him for his help in my receiving compensation from Germany.

'I lost a son in Paris a few years ago,' he said softly, 'in a freak accident.'

'I lost my husband in Brisbane, Australia, in the sixties,' I told him after a moment's silence. The conversation was very moving to us both. At the last we wished each other peace and good health for the rest of our lives.

That last exchange with my first love reminded me of Paul Verlaine's poignant poem, 'Colloque Sentimental'.
The end of one's first love affair is very painful. Initially I could not come to grips with the very notion of facing up to the future without Marcel. To me our love was the pivotal force that gave me the strength and the motivation for everything that might lie ahead. When I was deprived of the magical powers of our love, my life lost all meaning. My former passion turned to despair.

I was unable to share my grief with anyone in the isolation of Nogent-sur-Seine. I tried to bury my grief in hard work and solitary walks along the banks of the Seine. One rainy day, as I stood staring dejectedly at the water pondering whether to jump in and end it all, I was startled by the footsteps of a person behind me. I turned and saw an elderly moustached French farmer. He just happened to be passing by. He must have found the scene disturbing because he stopped and said: 'This is not the right time nor place for a young woman to be alone.' He took me by the arm and escorted me home.

After that episode I continued functioning for a while through sheer will power. Finally the overwhelming bout of despondency prompted me to relinquish the teaching position for which I had fought so hard. I returned to Paris sometime in October 1945.


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