Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl: Part 13
From Chapter 12
Dr. Ptak, hospital psychiatrist, interviewed Mr. Neville about what he knew about Anna. After the interview, Mr. Neville visited Anna and held her hand and reassured her.
As for Mrs. Hargrove, she is back to her old tricks, calling the hospital to once more gain access to Anna Wronski.
From Chapter Eleven Regarding Gita
Poland 1969 - Sasha and Gita spend the day together in Old Town Kraków. Sasha recounts the horror of a scene in the Warsaw ghetto as a child where a Jewish wife and mother is being beaten in the street by Gestapo agents and her little boy killed and left for dead on the cobblestones for trying to save her.
The First Step
Sasha examined the passage ticket receipt Ula Kowalski had given him. The ship was an ocean liner, the SS Pulaski (formerly known as the SS Czar), which left Gdynia on August 24, 1939, three days after Anna Wronski went missing. He called Gita and Ula to come to his office as soon as possible. They arrived twenty minutes later.
"Thanks for coming on such short notice," Sasha said. "I need to make a trip to Gdynia. It could be possible that your mother, Gita, was on the ship SS Pulaski if Mr. Kowalski was being truthful that she sailed to America. You ladies have told me that Mrs. Wronski disappeared on August 21, 1939. The ship left on the twenty fourth. However, it did not sail directly to America. Its destination was Port of Falmouth in Cornwall, England. I want to try to find out if she was on that ship, and If she was, I will need to find out where she went from there. I would advise you ladies to head on home. I am leaving first thing in the morning. I don't know how long I'll be so no sense in you sticking around. I'll contact you as soon as I find out anything." Gita's hopes swelled as this first step began.
Sasha dropped the ladies off at their hotel, since they had walked to his office that day. He was in business mode. The hunt was on. His focus disappointed Gita a little as he said goodbye in a distracted state of mind. But she reminded herself that this was about the most important thing in her whole life, finding Mama.
"Go with God," Gita said as he turned to the door.
"Thank you," he said with a flicker of warmth in his eyes. "I'll be in touch." With that he left.
That night Ula and Gita prayed together for Sasha to have a safe journey and to find some solid information. They rose early the next morning and headed home.
Sasha perused the manifest for the SS Pulaski on the August 24 date. The records showed the passage ticket was for a Robert Barron, an American, no doubt. He checked where Barron's cabin was to see if someone was listed in the same cabin. He found no one. On the surface it seemed he'd struck out, but this passage receipt was found amongst Borys Kowalski's private papers. The timing was too close to Mrs. Wronski's disappearance date. And why did Kowalski have the receipt ?
Sasha went down the manifest again carefully, seeing if their might be someone's name that might possibly give a clue, someone he could interview, even though it was thirty years ago. Nothing struck him so he decided to call it a day. That night, despite the long distance charges, he called Gita. "I want you and Mrs. Kowalski to think about if you've ever known an American man by the name of Robert Barron. Talk it over and call and reverse the charges. I want to find out who he is and how he is affiliated with Mr. Kowalski."
Gita promised they would indeed discuss it and get back to him. Again, he treated Gita cordially as he said goodbye.
"Aunt Ula," Gita said, "does the name Robert Barron ring a bell to you? Someone you might have know thirty years ago, or perhaps even in recent years?"
Ula gave it deep thought. The name sort of sounded familiar indeed but she could not place the man. "The name does ring a bell, Gita, but I can't remember how. How about you, Gita. I know you were a small child when your mama disappeared, but he could have been around anytime throughout the years. Have you ever heard that name before?"
She joined Ula in trying to access his name in her memory banks. Barron felt familiar to her. Then Ula's face became alert.
"I think I may have an idea who he was," Ula said. "I remember Borys talking about a Mr. Barron. He said he was an investment banker from America if I remember correctly. I hope I'm remembering right."
"Can you remember anything else about him?" asked Gita. "Did you ever meet him? I'm figuring you haven't known many Americans in your life. Nor have I."
"That's true. Let me think on this, I'm sure more will come to me."
The ladies made some tea and sat at the kitchen table. Their minds were probing the past.
"You know," Gita said, "I do remember an American man visiting Rufin a few times. Borys was with him. I remember now because the man chucked my chin. His aftershave was so overpowering it repulsed me. He seemed cocky. He made me uncomfortable."
"Do you remember his name or what he looked like?" Ula asked.
"It was so long ago. I was a child. But I remember that he had on a fine coat and hat and had a high voice. I have no idea what his name was."
"Oh, I recognize that description. Borys often had people over for business in his office. He rarely introduced me to them. He just barked at me to get them all coffee. I would bring it in and their talking stopped abruptly when I entered. But the description is vivid. He was at our home a number of times back then, always for business in Bory's office. He was cocky and full of himself as you say. He was younger, too. I wish I could be sure that the man I saw was the Robert Barron Borys spoke of. Let's keep praying and thinking on this Gita. One of us is sure to come up with something more. I can think of several people connected to Borys back then that might remember such a man. Hopefully, they have nothing to hide by this time."
Ula was up with the sunrise. She poured herself some tea and made some toast. She couldn't think of anything but what Robert Barron had to do with Anna's disappearance, if at all. Who of Borys's associations could she talk to that might know something? With her mind in turmoil Ula went to the sun room where she spent time with God every morning. She sat in her aged chair and picked up her Bible. A light rain was pattering against the window. She tried to read the Bible but her mind would not settle. She bowed her head and poured out her heart to her Father in heaven.
"Father, you know where our beloved Anna is. But we don't know. Is she alive, Lord? Gita needs her mama so much. I do too. Father would you reveal the course of action we should take? Would you lead us to her, or lead her to us. Thank you, Lord, that you have everything under control. You have a plan. I trust you, Lord. Sometimes it is so hard to be patient for your timing. It's been thirty years. Surely you want us to be reunited. Give Sasha wisdom. Show him the path to take, guide his steps, and give him wisdom. Thank you. In Christ name I ask. Amen."
Though her prayer was rather jumbled, she felt peace, but also determination. A thought struck her to search the house once again for anything Borys might have left behind to give a lead.
Ula started with his office. It was a tedious search. She started with his file cabinets, which she went through weeks ago to find out if Borys left any provision for her. But she was on a different mission today. One of greater importance in her mind. It took her two hours to get halfway through his files. Much of the paperwork didn't make any sense or seemed irrelevant to the issue at hand. She wiped sweat from her brow and stood up. Her knees were stiff and her eyes were tired. She sat in Borys's large leather chair. She remembered when it was delivered. He'd sat in it with a cigar between his teeth and leaned back. He was so full of ego and pride.
Her eyes searched the room, wondering at all the books and photos (although apparently she didn't qualify as a person important enough to grace his walls or desk). Many of them were of Borys standing with important, prominent people; politicians, wealthy businessmen, many of them she didn't know. Her eyes lit on a tiny framed photo resting on a shelf in front of some books. She went and pulled it off the bookcase and examined it. It was a photo of Borys on the left, Rufin on the right, and a man in between them. She nearly bore a hole into the photo studying it. My goodness, it looked like Robert Barron. The beaming smile and they way his hat sat on his head. The face was a bit fuzzy so she went to Borys's desk and found his magnifying glass. The photo was much clearer. Robert Barron. She tried to make out the background. It looked like Borys's office at work. She couldn't wait to show it to Gita and Sasha. She took the photo out of the frame to see if there was anything written on it. Only the year it was taken - 15 July, 1939. Ula's heart thumped around in her chest. A month before Anna disappeared and the ship departed.
A few moments later she looked up at the book cases to see if there might be any other photos of Barron. Her eyes fell to where she'd just found the small photo with Barron in it. She saw a book protruding out beyond the other books. "I wonder," she said out loud, "if there is something behind that book." She went and pulled the book out and gazed into the slot but it was hard to see with the books on around it were jammed together so tight. She squeezed her hand through the slot but couldn't reach all the way back so she pulled out several books on both sides of the slot to get a better look. In the process she went to move a brass bookend of a whale. It wouldn't lift so she shoved it forward to see if she could loosen. It bent forward on a hinge. As soon as the nose of the whale touched the shelf a small panel slid aside where the book had been. She reached into the open panel and pulled out a bulging, brown package tied with black string. There were some loose photos as well.
Ula's mouth went dry and her heart was raced as she opened the package. Fifteen minutes later she called Sasha, not caring about reversing the charges.
"Sasha, I have something you must see. I don't want Gita to see it just yet. How soon can I see you?"
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