Lori has been writing fiction since she first caught the writing bug at age nine.
Note of correction
I want to correct an error I made in Part 13. The name of the ocean liner SS Czar was renamed the SS Pulaski. The name of the ship was renamed several times, sorry for the confusion.
- Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl: Part 14
Anna Wronski and daughter Gita are separated by continent in 1939 under mysterious circumstances. In her old age, Anna still searches for six year old Gita.
- Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl: Part 13
Anna Wronski and daughter Gita are separated by continent in 1939 under mysterious circumstances. In her old age, Anna still searches for six year old Gita.
It's important to note that this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.”
Sasha Plans a Trip to Warsaw
Sasha was back in Kraków two days after Ula had contacted him. He sat at his desk wondering what his next move should be. He decided when Ula Kowalski called he would make some sort of arrangements to show her the photo copy he had of the manifest of the SS Pulaski to see if she recognized any of the names. He also wanted to ask about Borys' long time associations. People he'd dealt with for years. He hoped she might have remembered Robert Barron. As he was finishing up his first cup of coffee his phone rang. "Detective Mazur," he said.
"Hello Sasha. It's Ula Kowalski."
"Yes, Mrs. Kowalski. It's nice to hear from you."
"Please, call me Ula. Listen, Gita and I talked and we both remember Robert Barron."
"Really. That's great. Tell me more."
"Well Gita remembers him coming to the house when she was a child with Borys and Rufin. When she described him to me I remembered him right away. Borys also brought him to our house on a few occasions. If I remember correctly, he was an investment banker."
"An investment banker you say? I don't suppose you know what kind of business dealings he had with Borys?"
"I'm not sure. I found an old bundle of papers and photographs Borys hid behind his bookcase that I am sure can be of help. I don't think I can get away to bring it to you. Is there any possibility you can come here?"
"I can. Give me a day to make arrangements. It also will give me a chance to see my mother."
"That's wonderful. I'm sure it will all work out. Call me when you get in."
Two days later Sasha made the trip to Warsaw. He felt it best to stay in the city. Ula and Gita and his mother lived in a small town twenty five miles away and the people he might be interviewing would likely all be in the city anyway. He called Ula and let her know he had arrived. She promised to notify Gita. They made an appointment for the next day. They would meet at a restaurant in Old Town at eleven o' clock.
Sasha asked the waitress for a secluded table. She raised an eyebrow when she saw the difference in their ages. Ula was almost old enough to be his mother. Only lovers and businessmen asked for secluded tables. Sasha caught it and frowned at her. She led them to an intimate booth by a window in the back. He and Ula made the perfunctory small talk, and he asked why Gita hadn't come.
"Gita works you know. She's a secretary for a real estate company. She's not too fond of it, but she needs the income. She was so disappointed she couldn't come."
"Oh yes, I remember her telling me about her job. It's unfortunate she couldn't make it but I'm glad she has a job. I'll get a hold of her tonight." They gave their order to the waitress, who poured their water and coffee and went to place their orders. "Before we get to your business, Ula, I want you to go over this copy of the SS Pulaski manifest and see if you recognize any names. If you don't catch anything now, I'll send it with you to look at when you get home."
Ula looked down the list. Nothing stuck out to her but it was a cursory look. She went down it once more a little more slowly. "I think it would be easier if I took this home and divided the names to male and female. It will be easier to focus. Are you wanting me to look for a woman or a man or both?"
"Both, I guess," he said. "But perhaps a more careful look at the women. Check all classes from steerage on up. Now, what do you have for me, Ula?"
Ula took out the bundle tied with string and the couple of loose photos and handed them to him. The bundle was fat and bulging. It would take some time to go through it all. "I will look through this carefully at the hotel, Ula. But can you give me a brief account of what's in here?"
"Yes, of course. First of all, there are two newspaper articles. The first is about an attorney named Oskar Klebek who was the lawyer of Karol Lonski, a government official back then. The article says that Oskar Klebek was found floating in the Vistula river. This was shortly before Anna disappeared so it could be a clue. At that time Borys was a top attorney at a prestigious law firm making a lot of money and was very successful; but he had aspirations to get involved in politics. I remember him talking about Karol Lonski, coveting his office, determining he'd get it one way or another.
"Borys has notes about Klebek and Lonski that you can read and see if you can fill in some blanks. To tell you the truth, I didn't look at the paperwork that closely. It was too overwhelming. There is so much to look at. I'm an intelligent, capable woman, but investigating isn't where my strengths lie and strongly suspecting Borys was involved somehow with Anna's disappearance leaves me full of dread."
"My goodness, Ula, you do not have to prove your intelligence and capabilities to me. You radiate those qualities. There is an emotional factor in this investigation for all of us."
"Thank you Sasha. You are a sweet man. There's also an article and some notes about a journalist who was also found dead. I can't remember his name but you'll see it. There are photos too and you can see who they are by looking on the back. One of them has your father, Sasha, and Borys and Rufin. Sasha's stomach clenched. "Oh, I almost forgot." Ula reached into her handbag and pulled out the photo of Robert Barron, Borys and Rufin. "Here, this is the photo of Robert Barron, in the middle. There's also a photo of them with Karol Lonski."
Sasha examined the photo with Barron in it. It was a bit blury. He'd look at it more closely later. He changed the subject. "Tell me, Ula, what was Rufin doing back then?"
He was an adjunct for Borys when he worked at the law firm. Technically, in the beginning, his job was doing grunt work, acting as a courier, filing, those kinds of things. His role grew upward and his responsibilities as well. It was a respected position. Truth be told, Sasha, over the years Rufin did Borys' dirty work, not only at the law firm, but also during the years Borys was in office. Then Rufin's title was Undersecretary to Borys."
"My father was mentioned in these papers you say?" He said it with dread in his gut.
"Well, yes. He and Borys had a lot of dealings together but I don't know what. Borys rarely shared business with me. I'm sorry Sasha. I know your pain."
"Oh no. Don't worry. I know my father has gotten involved in a lot of corrupt activities over the years. I know what he's capable of."
Ula saw a flicker of pain in his eyes and looked at him sympathetically. Just then their lunch came. While they ate they talked about dear Gita. Ula asked a lot of questions about his friendship with her when they were children. Time got away from them as they shared their memories. Ula looked at her watch.
"Oh, goodness. I'm supposed to go pick Gita up from work in an hour, then take her to pick up her car where it's being repaired. I am her chauffeur today. But before I go, I just want to say I think possibly Mr. Barron may have financed Anna's disappearance, or been involved some other way, financially speaking. The timing in the newspaper articles and the people they're about are suspect to me. Listen, I have to go. Thanks for lunch." She grabbed her handbag and stood up. Sasha stood and buttoned his coat. "Tell Gita I'll call her tonight or tomorrow.'
"I'll do that, Sasha. Thank you."
Kowalski, Mazur, and Lonski
Sasha tossed the bundle Ula gave him onto the little hotel desk. He was tired and wanted to take a shower and a walk before he got started. He began to strip off his shirt when a loose photo on the desk caught his eye. He stared at it a long time. It was a photo of three men. On the right was his father, Jakub Mazur. He turned over the photo. Scrawled on the back was "Bory Kowalski, Karol Lonski, and Jakub Mazur, February 1939." His father had that relaxed, confident, hint of a smile Sasha knew so well. Sasha could just hear his father's thoughts. 'I've got this under control. I'm going to win. I'm going to relax and enjoy the ride.' Borys was a little more stiff and serious. His very slight angle toward Lonski seemed to indicate perhaps that he had watch on Lonski's other side. Lonski was hard to read, he didn't look too happy. Sasha sighed, his stomach unsettled. "Not now," he said aloud to his nervous belly. "I need to relax before I jump into this mess." He skipped the shower to save time and went for a walk instead. He got three blocks from his hotel when he realized he could think of nothing else but the bundle waiting for him, and the photo burnt into his mind. It was time. He turned around and went back to his hotel.
Wrestling with God
Sasha studied the photos and the newspaper articles. The first one was about Oskar Klebek. It was dated Tuesday, June 6, 1939. The headline read,
BODY FOUND FLOATING IN THE VISTULA RIVER
Early this morning Oskar Klebek, personal attorney to General Sejm envoy Karol Lonski, was found floating in the Vistula river. Klebek's wife Clara Klebek reported him missing three days ago. "He went to work as usual, nothing seemed to be out of order, but he never returned home and he never called."
An autopsy will be performed to determine exact cause of death. Officer Thomacz Kalinowski gave a statement on the scene. "Foul play is suspected in the death of Mr. Klebek and we have already begun an investigation, but the autopsy should be very helpful in determining the actual cause of death. We are also looking for witnesses. If anyone has any information at all, please contact Warsaw police."
Sasha picked up the other news article. It was dated August 1, 1939.
JOURNALIST FOUND DEAD in ABANDONED WAREHOUSE
Acclaimed investigative journalist Sebastian Koslow was found dead in an empty warehouse in the industrial district of Warsaw this morning by a group of teenage boys. The boys saw a door slightly ajar and entered the warehouse to look around. They found Koslow's body under a stair case. The teenagers were arrested for trespassing.
"There doesn't seem to be any physical evidence of violence or struggle," said police spokesman Piotr Dubinski. "The coroner will be performing an autopsy to find cause of death." Foul play is suspected due to the location of Koslow's body. "The warehouse has been locked and abandoned for five years," Dubinski said. When asked if he thought there was any connection between Koslow's death and the Klebek murder he answered, "It's too early to even consider that. We will keep the public informed as the investigation proceeds."
Mr. Klebek was found dead in the Vistula river back in June. The autopsy report revealed Klebek's death was due to blunt force to the skull, then his body was thrown into the river. Police investigators have not yet found any suspects or witnesses to the Klebek case.
Sasha made a note go back over the newspaper reports of both investigatios. A trip to the library was a good place to start. He could probably find what he wanted on the micro film. He would try to talk to detectives who might still have records on the cases.
Sasha called room service and ordered a sandwich and spent the next four hours going through Borys' paperwork. At midnight he took off his glasses, pinched the bridge of his nose, and ran his hand through his hair. What he'd read of Borys' big bundle so far had revealed a growing web of treachery and intrigue. The hints that his father may have been a ring leader in the death of Klebek and possibly Koslow, sickened him. The nagging question was, was Anna Wronski's disappearance in any way connected. It never got easier for Sasha hearing about his father's corrupt and cruel dealings. The fact that he may have been involved in some way in the murder of Borys Kowalski, Ula's husband. But authorities were investigating. Rage raced like a locomotive through his mind. He got up and headed to the shower, hoping to refresh himself and ease his angst. He needed a clear head to plot his next steps in the investigation.
The water pressure was dreadful. The hot water pelted his back like sharp needles, stabbing every cell. "I've got to pull it together," he told himself. "I have to try to be objective. I promised Gita I would find her mother. I can't let her down." But he cursed his father and couldn't work any further that night. He put on his pajamas, fell to the floor next to the bed and cried out to God.
"God, this rage at my father is so powerful. It stains me and separates me from You. It weights me down and hate that I just can't free myself from it. It robs me of peace, it robs me of objectivity, it robs me of all that is good. My father doesn't deserve forgiveness. I don't know that I ever can forgive him. I know it's what you want, and that you've forgiven me. I can only ask you to make me willing. Help me to find Gita's mother and keep my promise to her."
Through the night he wrestled with God. At five a.m. he finally fell into a deep sleep. God had blessed him with freedom.
Ula and Gita laid the SS Pulaski manifest on Gita's dining room table and perused it carefully. They began with women's names. Four times they went through them, their eyes and spirits tiring. Just as they were getting ready to break for an early dinner, a name popped out at Ula. "Zofia Lupa. That sounds vaugley familiar."
"Zophia," Gita said. "My maternal grandmother's name was Zophia."
"Oh, I remember. Your mother's maiden name was Krol. That's the wrong last name."
They sat in silence, befuddled for a brief moment, then their cogwheels resumed their turning.
"What about grandmother Zophia's maiden name. You wouldn't happen to remember it would you Aunt Ula?"
"No, I don't remember ever hearing it. But maybe if we go through all those photos I gave you we can find something."
The thought of going through the old photos lit a spark of excitement in Gita. She could not get enough of seeing photos of her mother and learn more of her mother's heritage. She hadn't had much time to go through them thoroughly. There were so many. "I could probably spend days looking at them and never tire. Let's eat quickly, Aunt Ula, just sandwiches."
Ula smiled at Gita's giddiness. It would indeed be fun looking through the photos. "All right, sandwiches it is. Let's get started."
Gita only ate half a sandwich. She was too eager to get on with the photos. "Aunt Ula, do you think you could eat faster?"
"Tell you what little pearl, go get the photos and I'll eat while we look at them."
Gita put a hand on her hip. "Fine, Aunt Ula, but make sure you don't drip mustard on them. I'll never forgive you."
"I don't have mustard, silly. You go through the photos and I'll watch until I'm finished."
"All right. I'll go get them. Theyr'e in my top drawer with my undergarments." Ula lifted her brows.
"With your undergarments, Gita? That's an odd drawer to pick."
"Not really, Aunt Ula. Women's undergarment drawers are special, intimate, and less likely to be rifled through."
Ula broke out laughing. "Oh my Gita, you are so funny. Hurry then, go get them...the photos, not your undergarments."
"Ha ha. You are funny too Aunt Ula." Gita almost knocked over a lamp running to her room. "Here they are," she said, sitting on the living room floor. She patted the floor. "Come sit here."
Ula obeyed. It was a long evening. Gita asked so many questions about her mother, and Ula spent a lot of time reminiscing. They were about to call it a night when Gita held up a photo of a woman that might be her maternal grandmother. After her mother disappeared, she did not get to see her grandparents but a few times. Rufin would not have it. "This is my grandmother, I think Aunt Ula." She turned over the photo. Ula leaned in over her shoulder to look.
"Zophia Lupa Krol 1921," it said. Underneath, in Anna's handwriting it said "My beautiful Mama on Easter."
"The thing is," said Gita, my grandmother did not go on a ship at that time. I don't think she's ever been out of Poland."
"It looks like your mother sailed on that ship under her mother's name."
Tears stung Gita's eyes. It seemed that her mother was deliberately being deceptive. She pushed the thought that flitted through her mind away. No, she would never believe her mother deliberately abandoned her. Ula read Gita's face. She put her hand over Gita's.
"You musn't entertain that idea, Gita. Your mother would never have left you on her own. We'll get this figured out in time."
What was the Sejm?
Who's Who in the Polish Story
Major Characters in Poland
Anna Wronski - Mother of Gita, wife of Rufin Wronski, mysterious disappearance 1939, lives in Pacific Northwest, USA.
Gita Wronski - Polish daughter of Anna and Rufin Wronski. Childhood friend of Sasha Mazur.
Rufin Wronski - Polish. Husband to Anna Wronski, father to Gita, Borys Kowalski's right hand man.
Ula Kowalski - Polish. Wife of Borys Kowalski, godmother to Gita Wronski.
Borys Kowalski - Polish. Corrupt politician; godfather to Gita, husband of Ula.
Sasha Mazur - Polish. Former childhood friend of Gita Wronski. Private Investigator. Son of Judge Jakub Mazur.
Minor Characters in Poland
Jakub Mazur - Polish. Father of Sasha Mazur, corrupt dangerous judge.
Karol Lonski - Polish. Government official 1939.
Oskar Klebeck - Polish. Personal attorney to government official Karol Lonski, Found dead in the Vistula riv1939.er.
Sebastian Koslow - Polish. Acclaimed Polish Journalist.found dead in an abandoned warehouse, 1939.
Robert Barron - American investment banker, business dealings with Borys Kowalski.
© 2018 Lori Colbo