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My Street

By Marcel Drimer

After the war, coming from Drohobycz in December 1945, I lived on Fredry 18 Street in Wałbrzych, Poland.  

Aleksander Fredro had been a Polish playwright. At that time, the street was located between Chopin Place and Gen. Świerczewski Street. General Świerczewski was a Pole who had served in the Red Army in charge of the attack on Poland in September 1939. The street was quiet and quite steep. There was a movie theater very close by, and my high school was within walking distance. The house we lived in was a three-story apartment house. We lived on the first floor in a two-bedroom apartment. 

People living on my street, like my family, had come mostly from the territories that became Ukraine. In the beginning, living there was a bit like a "wild west." My father slept with a gun under his pillow but did not have to use it. Some people who were taken to the Russian Army in 1941 came back with Russian wives. First, we received a very nice apartment on Chopin Place, but it was given to a Russian officer with a family, who had priority, so we had to move. Soon, after the war, my father opened a small grocery store on Swierczewski Street. He bought food from farmers, and Mother baked bread at four o'clock in the morning to sell every day. Cooperatives came and private businesses were liquidated, so this small store had to close.

The people who lived on my street were very nice. One lady, the director of a movie house, was Jewish and needed kosher food. Since there was one kosher store in Wrocław where I was studying at the Polytechnic, I was able to bring it to her. The lady offered me tickets to any movie for free. A dentist living on my street asked me to help prepare her daughter for entrance exams to the university by tutoring her in math and physics, and she bartered her services by putting a "bridge" in my mouth. At another neighbor’s house I met Ania, whom I charmed by giving scooter rides and eventually married. We live happily ever after.

After a few years, my father brought one of the Sawinskis’ sons, Edward, from Drohobycz to Wałbrzych and gave him a job in a meat factory because he felt so thankful to his family for having saved our family. Since Edward needed a place to live, my uncle gave him his apartment and moved into our apartment with his big dog. It was very crowded until my uncle left to live in Wrocław.

I left for the United States in 1961, and my parents and sister went to Israel in 1963. They left Fredry 18 to Edward Sawinski, who needed a bigger place. I was happy to live in just one place for such a long time, without hiding and without fear.


Marcel’s home in Wałbrzych, Poland, taken in 2012. —Courtesy of Marcel Drimer

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