My grandfather left Poland to work in France in 1927 and never returned. My father was six years old when he saw his father for the last time. The trauma of separation at such a young age resulted in my father becoming a very serious, responsible young man but filled with sadness and longing for his father.
My book “Shades of Betrayal” starts with a depiction of the final hours of the son and father’s interaction before Joseph’s departure to France.
Monday, August 15, 1927, was the Assumption of Mary holiday in
Poland, popularly known as the Feast of Our Lady of Herbs. The
holiday celebrations that started on Sunday, continued through Monday,
reaching the culmination point during the noon Mass in all churches
across the country.
Teddy Novak, together with his parents and two-year-old sister Ania,
took part in the festivities in the town square, but nothing could make him
happy on that day, not even the cotton candy his father bought for him
and Ania. He loved this treat, but the taste of it was bitter mixed with the
tears that he tried to conceal from his father.
It was his sixth birthday and he’d anticipated it to be an affirmation of
his maturity and moving from his child years into becoming a pupil at a
local primary school. Instead, his father was leaving him and the family
to go to France. Teddy decided that he would never celebrate the Day
of Assumption again; it would always be a reminder of the saddest day
At the end of the day, the family sat at the table to share supper
together. With a fork, Teddy pushed his food on the plate, unable to eat,
his headache growing with every word spoken by his father.
He looked at his mother pleadingly, desperately avoiding his father’s
eyes. “Can I go to bed?”
“Ania, it is time for you to go to bed too.” Mother hugged Ania and
Teddy disappeared behind a curtain separating the kitchen from the
He could not sleep and the quiet conversation between his parents was
like a heavy weight pressing on his head. All he could think about was
life after his father was gone. His thoughts were dark and the anger at his
father was growing in his heart.
“Why can’t he work in Poland? What will happen to us?” Teddy whispered,
but then he stopped before anyone could take notice.
The breakfast of eggs, bread, and coffee was more cheerful than the
supper; only Teddy sat at the table stone-faced, trying to hide his emotions.
Joseph hugged his wife and daughter but his most meaningful words
this morning were for his son. “Teddy, you’re the head of the family until
I come back. Take care of your mother and sister.” He put his arm around
“I’m not Teddy anymore. I’m Ted,” the boy said defiantly with his eyes
fixed on the ground.
The picture below is of my grandfather that was taken soon after he arrived in Thionville, France.
The picture of my father was taken when he was sixteen years old and played in a school band.