37 – Two meetings at Esplanada



We don’t know what Inga Witkowska was doing. We only know she came from German Jews, who stayed in Poznan after the world war. She had no father and lived with her mother at the Nowomiejski Square (today the Cyryla Ratajskiego Square). She belonged to a group of young Poznan Jews, who met at the Hirschlik’s cafe. There are several pictures of her in Fira’s albums, taken in the streets of Poznan and in the area of Municipal River Baths in Poznan. The latter ones are noteworthy as they show Fira and Inga on a large metal slide, installed at the river around 1937-1938, which hasn’t been seen in any other photos by now.

Inga played an important part in a story of Fira’s relationship with Gebhard Bulow, a Polish second lieutenant from the sappers’ squadron of Wielkopolska Cavalry Brigade. Bulow got interested in Miss Melamedzon when he first saw her in the Palaise de Dance restaurant. Inga, acquainted by Fira with her story with the Polish officer, met Bulow and tried to explain him that their relationship would not have a happy ending.

A shorten version of a story telling why Fira didn’t eventually meet Gebhard Bulow is placed in the book. Firstly, Fira, urged by Bulow, agreed to meet him  on the corner of Ratajczaka and 27 Grudnia Streets, under the clock hanging on the Arcadia building. However, she was full of conflicting emotions, such as curiosity and fear. Finally, she made up a trick which let her come to the appointment and avoid it at the same time.


Why did I agree to meet Gebhard? I was curious whether he, a Polish officer, didn’t mind dating a non-catholic and non-Polish girl. He insisted on our meeting but he wasn’t pushy, so I decided to try to explain him that our relationship was not a good idea.

We made an appointment by phone. We were to meet in four days, at 7 p.m. under the clock on the Esplanada*. While waiting for the meeting I was full of doubts. I even examined Tatuliński. He confessed that he would be ashamed if I met with a Polish officer, but he was discreet and didn’t ask me any questions. He trusted me and let me make the final decision.

Uncle Jonas Lew, aunt Lili’s husband, helped me. On the third day he unexpectedly arrived in Poznan because of some business. Any time he was in Poznan he visited us. He said that next day he had a meeting at 7 p.m. by a petrol station behind the Esplanada. He was to meet some customer from a small town, who wanted to pay for the goods. Uncle Jonas suggested that I went with him. – I don’t like to wait for him alone. I will do my business quickly and we will go to a café – he insisted. The petrol station was very near the clock, under which Bulow was to wait also at 7. „Great!”, I thought ironically. „Two appointments at the time, at the same place. What should I do?”

And then I thought that I could take advantage of this situation. I will come before seven and wait for both of them. When Gebhard appears first, I will come up to him and say that I am sorry but I can’t meet with him as it happened that I am not alone. Uncle Jonas will be busy with his customer and may take no notice of the Polish officer. The clock was slightly behind the corner. Even if he notices me talking to a man , he may think he is a stranger. Though my plan seemed to be perfect, it failed. The uncle and Bulow came earlier and waited for me, standing almost next to each other. They didn’t notice me as I walked among many people. I saw them and stopped. I didn’t know what to do next. One of them could notice me at any moment. I hesitated. Finally I turned back and went home. I chickened out, but I didn’t find the way out. I made up some excuse for my uncle, but Gebhard didn’t know where to find me. I was sorry as he probably thought that I broke a given promise.

Next time I saw Bulow a few months later, probably in August. It was some holiday and there was a parade on the Freedom Square. I went by and stopped for a while to see the cavaliers. Then, I saw him. He was riding a horse next to another cavalier, a few meters in front of me. He also saw me. He  made a movement as if he wanted to salute me, but he only pulled the reins. Maybe he was not allowed. He smiled and didn’t take his eyes off me until he rode away. His well-trained horse went elegantly and calmly.


* Esplanada is the former name, coming from the annexation times and popular in the interwar period, of a big restaurant located on the ground floor of the former Municipal Theatre at the Freedom Square, called later „Arkadia”.