To listen to this post in French, click below
hen my parents started selling stuff in open air markets, Gitta hardly knew a word of French. She didn’t want to go home to Poland in spite of the fact that she had broken her engagement to her fiancé, so her father broke the source of her income as he wanted her to get back home.
But Gitta was quite obstinate and did not want to go home. She was staying with two good friends, Merry and Icko, who sold stuff on open air markets for a living, as times were hard. So she started going with them.
I loved the story of the customer who asked her if the socks she was selling shrank. Her French was inexistent then and she didn’t have a clue what he was asking so she replied
Oui, oui, bien sûr!
and couldn’t understand why the man went away.
I can still hear the laughter in her voice when she told us the story!
How Gitta pronounced French
ears later, her French was really good, with a mild accent and an inimitable way of mispronouncing the u sound in French.
She would say “riflette” for “ruflette”, the tape that you put at the top of curtains, and once she sent me to the store to buy some. Of course, I asked for a metre of “riflette”, the saleswoman didn’t understand what I said and then did I learn that it was called ruflette!
Of course, no one ever took a photo of Gitta in an open air market. So the photo above is one that was taken in Slonim, when my brother was still a baby, and my mother travelled there to show her son to her family. It must have been around 1935, as Félix was born in January 1934.
From left to right, David (my mother’s brother) Félix (her son), Gitta, my mother, Solomon (her younger brother) and Roza (her sister).