Monday, June 27, 2022

1920s - 1940s: The photographs mentioned in _Biscuit_

 Currently, there are three photographs mentioned in Biscuit:

It was a photograph, and it captured her perfectly. Her head was cocked slightly to one side and the top of her short hair was pulled sleekly back from her face, with short loose strands curling around her cheeks. She was wearing a dark dress and the heart pendant he’d given her for her birthday earlier that spring. She was looking up at the photographer with a small, secretive smile. 

My grandmother, Roma Neufeld, 1927 (about).
She was about 15 years old here.

As it turned out, Arthur’s mother didn’t have a photograph he could send to Roma. But Masia arranged for a photographer to take one. Arthur got a haircut from his father’s barber, borrowed a suit, and wore a black bowtie. He thought he looked rather grown up.
My grandfather, Arthur Lubinski, 1927 (about).
He would have been about 17.

Arthur retrieved his camera, and asked to take a picture of Roma, Paul, and Liliane.  They agreed, happily posing, though Roma asked him to frame the picture so that  her belly didn’t show. Arthur snapped several pictures, then put his camera away.

Great-Uncle Paul (Lubinski), Aunt Lilly (with the bow), and Grandma Roma,
Probably taken in December 1945.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

1940s: I have a copies of my manuscript

I ordered six proof copies of my manuscript and they arrived on Wednesday, and all I can say is WOW. It's impossible to describe how exciting it is to hold an actual physical copy of the book I wrote. 

I do wish the "Not for resale" banner was about an inch lower, and didn't go RIGHT THROUGH MY GRANDPARENTS' faces, but it's still really quite sweet.  I put a copy of it on the coffee table, and as I watched TV, I just kept glancing down at and grinning at it.

Four of the copies have been shipped to various beta readers, one was handed to my daughter (she's a beta-reader, too) and the final one is going to my last beta reader when he visits in a few weeks.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

1940s: The Book Title is: "Biscuit"

Ok .... Biscuit.  You might be wondering why I used that as the title. Well, it's simple: "Biscuit" was my grandfather's code name during WWII.  Seemed like the perfect title for a book that is primarily about his experiences during that time.

Two things:

  1. It's not pronounced "BISS-cut" like it would be in English. Rather you should use the French pronunciation, which is "Biss-KWEE."   
  2. In France (and England for that matter), a biscuit isn't a savory quick bread that you slather in gravy. Rather it's a dry dense crispy sweet dessert. So in essence, they called my grandpa "Cookie." (He was the radio operator, and was named after the metal tin his radio was packed in -- the radio itself was commonly nicknamed the "biscuit tin radio" by the Allies.)

It was my husband Chris who came up with the title.  

I had been thinking about calling it "The Maquisard," or "The Armband."  I like calling the French Resistance "the Maquis" and I kind of like calling Maquis members "maquisards" (which is what they were actually called). And I have his actual armband that he was given a few weeks after D-Day hanging on my living room wall.

Anyway, I told my husband the titles I was considering, and he looked thoughtful and said something like, "I dunno... I think maybe you should call the book Biscuit."  And I considered it for about two seconds and knew he was right, and that was that.  

Friday, June 17, 2022

1940s: Well, I have a book cover (sort of)


This is the cover of the manuscript draft

Well, I uploaded the book to Kindle Direct Publishing today. It's saved as "draft" so it won't go for sale, but it did allow me to order 5 proof copies (grrr... I need 6), for $5 each.  That's unbelievably inexpensive. Printing it through Barnes and Noble would have been $9 per copy. Lulu was going to cost $16.    Office Max would have cost (gulp) $40.  The latter two would have allowed me to have it spiral-bound which would have been nifty (and easier for beta-readers to mark up), but it wasn't worth $11 per copy, so it's being bound like a regular paperback book. It's also big, 8.5 x 11", and 342 pages (171 sheets).

Because I was trying to make it as inexpensive as I could to print, I didn't start each chapter on a new page ... there's just a triple-line-break between the end of the chapter, and the numeral that heads the next chapter. So that means I have a lot of "widows" and "orphans" and stranded chapter headings and stuff like that. Definitely not formatted nicely for printing, but that's OK for a galley proof for my beta-readers.

I also had some fun with the cover. It's been 20 years since I used Photoshop regularly, and I was REALLY out of practice, both with graphic design, and using the software. But I had some fun with it, and the lack of professional artwork is OK for an early draft of the book.

Here are the original pictures of my grandparents: The pictures of Roma Neufeld and Arthur Lubinski and were taken in the late 1920s, when they were still teenagers, well before they got married, in 1935. For the cover, I was trying to make them look like they were standing together, but the photos were very likely taken in different countries. The photo of my grandmother was probably taken in Poland, and the one of my grandfather was taken in Brussels, Belgium.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

1944: My grandfather's FFI papers

 My aunt (thank you!!) found a treasure trove - a bunch of papers and letters and documents all concerning my grandfather's time in WWII.  

This is the first:  His FFI (French Forces of the Interior) ID cards that show that he volunteered for and fought in the French resistance during WWII. This is the equivalent of a military ID.

Front of FFI ID

Back of FFI ID

Friday, May 13, 2022

Spring 1940: So ... who was "Foch's Pupil"?

My grandfather wrote in his Journal 1940 about what he saw on May 11, 1940 (the day after the Nazis began their invasion of western Europe). 

A few things of note: 

  1. I preserved his British spelling and occasionally incorrect verb tenses. (He wrote this journal to practice his English, which he was still learning. I'm still in awe of how clear and well-written it was, for someone who was writing in a foreign language).
  2. I corrected his capitalization
  3. I used American-style quotation marks.
  4. I used hyperlinks to provide extra info for what are probably unfamiliar terms for most Americans.

     In the first important street near the maternity I saw a big crowd. Something happened on the pavement. A noise of many cars, motor-cycles and trucks could be heard. Setting myself on tiptoe I understood at once the matter. The British motorised infantry hurried to the front. The soldiers weared an uniform unknown to me. A very plate helmet on the top, short trousers and a shirt with large pockets in the front. They were all very young and merry. 

Gurkha Shorts

     The crowd was happy to see them coming so speedy to the rescue of Belgium. Men shrieked (shouted!), waving their hats. Women and girls send kisses and throwed flowers. The Englishmen replied showing the thumbs of their right hands directed down, which meaned, I suppose: "We shall show the Germans what we are!" The Crowd was obviously optimistic. In the Rue de la Loi where were the ministries I noticed three high French officers. I remember quite well the oldest of them. He had gray hair, big, lively eyes, seemed thoughtful but quiet. A man of the street trusted him. He was perhaps Foch’s pupil, or another great chiefs, winners of Verdun or Chemin des Dames, makers of the victory of 1918.

So, does anyone know who [Ferdinand] "Foch's pupil" was?  Was there anyone in particular who that might have been? A friend pointed out that my grandfather probably didn't know who the man was, and was speculating, and he may be right. But that doesn't mean there wasn't someone who was known by that or perhaps "L'élève de Foch." 

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Summer 1937: Discovering My Grandparents Delayed Their Honeymoon

 So, my grandparents got married in 1935. In 1988, Grandpa told me:

And then, I forgot when it was, a year later, we got married. Married in ‘35. In January of ‘35.

Somewhere along the way, my aunt told me it was January 12th, and that they eloped to the Brussels Town Hall, a building built in the 1400s:

Brussels Hôtel de Ville/Stradhuis 

Later, a historian in Belgium initiated a search for my grandparents in the Brussels city archives, and she was able to corroborate their wedding date: January 12, 1935.

Now, here's the detail we discovered that caught us by surprise: My grandparents evidently delayed their honeymoon for 2 1/2 years.   We think they went to the seashore (So when I was writing that chapter, I simply decided they went on holiday in Ostend).  They never told their daughters or me that they didn't take their honeymoon until the summer of 1937, but I'm virtually certain that that's what happened.

The one thing they DID tell us about it was that Grandpa read a biography of Marie Curie out loud to Grandma while they were on their honeymoon.   We think the biography in question was Madam Curie by Éve Curie because: 

  1. My family is pretty sure that that was the book based on memories of family stories.
  2. My grandfather nicknamed my grandmother "Ciupcia" (pronounced "choop-chah"), something he was inspired to do by the book he read to her on their honeymoon. The book described Marie's nickname, and was something that sounded a little like "anchupichu" (it's Polish). And that book has the following quote:

‘Manyusya’ a name of affection, and ‘Anciupecio’ a comic nickname dating from her earliest infancy. ‘My Anciupecio, how mussed your hair is! And how red you are!’”

That feels like very strong evidence that Éve's Madame Curie was indeed the book they read on their honeymoon.  And that book wasn't published until the summer of 1937 (simultaneously in France, Britain, Italy, Spain, the United States), two-and-a-half years after my grandparents got married. I looked for earlier books published about her but didn't find any (it doesn't mean there weren't any, just that I didn't find any -- it's hard to do searches in foreign languages).

I have no actual knowledge about why they delayed their honeymoon for that long, but I do have a guess: they wanted to wait until they had the money to take real honeymoon. Grandpa graduated from college in 1934, just six months before they got married, and would have been just starting out as an engineer. Grandma didn't graduate until early summer of 1935, six or so months after they got married. Waiting two years meant they had time to establish themselves a little, and save up some money for a nice holiday by the sea.