Gdańsk- a Girl with Great Dreams (1560)

Chapter 1

‘Adela! Adela’
The girl jumped to her feet and ran down the corridor. She came downstairs to her father walking around the room. He raised his eyes at Adela with irritation.
‘Why aren’t you responding when I call you!? You can’t spend your whole time with your nose in some books! You have to go to people. Otherwise, you will completely lose any touch with reality!’
The girl knew that her father didn’t like it when she spent too much time immersed in books. He would prefer her running outside and playing with her peers. Adela though, for days explored the secrets of the human body. She was fascinated by it.
‘You have to do something for me’ her father said. You could hear, by the tone of his voice, that issue was crucial to him. ‘I have to take care of something today….
Something very important for my other client. Elsewise, I wouldn’t have asked you to do it, but….. you understand. Here you have a pouch with the right amount of money. You have to deliver it to Mr. Friedman. I was supposed to meet with him today, but I won’t make it on time. He lives on Święty Duch Street, it’s nearby.’
Adela, her father Constantin and brother Conrad, lived on Chlebnicka Street. The Schmitt’s family tenement was quite small. It was salmon-coloured and had decorative window sills. Next to the stairs there were two gargoyles with a dragon’s head. When Adela was younger she feared that the gargoyles were going to come to
life and attack her. Lucky for her, that never happened, but she still feels a sense of discomfort when passing by them. The stairs which lead to the entrance were very fancy, made out of light sandstone. The façade itself was decorated with numerous reliefs . The family’s tenement differed from others thanks to its dignified look.
Adela’s father traded grain. He wasn’t at home a lot, but he did everything he could so that the girl and her brother didn’t lack anything.
‘Adela, please, concentrate’ said her father, clearly worried.
‘Bring this money straight to Mr. Friedman. Do not wander around, please. It is very important to me.’ her father looked at Adela with concern. The girl knew she couldn’t disappoint him this time. She was only 13 years old, but she could be mature and serious.
‘Alright father. Straight to Mr. Friedman.’
She took the pouch and left the house. She came onto a pretty busy street for this time of the day. There was something else that fascinated her just as much as the human body. That was Gdańsk. Its streets, shops, tenements. Every single thing in this city was somewhat…..magical.
Turning left, Adela came onto Dziana Street. Here was where the vet Stargard lived.
The girl walked one hundred metres and saw light in the vet’s office. She came closer. Looking inside, she didn’t see much through the crown glass, which distorted the image. In the middle, there was something spread out, in the shape of a camp bed and on top of it a little calf.
The scene was lit by candles, the girl couldn’t believe that what she was looking at was real. It looked as though it was from one of her many books about magic and supernatural events. After a brief moment, she realised she was looking at….. a surgery! Adela couldn’t contain her excitement. She was standing outside, staring at a doctor, who, by the sweat of his brow, was trying to save the animal. You could see that the situation was tough. All around the bed lay multiple rags soaked with blood.
The sight of blood never feared Adela, she was somehow resistant to it. The girl completely lost track of time. The hour she spent in front of the office window flew by like it was only five minutes. Suddenly, she heard a voice coming from behind her back.
‘Adela? Is that you’

Chapter 2

‘Adela?’ The voice got closer, and somebody caught her hand. She turned back absent-mindedly as she was snapped out of a trance. That was her younger brother Conrad. Adela loved her brother so much; despite the fact that he often irritated the girl. Small Conrad looked up to his sister and he wanted to be with her all the time. She was his role model, he admired her. Usually, Adela didn’t mind the presence of a younger sibling, however in this type of situation she was annoyed about the lack of privacy.
‘Conrad, what are you doing here?!’ She asked frantically.
‘Dad said that you had gone to Mr Friedman. I wanted to join you.’
And then she realised that she forgot about the little sack, which she had in her pocket. ‘Oh no!’ she thought ‘Dad will be very angry.’
The Sun went down and the dusk fell. Adela knew that today she couldn’t manage to visit Mr Friedman. She decided to come back home. She took her little brother’s hand and together they started walking. When they arrived, their father was talking with someone in front of the entrance. ‘It’s probably his new client,’ she
‘I’m not joking, Constantin! That’s the second case this week. People say that it had been brought by the Jewish. I would finally expel them and...’
‘Oh, stop it,’ the father said, ‘you won’t be expelling anyone. We still don’t know if this disease isn’t caused by the permissiveness of our residents. We can’t accuse anyone now.’
‘All right... It’s high time I went home. It’s getting dark.’ The anonymous man walked away down the street.
‘Oh, you are back,’ the father said, ‘did you give the sack to Mr Friedman?’
‘Actually, on the way...’ Adela’s voice hung up; she tried not to burst into tears.
‘No, I can’t believe that. You did it again! I can’t trust you in anything! You deceived me.’
Adela had tears in her eyes, she tried not to cry. The girl ran into her room and slammed the door so strongly that the walls trembled. Her father wasn’t disappointed, he was furious, and she knew about that. She opened a wardrobe and took out a big leather travel bag, which her dad had brought from one of his journeys. The girl looked at the baggage for some time, while tears were running down her cheeks. She wiped them away.

‘I have to run away. As fast as possible,’ she thought.

Chapter 3

Adela packed her essentials in a hurry, closed her bag and sat on the bed. Once everything was taken care of, she just needed to leave the house unnoticed. She looked out of the window, upon further examination, it seemed that sliding down the drainpipe was the only way of getting out of here. She knew that it was dangerous. If she fell down, she would surely break both her arms and legs. That is why she had to be careful. Adela hung her bag over her shoulder and opened the window. She stood on the window sill and reached out
for the gutter. She gripped it tightly. Now all she had to do was tie her legs around and safely slide down. She held her breath and jumped. Suddenly, her left leg slipped and the girl quickly fell down. A moment later she was on the ground. After shaking off the shock, Adela headed towards the port. It was completely dark in
Gdańsk. The streets were empty and the only people you could meet were beggars. The girl was always a little afraid of them, even though they didn’t look threatening at all. She walked briskly past them and turned onto the promenade along Motława River. Gdańsk at night was truly beautiful. Adela has lived here since she was born, but seeing her beloved city in the darkness was always taking her breath away. She turned towards Granary Island and was already approaching the harbour. When she got there, she saw a large ship with the glowing candle on it. She knew this ship looked familiar to her. She just felt it in her guts.
‘I have to get there,’ she thought.
She stepped onto the footbridge that connected the ship to the mainland and in a moment she was standing on the deck. The ship was larger than the other ones in the harbour. In spite of the fact that Adela was the daughter of a merchant, she never sailed on a ship, especially that large. She felt fear tighten her throat.
‘Do I really want to run away from home?’ she began to question her motives for leaving the house in the first place. ‘Well, it’s too late now, I can’t go back.’
Adela looked around the deck. There were old rags and large wooden barrels everywhere.
‘This is it!’ she proudly shouted to herself. ‘I need to hide in one of those barrels.’
Then she decided to hide in one of the barrels below the deck. She took her small bag under her arm and stepped into the barrel. She fit in it easily because despite her age, she was still quite a small girl. She covered the barrel with a lid, but didn’t close it completely so that she could get some fresh air. It was that moment when she realised that she had no food for the journey. But she didn’t have time to think about it because she was too tired for anything. She closed her eyes and fell asleep quickly.

Chapter 4

Adela opened her eyes. She didn’t know how long she had slept and where she was. She only felt her moving slightly side to side. The ship was already in the open sea and headed for its destination, but Adela wasn’t aware of it. The girl didn’t understand what was happening, but it made her feel sick. She started breathing
through her nose. She undrew the barrel’s lid to see what was going on the deck. There weren't any clouds in the sky and the Sun was shining brightly. She saw two men moving barrels filling in a huge pile with difficulty. Suddenly, a boy in Adela’s age stuck out of the barrels. He was walking on the deck with a pleased facial expression and watching working men with fascination. Adela couldn’t take her eyes off him. The tall, blond-haired boy caught her attention so much that she no longer felt the rocking causing nausea. She really wanted to come out of her hideaway and get to know him, but she felt that it wasn't the best idea. So she stayed in the barrel and felt her stomach shrank with hunger. Adela had packed a few pieces of bread wrapped in a handkerchief into her bag and now it was time to eat it. While eating in peace, with the gentle rocking of the waves to which she had become accustomed, she began to think about what was awaiting her now. Where was the ship going?
How would she cope in a new place, not knowing anyone? She didn’t know that and felt an inner anxiety. She started thinking about her family, her father and brother. Did they know about her disappearance? Were they looking for her? What were they feeling? Intrusive thoughts took over her head to such an extent that she couldn't hold back the tears any longer. Adela started crying. She thought it wasn’t audible, but the blonde paid attention to her silent sobs. It took him a while to find out where the sound was coming from. When he was almost sure, he opened the lid of one of the barrels. The boy saw a curled up girl with two brown plaits inside. She was very frightened. If she could run away, she would do that.
‘Hi. I’m Hans. Did something happen? Can I help you? By the way, what are you doing in this bar…’
‘Shh. Please stop talking so loud,’ said Adela. She was terrified but now also concerned that someone would notice her, but deep down in her heart, the girl was glad that she could talk to the boy. ‘Hans, what a beautiful name,’ she thought. During a conversation with a stranger, she introduced herself and briefly told him
how she got on the ship.

‘You really surprised me. I have never met anybody who ran away just like that.’ Adela felt her blood pressure rise.
‘Just like that!? Do you really think it's nothing? Was that a trivial reason to run away!?’
‘Sorry, I mean…’ Hans got confused.
‘You don’t know my father nor our relationship. He never appreciates me, he only sees my flaws and blames me all the time! As though I killed my mom at all…’
‘I’m really sorry, You’re right. I don’t know you or your father and I cannot question your decisions.’
‘Thank you’ said Adela with a little smile on her face.
‘Please bring me something to drink, anyway I’m going to die of thirst!’
‘Of course’ said Hans and turned to leave.
‘Hans, I have a request.’
‘Yes?’ the boy stopped.
‘Don’t tell anyone about me, please. I won’t have problems and cause them for the crew.’
‘As you wish… I won’t tell anybody, but I'm sure the captain will find out anyway, and then he'll be sure to notify the ship's owner, Mr Schmidt.’ Adela couldn’t believe it. She blushed sharply.
‘Who!?’ She asked.
‘Mr Schmidt. The ship belongs to him. Thanks to him I am here.’ Adela couldn't recover from the shock. That was the moment she realised she was going to have problems. Huge problems.

Chapter 5

It took the girl a long time to absorb the information she heard from Hans.
‘Is this my father’s ship?! I could have chosen any craft, why this one?!’ Adela was angry with herself and she was scared that her escape plan would now get ruined. Just then she heard a soft knock coming from the lower deck. Curiously, she tried to discover who was making this dull sound. What she saw surprised her even
more than the fact that the ship she was standing on belonged to her father. Under the deck floor in the small food locker she saw none other than small Conrad! Adela felt the movement of waves even stronger than before.

‘Now, my father will surely kill me…’ She thought and sat down next to her brother.
‘What are you even doing here?!’ She asked furiously.
‘I saw you sneaking out of the house and decided to follow you! As always…’
Conrad replied pleased with himself. Adela was now filled with anger, but also with fear for her brother. She was mad that he followed her, but she knew she had to be responsible now and, as a good big sister, take care of the two of them. At that moment Hans returned from the cabin with a bottle in one hand and a small bundle
in the other. His surprise was considerable when he noticed a little boy next to Adela.
‘Who is this?’ asked Hans.
‘This is my brother Conrad. It turned out that he noticed how I was sneaking out of the house and followed me…’ Adela replied avoiding eye contact.
Hans knew that hiding two people on a ship wouldn’t be easy, and that everything would probably come to light. Nevertheless, he decided to take the risk.
‘Well, I will do it for Adela,’ he thought.
The three of them were sitting below the deck of the ship and Hans thought what to do next. The most reasonable solution at the moment seemed to hide the siblings in a small room attached to the food locker. Thanks to this they would have access to food and he would bring them water from the cabin. He told Adela about it right away and she accepted his idea with enthusiasm. Hans and the siblings quickly made their way to their new hideout. The boy now left Adela and Conrad alone.
‘I will be back soon,’ he said and walked outside.
* * *
Meanwhile in Gdansk, their father was going out of his mind with worry. Overnight his beloved children disappeared, his whole world fell apart. He tried to report them missing to the local guards, but they were all busy with a new disease that was attacking the townspeople more and more frequently. So he decided to start searching on his own. He called all of his acquaintances, searched every corner of their homes, but his efforts were in vain. They disappeared. No goodbye, no message. Constantin broke down seeing no more hope of finding his children. He no longer saw the meaning of life and even quit his job. He holed up in his house and had hardly left it since then.

Chapter 6

After many days of journey, the ship drew closer and closer towards the land. The destination was within their reach and Adela was filled with excitement. In the previous evening she made Hans reveal some information about their voyage destination. It turned out they had been heading towards Lübeck. She uncovered the locker and she gazed at the silhouette of the city, which appeared far ahead of her.
She knew only one thing about this land – that was the place where her father usually travelled to. Therefore she was sure that the city played a significant role in her father’s business. While they were crossing the river, tenement houses appeared in front of her, perfectly resembling the buildings in her beloved Gdańsk. They kept
on going, until they stopped at a huge gate. The men began to moor the ship and no long afterwards it was ready for unloading. When all the wares had been removed from the ship, the crew left the vessel. It was then, when Hans took the opportunity and quickly led Adela and Conrad towards the bank.
‘I suppose this is where our adventure is coming to an end’, uttered the young man and as he was about to say farewell, Adela cried out:
‘Wait a moment! Where are you going? Maybe we could go with you and provide some help?’
‘I have been sent from Gdańsk to help with the sick. I am not sure if you are aware that recently an epidemic broke out. . We already have some first casualties in Gdańsk but the situation is much harder to overcome here. I would not say it is a good idea for you to join me… You can easily get infected and that is not a laughing matter at all’.
‘Even so, we wish to go!,’ she exclaimed confidently.
‘Anyway, there is nowhere we can go. To speak the truth, I know some medicine, it is my hobby after all. I also speak German and I can communicate well.
Please, take us with you’, Adela looked at Hans with pleading eyes. The boy hesitated for a while but he agreed to her plea in the end. Adela felt relieved. She came to think that everything was going to be fine. The three friends were walking by the river bank when the huge gate revealed itself, the same one Adela noticed while being on board. Its construction consisted of two circular towers with pointed roofs, joined together with a bricked passage. In the centre of the building there was an arched entrance. Many people were passing. The view made Adela nostalgic. The gate reminded her of The Crane – her favourite monument in Gdańsk. Suddenly, she got nostalgic. She missed her city. And her father even more. Despite everything, the girl knew that he would be all right, she could sense it inside. They went beneath the brick construction and they were moving towards The Holy Spirit Hospital, where Hans was required to begin his work . They walked past a church, then another one, much bigger, and they arrived at the place in no time. When they entered the hospital, they found out something utterly unexpected. The place was overcrowded with people lying side by side, children crying and the sick groaning in pain. Little Conrad got petrified and hid behind Adela. She hugged the child and ensured him that everything would be fine. Then the woman working there approached them and asked what they were doing in that place. Hans explained to her why he had come to the hospital and inquired if there was a need for an extra pair of hands. At that moment Adela took the initiative. She started explaining that she had always been interested in medicine and she would love to make herself useful. At first, the doctor did not seem to be convinced at all, yet she knew that in the time of the crisis any person familiar with the basics of anatomy would prove helpful. She led them to the staffroom and pointed them to their beds. Conrad also received his own bed and was given an assignment - he was required to wash some used rags and sheets. At the beginning he was not satisfied with the task, yet Adela made it clear that he had to conform. They took their things out in the room, changed clothes and immediately followed the doctor. After the first day, which felt extremely exhausting, because she had never seen such a lot of people suffering at one time before, Adela was lying on the bed thinking about Gdańsk and her father. She had her rest for a while and unexpectedly she saw in her imagination the familiar sight. It was The Crane. And she kept on dreaming.

Chapter 7

Three months passed by. Adela became independent and confident. Every day she gained new knowledge, developed her abilities, but most importantly helped others. She had always felt it was her vocation and now, finally, in the eye of an extremely deathly epidemic, she could fulfil and prove herself. One day, she woke up to go to work as usual. She got dressed and went to the hospital. When Adela got back in the evening, she felt it was about time. She sat down, took a piece of paper and a pen, and started writing:

Dear Father,
I am sorry for disappearing without saying anything, without saying goodbye. Looking back on it , I regret it sincerely. I could have, at least, left a valedictory letter. If you are curious about the reason behind my disappearance, it was a very impulsive and hasty decision. I felt as though you were going to hate me and I would be a massive disappointment, so I decided to leave. Yet, now I know that despite the many imperfections in my behaviour, you did everything so that me and Conrad have anything we needed. I did not appreciate it enough. I was too selfish. I am deeply sorry. If only I could turn back time, I would have, without a doubt, been more cautious and focused on the tasks you entrusted me with. But now, the only thing I can do is apologise for my actions. Along with Conrad we are currently based in the hospital of Holly Ghost in Lübeck. We are good here. Conrad helps with the cleaning as well as washing rags and sheets. I, on the other hand, have the chance to finally fulfil myself in the field I love the most- helping with curing people. On our way to
Lübeck we also met Hans, it is thanks to him we work at the hospital. Hans and I immediately got along really well. Now I know that the feelings I have for him are more than a friendship and I think he reciprocates them.

I do miss you father. Conrad, too. I often dream about Gdańsk, too. I imagine coming back to the city and walking through the magical streets. I hope you are in good health and soon, maybe, we can meet again. The address number we are located at, I am writing it on the back of the letter. If you find some free time, please, write as soon as possible.
‘Yours Adela’

The girl put the letter into an envelope and sent it the following morning. The girl was waiting for a reply for two weeks, with an incredible anticipation. But the reply from her father was nowhere to be seen. After some time she managed to forget about her letter. One day she woke up for work, as always. She got dressed and walked out. When she came back in the evening, there was an envelope waiting for her on the girl’s bed. Adela was both shocked and exhilarated. She got the reply after a month of waiting, once she had completely forgotten about any letter. With sure precision and tenderness, she cut the paper and began to read:

Dear Adela,
Thank you so much for your letter. I won’t be hiding the fact that I was extremely worried about the both of you. I looked for you everywhere, I asked guards and neighbours about you. I couldn’t find you anywhere until I finally broke down. I didn’t have any strength to live anymore. I spent my whole days at the house, isolated from others. After a while, I slowly started to accept the fact that I was never going to see my children again. I miss you a lot. Every morning, when I wake up, I tell myself that it is all my fault. There are so many things that I shouldn’t have said, so many things which I regret. Now I know that I wasn’t a good father. Especially to you, Adela. I pushed you too much, I demanded too much from you. If only I could turn back time….But there is one thing you must know. I’m writing this letter not from our house but from the hospital. I caught this new disease, some call it the Black Death. I don’t feel too well. If I’m being honest, I have never felt so bad. I don’t know how much time I have left and….. I would love nothing more than to see you both, because it might just be my last chance to do so. If you can, please come back to Gdańsk. I will be waiting for you in the hospital of Holy Ghost. All the best to you and your brother and I hope to see you soon.
‘Yours Constantin’

Adela was stunned. She felt her tears spring into her eyes. She knew exactly what she had to do now, but everything was happening so fast. She felt as though the world was spinning around and she couldn’t move even a little bit. After a minute which she spent sitting on her bed trying to contain her shock and emotions, she began to think of a plan of action. Adela and Conrad had to make their way back on the ship which they came here with, as soon as possible. The girl knew that every month at the same time the ship was at the harbour, after all, that’s what Hans told her. In two days exactly five months would have passed by since their arrival to Lübeck. Adela told the plan to her brother and Hans who seemed to be gloomy after hearing that his friends had to leave.
Two days passed, Hans walked Adela and Conrad to the ship. The girl explained to the captain the situation which she and her brother were in. The captain immediately agreed to sail them back with the ship crew.
‘Hans, thank you for everything’ said Adela. She now had tears in her eyes.
‘I will never forget you, we have truly experienced an amazing adventure
and…. , Hans put his finger onto Adela’s lips and softly kissed her cheek. The girl’s heart began to beat like crazy.
‘I should be the one thanking you’ said Hans and smiled at her for the last time. The siblings got onto the deck and after a moment, Hans could only see the shape of the ship vanishing in the distance.

Chapter 8

After many days of travelling, Adela and Conrad finally reached Gdańsk. Their ship stopped near the Crane and the siblings went ashore. On the way to meet her father, Adela felt fear fill her. She was very afraid of what condition her father was in. She had seen a lot in her five months at the hospital, but none of the people she cared for were members of her family. Turning into Straganiarska Street, she suddenly felt all her fear disappear. Adele was now filled with joy. I'm finally home, this is where I belong, she thought. When they got to the hospital, they went inside. After searching for a while, they found their father lying there. He looked awful. His face was flushed, it was obvious that he had a high fever. He was very weak.
‘Father?’ Adela turned to him hesitantly.
Seeing the children, Constantin's eyes filled with joy. He didn't really have the strength to get up, but he smiled tiredly at them. Obviously, it took a lot of effort from him.
‘You are here! I've been waiting for you, how was your trip, are you all right?
I missed you so much, I couldn't find you anywhere, I thought you were gone forever ... ‘ a tear ran down on Constantin's cheek.
‘Yes, we are safe and sound, the journey went smoothly. Father, I'm so sorry, that was a huge mistake. I know I was wrong to leave and…’
‘Stop it,’ interrupted Constantin. ‘You deserve an apology. I was so busy with work that I didn't spend enough time with you and I expected too much, especially from you, Adela.’
The girl hugged her lying father so tight that he could barely breathe. Only now she realised how much she missed him.
‘I'm glad you're back. I have a feeling everything will be fine now,’ said the father.
Adela smiled and replied:
‘Yeah, I feel that way too. In the meantime, you rest and heal, Conrad and I are going home. We also need to rest a bit after the journey. We will come again tomorrow.’
‘Of course, until tomorrow,’ replied the father.
Adela and Conrad, after a short walk, were already standing in front of their tenement house. They went inside. Nothing has changed. It was as if they had only been out for five minutes. Meanwhile, five months have passed. The girl went upstairs to her room. She stood at the window. A warm tear ran down her cheek slowly. Just like time and the whole world around her. There was only herself. In this empty window. Suddenly she saw fire. Black smoke began to rise up. The world was on fire. It was burning because she was no longer on earth. There was only herself and the hell she created.