(If I do it wrong, please correct me.)
I've had no idea where to put this - the location could be seen as either Prussia, Germany or Poland at the time. So, I went with the cultural aspect and here you go. BTW, I might be taking some historical liberties with the plot, but that's because I'm still not an encyclopaedia .
---introduction to how the period of time was affecting this place - begins---
The year was 1877. Late spring. (Russia already in war with Turkey.) A chilly morning, but a bit closer to the noon than to the dawn.
The era of coal and steel was making its mark on the word. New medicine was prolonging people's lives. La Belle Epoque was coming into being.
Although there had been a Bundesrag and a Reichstag, much more power was lying in the Prussian king's hands, still. The Prussian king and German emperor in one had chosen Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor, to rule over Germany. Herr Bismarck was the one to elect all the Ministers there. He was also the one to introduce the Kulturkampf in 1872, in order to integrate the new country.
As the Polish saying goes, Vatican woke up with its hand in a potty (meaning: didn't noticed getting itself into a serious mess) - the Catholic Church used to urge the Poles to listen to their new kings/tsars/emperors to stay in favours of the ruling powers, but since 1872 (while the Russian tsar started actively favouring the Eastern Church anyway) the German chancellor fought the Catholic Church over the influence on the German citizens' minds, especially in the Staaten like Bavaria.
The Iron Chancellor had chosen to introduce German-language education and administration in all of his new country. It would all go well, if not for a fact that there was a place where the Germans were a minority. Until the 2nd Reich's creation, the Great Duchy of Posen/Poznañ existed since 1848 (the rights to have a separate mixed Polish-German-Jewish administration were granted there to appease a civil unrest in the area) as a vassal of Prussia. In the city called Posen (Polish: Poznañ), at that time, the percent of population that during the census admitted to speaking mostly Polish when in home was about 60%. The Poles took Bismarck's stance of Kulturkampf as a Prussian action against them. (Not without merit - apparently, Bismarck once said that he "can sympathize with the Poles, but it's either us or them.") As the era of Romanticism had just passed and dying for The Case sounded less appealing than living for it, the Poles were looking for loops within the system.
A small loop they had found was the fact that now the Catholic Church was interested in cooperation, for a change. The major loop they had found was the government's allowing stance on the economical and cultural self-organisation of people. The amount of Polish cooperative organizations that continued and blossomed back then (the Central Economical Society, farming co-ops, banks, the Society of Folk Reading, singing societies, Soko³y - the "Falcon" educational co-op, and more - the Poles back then tended to hope for and see a chance for their Motherland's well-being in everything, and some Pole even made an ironic comment on it: "impact of an elephant on the Polish problem") led Prussians/Germans to briefly believe that there was some underground country led by priest Adamowski (I don't know why him). Of course there wasn't - so nothing could be proved.
It surprisingly defied a German stereotype of a Polish person - saying Polonische Wirdschaft, literally "Polish administration," means chaos and corruption in German language (well, it applied in the Russian partition, but that's because the huge loop there was in corrupting the Russian civil servants.)
The map of Posen/Pozañ closest to the period that I could get is here: http://amzpbig.com/maps/3567_alt1929_Posen_Nord_1916.jpg (the map is taken from this site: http://mapy.amzp.pl/tk25_list.cgi?show=all;sort=g ). It should still be good, as there was little change there in between when it comes to the architecture, and it's still described in German. The old City Centre is exactly in the middle of those dark buildings. When you go up the river (Ger. Warthe, Pl. Warta), you'll see Schilling. Behind it, all around Winiary hills, there was a Prussian military complex, a citadel. It wasn't a part of the city, yet it was rather close. It was built there so the Prussian military wouldn't have to go far in case of another Polish problem which typically centred around Posen/Poznañ in the Prussian partition.
Apart of Upper Silesia (were the Poles were mainly of the working class and peasants) which exported coal on the rest of Germany and had some ironworks, the region produced food, sugar and beer in large amounts, exporting those goods in large quantities on the rest of Germany - as the taxation of the goods coming from abroad was too high to allow the out-of-Germany businesses being any competition. The region also produces vodka in large quantities, but it wasn't exported so much.
---note for the future of the internal relationships that was to came into being in a relatively short time---
In a few years, the local Germans were going to move to larger cities more in the west, leaving the Poles behind in this rural region. The Iron Chancellor was worried by the raising percent of Poles there, so in 1885 he introduced rugi pruskie, deportation of the people without Prussian citizenship. In 1886 he created the Colonisation Commission - it was supposed to buy out the land from the Polish owners, yet the owners didn't want to sell it. In 1904 there was a new law introduced that made building new buildings by the Poles illegal (there was a famous case of a Polish peasant Drzyma³a who had erected a caravan instead). In 1908 there was an expropriation act for the Polish land owners... which never came into being, because the Germans (!) harshly objected.
Around that time, the Poles were saying that the Germans would be the most dangerous enemy of all.
---end of the note---
As a lot was reconstructed, the outlay and looks would be rather similar in 1875 and now.
There is a rough map of the Old City Centre: http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2014/049...jka-d770whz.jpg
The caption goes like this (I put the links here purely for the pictures, so I guess it doesn't matter that the articles are in Polish):
M - Mars Fountain ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanna_Marsa_w_Poznaniu );
Pr - Prosepine (the one kidnapped by Pluto) Fountain ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanna_Prozerpiny_w_Poznaniu );
A - Apollo Fountain ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanna_Apolla_w_Poznaniu );
N - Neptune Fountain ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontanna_Neptuna_w_Poznaniu );
p - pillory (put out of use in 1948) ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pr%C4%99gierz_w_Poznaniu );
B - city well, the sculpture wasn't put there until 1915, so no photo.
yellow - the city scales ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waga_miejska_w_Poznaniu );
dark red - city hall ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratusz_w_Poznaniu );
(There is an old atypical cuckoo clock on the city hall's turret ( http://www.poznan.pl/mim/turystyka/picture...27865,show2.jpg ) - two goats come out and bump their horns together. The tourists, especially children, like watching it.)
deep pink - at the time, it was either a city guard or police station, I'm not sure which ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odwach_w_Poznaniu , http://www.poznan.pl/mim/turystyka/picture...,2293,show2.jpg );
violet/purple - little shops ( http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domki_budnicze_w_Poznaniu ).
If you go here: http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stary_Rynek_w...2a_architektura and scroll up only a little bit, you'll see the Centre from the perspective of Apollo Fountain corner (upper photo) and from the perspective of the pillory (the lower photo).
The places used for a market day would typically (I've got no sources on Poznañ in particular that say more than it being a very old tradition that the city markets happen in the Old City Centre) be mostly the arcades of the shops, the arcades of the buildings around the Centre, tents in the middle of the area creating some smaller alleys, the closest streets around might had also been in use (we can use nowday's outlay if there's a need: http://www.poznan.pl/mim/turystyka/picture...,2023,show2.jpg - the theatre was already there, BTW - it was supposed to introduce some German-language art there, but due to lack of funds it allowed the Poles to play Polish shows there).
Food, spices, farming equipment, living stock (especially poultry), clothing, maybe jewellery or blankets, various metal junk would probably be there on the stalls. The shopkeepers taking shifts on the stalls, probably, because the amount of cooperation was huge. Nothing illegal in sight, because the police/guards were nearby, but one could speak to the tradesmen and women about getting it: there had to be a reason why Bismarck would later say that "with enough money one could even get a Russian tank from the Poles, no questions asked."
Over half of the people on the market would probably be Polish, in their customary (by that time) black (national mourning for the lost freedom) maybe with little white or blue elements. Families, groups, rather expressive people, though not touching each other, much. Some Jews, but not many of them. Some Germans, more than the Jews. Besides the trade, people keeping mostly with their own ethnic groups, speaking in the languages they were comfortable with.
The Victorian clothing typical for Europe was popular there, too. (E.g. something like http://boardingpasstraveltips.files.wordpr...ack-dresses.jpg or http://www.angelpig.net/victorian/fashion/...fashion_men.jpg .) Little differences in style showing the social classes of people. Little differences in shades of colour (especially black could be fading, or be with a green tint or yellowish one) showing how wealthy who was.
---the end of the maybe-too-lengthy introduction---the beginning of an interlude---
The year was 1877. Late spring. A chilly morning, but a bit closer to the noon than to the dawn. City market was a noisy place, especially in the days like this one - the days when the villagers were coming to sell and buy, too.
Feliks was feeling a little bit sick and a little hot under the collar (the additional layer of bandage over that infected cut didn't help him with that, much), but that was to be expected. It was a long time since he was really all right, so he got used to it. At least that's what he thought.
"Excuse me, ma'am, do you, like, know where I can, like, find Mrs Kowiecka? It's kinda important," he asked a middle-aged woman who was looking at the wooden stools. Though nervousness was influencing his speech patterns as much as ever, thankfully his voice didn't do that pitching thingy this time. He was getting better at it, he guessed.
She straightened to look at him and a spark of recognition lit in her eyes.
"It's you! Oh my God, it you!," she said, excited.
"Uh," said Feliks. He had no idea who she was, beside the fact of her being one of his. And a townswoman, judging by her clothing.
"You haven't changed at all, dear," she cooed, touching his cheek, lightly. Feliks raised his eyebrows with a crooked smile. Hey, it wasn't like he expected to be flirted with like that. "Forgive me, I just had to check if you weren't a ghost," she explained. "You still look like you had milk under your nose," (very young,) "but you would be what, twenty six by now? Holy Mother, it's a miracle! I thought you would die in two years at most, with that hacking cough you had, and look - here you are, alive!"
Feliks didn't know what to do with all that sudden attention from a person he couldn't really remember. Nervous, eyes slightly gazed with fever, and trying hard to prevent the cough now that she reminded him that he was still supposed to have it, he just stood and fidgeted there, not really able to put his focus on anything but the woman.
"Oh, don't gape at me like a fish, dear. You were asking me something?," she prompted.
Feliks didn't need to be told twice.
"Did-you-see-Mrs-Kowiecka, madam?," he asked, the words blending into one. Thankfully, the woman did understand.
"Yes, yes. She was looking for some spare parts for those broken ploughs, poor dear. Probably still is, so if you hurry... Poor dear, really, her husband had probably frozen somewhere in Siberia. To be a widow at such a young age... And with children and house to take care of... Well, it's not only her."
"Like, madam?" Feliks really hated to stop the woman, but Mrs Kowiecka could ran off at any given moment.
"Where Mrs Kowiecka would be? Like, which direction?"
"See that blue tent over there, near the Apollo Fountain?"
"She should be there. She has some linen roses on her hat."
"Tha..." Suppressed cough finally interrupted him for a short moment, thenkfully no blood this time, as a long years after crushing of the last uprising had already passed. "Thank you, madam. I'll, like, be going," he rasped.
Indeed, when Feliks got near the blueish tent, there was a woman in a dress with a heavy skirt typical for nobility, hat decorated with some black roses on her head. She was negotiating the price with the shopkeeper. Two children were by her, a young teenage daughter and about 3-years-old boy. Mr Kowiecki never mentioned the boy, but going by the age, the son could be born after he was gone to Siberia. And for nothing really important at that, at least for nothing that a bribe wouldn't get him out of, just a bit of smuggling. It was the poor guy's first time, so he didn't even know that bribing would work, instead of getting him in even deeper sh*t like it would if he tried to bribe a Prussian guard instead.
"Mrs Kowiecka? Maria Kowiecka? I have a letter for you," called Feliks tentatively.
She nodded with wide eyes and took en envelope improvised out of Russian newspaper from his hands - no telegraph line between Warsaw and Poznañ as long as the foreigners rule. After a brief inspection, she hid it in her skirts, as there was no sender signed.
"it's from your husband," said Feliks with a sudden courage and her eyes went wide. "He made this, too."
Feliks put his hand in a pocket, and when he got it out after nearly half a minute - there was something else there. A few of other people started crowding around them, eager to see, too, making Feliks uncomfortable.
"Oh," she chocked upon inspecting a little straw ring with a little straw eagle on Feliks' finger. Her daughter squealed in joy. Son, too young to understand, just held his mother's skirts tighter. "I thought Ada¶ would be dead by now, you know," Mrs Kowiecka said, teary eyed. "He even didn't have a winter jacked on him, that day."
The picture illustrating the scene ;P.)
"Someone, like, someone helped him. Not me," he corrected, question clear in her face. "Some Russian. C'mon, take it," Feliks said on impulse, loosening his fingers. "It's not like we need more weapons now, when we have no chance of winning. Should, like, just stick to economy and culture for a few years. Should work, too. It's not like we need guns and stuff for that, right? And you'd have something to, like, remember Adam by, before he comes back, right?"
The woman didn't seem to even notice a squeak that entered Feliks' voice, but the guy near them did, and pulled a face, making Feliks go all self-concious about it.
(My perfectionism is hurt by the fact that no matter what I do, I can't seem to write it well enough - so I just put it here how it is. I think that putting it how it is can work better for the future posts, too - that way I'll answer in a shorter time.)
Suddenly, a boy appeared. Very suddenly. In fact, he came there, running. Surprise - as Feliks subconsciously expected that sudden movement to be some Prussian guard. Maybe the others did, too - Feliks wasn't sure. They all fell silent.
The boy was dressed handsomely. Something of him felt like a well-off townsman's kid. The light blond hair and - Feliks had only seen them for a moment - wide blue eyes made Feliks want to go all "aww." But it wasn't the time and place.
The boy turned around, apparently looking for something. It wasn't like looking where he was going to, it was like looking where he was coming from. Something about the boy felt a bit off, too - but Feliks couldn't quite put a finger on that. Feliks looked at where the boy came from, too. No guards going after the kid, it seemed - so what? Running from a dad trying to spank him?
"Has something happened, little one?," one of the crowd asked in Polish, a young lady.
"What's your name, kid?," added an elderly man. "Whose(1) are you?"
"Ich verschtehe nicht," I don't understand, the boy said softly in German. Was there a slight tremble in his voice? Aww, poor kid, thought Feliks.
Someone's face twitched. Someone made a troubled "so-how-we-gonna-help-him" kind of expression. Someone pulled a face and made a move to ask child the same questions, but in German this time.
Meanwhile, Feliks slid the ring into madame Kowieka's hand. He had a full intent of taking this child to his parents. Primo(2), a child was a child, and one couldn't always say what child was to grow into, so what's wrong with trying to, like, influence it a bit? (Feliks gained enough new children by them falling in love with the Polish spirit at some point of their lives, so he didn't judge the children by nationality then.) Secundo, it gave Feliks something to do, and God knows that Feliks needed that, right now. Tertio, there was something about this boy, a feeling of something important, something just under Feliks' nose, even if Feliks couldn't quite point it out.
Before Feliks did anything, before the question in German was asked, the boy looked at Feliks. The boy's eyes were so, so blue. He's gonna grow into a handsome one, thought Feliks briefly.
"You," said the boy suddenly. The use of nation-language finally made something click in in Feliks' head. "I know what you are."
There was something in the nation-boy's voice: did that one look up to Feliks? Oh. Through a twinge of anxiety (I'm gonna screw this up, I'm gonna screw this up, oh Holy Mother, I'm gonna screw this up again!, he thought), it kind of captured Feliks' heart - he always tried so hard to get that look from the other nations, and they nearly always gave him an exact opposite...
"I'm taking this one to his parents," said Feliks to the crowd, in Polish. "C'mon," he said to the little one in the nation-language, offering a hand. "Let's go maybe a street away, and you tell me what's wrong, and I'll help you. Like, okay...?"
Children were easier to do. They never judged him, much.
(1) the old Polish phrasing of a question about parents (and - in some cases - land-owners) amuses me, so I've decided to put it here in the same form.
(2) I'm not sure if it's Italian. Just that the Polish noblemen sometimes used this way of counting, finding the foreign sounds, like, more distinguished. It's still in use, BTW - but mostly only "primo" and "secundo."