Name: Zofia Roblenska Kohl
Date of birth: 1931
Place of birth: Warsaw, Poland
Year I created her: 1995
Role: Secondary main character, antagonist
My dear Zofia, how I love to hate you. She’s a different type of Shoah survivor than my belovèd Grumpy Bear Kálmán. Zofia is completely unchanged by her experience, and remains superficial, stuck-up, selfish, and mean-spirited. Even now that she’s in her sixties, she’s still a bitch, superficial, and dressing inappropriately. Most recently, she had her ass handed to her for her odious behavior and comments at her great-niece Morgana’s bat mitzvah, and she and her equally-repellent husband Kurt just went back to their hotel and sulked at the indoor pool, instead of feeling any sense of remorse.
Zofia is kind of like Anastasiya in my Russian novels—sure she’s an antagonist, but she’s not an evil type of antagonist, and she’s fun to write because of how predictable her behavior is. And don’t we all know stuck-up mean girls like that, who think the Sun shines out of their asses while hypocritically trying to condemn other people for things she only half-understands? And since I have quite a few Shoah characters, it’s nice to have a number of different types of people among them.
Zofia is always rotten to the core, no matter what happens to her. Not every Shoah survivor can be a saint, after all. It would be intellectually dishonest to make all my Shoah characters as sweet as Marie or as daring as Lazarus.
Here are some typical Zofia scenes and lines:
“I don’t understand why we have to take the boys with us,” Zofia began whining in German. “Girls are always more useful during wartime. They’re not going to get drafted or be suspected of being circumcised or just get in the way. Why can’t we just leave these three behind in the train station and let them fend for themselves?”
“Why is he so special? We all went through the same thing! All we had to do was be smart. The stupid, uneducated, depressed types were the ones who didn’t survive.”
“This must be Zofia.” Mrs. Juric took a long, hard look at the third-oldest Roblenska sister in her low-cut skintight blue blouse and a skirt coming up well past her knees.
“Yes, don’t I look like a model? All my dates complement me on my gorgeous body. May I have some breakfast?”
“We just ate on the train,” Samuel warned her.
“I can always eat again. Is the wedding going to be held here? An apartment is no place for a wedding.”
“Jozek told us it would be at his new shul. Don’t you ever pay attention?”
“I know it’s not very nice weather yet, but maybe you’d like to walk around the neighborhood. By the time you come back here, Jozef and Svetlana will also be back, and you can meet your new sister-in-law. I have errands to run, so you might as well meet back here in two hours.”
Zofia would have no part in traipsing around a city she didn’t even know. After fifteen minutes, she whined that her feet were tired and headed back to the empty apartment. She went into Dalibor’s room, shut the door, picked up the latest issue of Life, and started reading. An hour later she heard her brother and his fiancée coming in but didn’t give herself away. When they went into another room and shut the door, she slipped off her high heels and skulked off to listen in at the door.
Zofia had run out into the street, hobbling along in her high heels, which she’d insisted on bringing in lieu of more sensible shoes. Everyone on the street was staring at her scandalous outfit and heavy makeup. It seemed as though a thousand years had passed before she found Samuel standing outside Jozef’s apartment.
“Samueleh, you go back to that woman’s apartment and you inform Jozek that he’s no right to slap me not once but twice and presume to tell me he can tell me what to do when he’s only two years my senior! He hit me so hard, across both sides of my face, that I’m surprised he didn’t break my jaws or dislocate any teeth!”
“Someone as mild-mannered as Jozek hit you? Wow, you must’ve been even worse than usual and done something extraordinary to provoke him.”
“I asked him why he was marrying a whore who bedded down with the enemy and told him I’d found this out by eavesdropping on them. I went back to the apartment, but they didn’t know I was there. And he still wants to marry this prostitute. Unbelievable.”
“You dared to say such a base mean thing to my dearest brother and his betrothed? You’ve sunk to a new low.”
“Just ask him. He’ll confirm she was a whore.”
“Look how you’re dressed, idiot. You look like a call girl. I’ll probably go back and be told by Jozef that you badly misinterpreted something like only your diseased mind is capable of doing. Why in the name of God did you of all people get to survive, while good people like our mother and Tante Mila were slaughtered?”
Elizabeth watched Zofia very closely as Morgana reached down the lectern for the pages of her speech. Her one-year-younger sister, as plump as ever, was wearing a tight low-cut black satin top, a short orange skirt, red hose, green spike heels, and heavy green eyemakeup and berry lipstick. The outfit looked as horrible on her 67-year-old self as it had when she’d worn those trashy outfits as a younger woman. A surly and bored expression was on her face, making her look even more unattractive. Kurt, three years her senior, looked just as bored and obnoxious. Elizabeth wished both of them could be divorced out of the family as easily as Raphaela had been.
Zofia was almost falling asleep as the rabbi praised Morgana’s speech and gave her the standard bat mitzvah gifts. She read a fashion magazine during the remainder of the service and then bolted to the bathroom as soon as the end finally came.
She was redoing her makeup as more women started coming in and forming a line. With Elizabeth at the head of the line, she jumped at the chance to express her disgust with her older sister.
“So, Elza, how does it feel knowing your own granddaughter publicly exposed you as a whore and your real firstborn child as a mamzer?”
Elizabeth grabbed her arm, turning her sharply around, and used her other hand to slap her so hard Zofia thought she’d popped a blood vessel.
Zofia picked herself up and brushed past her brothers in the hallway, fuming and humiliated. Kurt rushed over to join her and gave his in-laws annoyed looks as they walked out. Once on the street, Zofia was catcalled by several men and felt proud of herself for still attracting male attention. She planned to put on her yellow string bikini and go to the indoor pool as soon as they got back to the hotel.