Posted in 1940s, Historical fiction, Shoah, Writing


If you’re observing Tisha B’Av, may you have an easy and meaningful fast!


Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve gone back to my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors during the early postwar years. Part II tells the story of what happened to some of them while they were separated.

Mirjam Kovács, a graduate student in Budapest, fled back to her hometown of Abony immediately after the Nazi invasion in March 1944. Though this put her in considerable danger, it also enabled her to find a way to send her youngest siblings to safety. Even in the death train, she still didn’t give up hope.

The escape she engineers is inspired by the 2006 German film The Last Train (Der Letzte Zug). With help from other passengers, a rock was transformed into an axe which increased the size of a pre-existing hole in the floor. While some of the young men raised a loud disturbance, Mirjam’s siblings escaped.

Ráhel ran towards a large white building just past the woods, sidestepping and jumping over broken branches, twigs, and logs that might give them away. Instead of going through the large central door, she rang the bell to the little adjoining house with an image of Mary on the door.

A woman in a long, voluminous brown robe, a white coif, and a black veil answered the door, took one look at them, and motioned them inside. As soon as the door was closed, the woman spoke to them in a strange language. Ráhel opened her mouth, but couldn’t think of any of the necessary Russian, French, or German phrases Mirjam had drilled into her. Instead, she could only respond in the language her mother had derided as completely useless and vanity.

“Ni eskapis de tre malbona trajno. Ni estas tre malsata kaj soifa, kaj mia frato estas tre malsana. Bonvolu helpi nin.” [“We escaped from a very bad train. We’re very hungry and thirsty, and my brother is very sick. Please help us.”]

The woman draped in brown answered in Esperanto.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“I know who you are, and about those trains passing through all the time. Follow me, and I’ll get you something to eat and drink, a nice bed, a bath, and a doctor for the little boy.”

Ráhel and Dániel followed her into the attic, where there was a bedroom behind a wall. A short while later, their benefactor and several other women draped in brown appeared, bearing trays of bread and salt, tea, chicken soup, hard-boiled eggs, pickled mushrooms, and water. Dániel could only bear to swallow the water and soup broth, though Ráhel pounced on everything like a ravenous wolf.

After they were done eating, their new friends pointed into an adjoining washroom, and they took turns bathing. The water turned black during each of their baths, and had to be drained and refilled several times. Neither of them had had a real bath since their move into the Abony ghetto in late May.

Following their baths, they changed into pajamas and returned to the soft, fluffy, warm bed. Ráhel made sure to put the scapular back around her neck, with one segment on the back and the other on the chest. Dániel’s neck had by now swollen so much he couldn’t comfortably wear Margaréta’s rosary, so Ráhel put that next to him on his pillow.

Several minutes later, the women in brown returned, accompanied by a man in a white coat. By this time, Dániel was coughing hysterically, croupier and croupier by the minute, and starting to turn blue.


Writer of historical fiction sagas and series, with elements of women's fiction, romance, and Bildungsroman. Born in the wrong generation on several fronts.

3 thoughts on “WeWriWa—Shelter

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