WeWriWa—Two lucky shots

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when a doctor in the Czech underground arrived to tend to escapees Emánuel and Adrián. I mistakenly said his surname, Svoboda, means “peace.” It really means “freedom” in many Slavic languages. When you’ve studied over 15 other languages, sometimes you get mixed up!

Dr. Svoboda has said the bullet to Adrián’s shoulder took off a nice chunk of flesh, and Adrián demanded it be pulled out.

U.S. Army medic treating a wounded Waffen SS soldier, 1944

“There’s nothing to pull out, my brave fellow.  It grazed your shoulder pretty deeply, but it didn’t actually penetrate you.” Dr. Svoboda wiped off the shoulder wound, daubed ointment on it, pressed a wad of gauze into it, and fastened it with medical tape.

“I’ll still have an ugly scar.  I’m too old to think the skin will grow back perfectly as it was before.”

“Better a scar than death.” Dr. Svoboda aimed the lantern at Adrián’s thigh and looked long and hard before slightly lifting his leg. “That second bullet went clear through your flesh and muscle, at just the right place.  It just missed your femoral artery.”

WeWriWa—The doctor arrives

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes a bit after last week’s, when 18-year-old Emánuel and 17-year-old Adrián were given olive oil to protectively coat their malnourished stomachs before eating anything.

The rescuing Czech partisans have introduced themselves, and Emánuel asked if there were any violins hanging around. Emánuel hasn’t played his instrument in eight months, and is longing to reconnect with his life’s greatest passion. The partisans have told him they don’t have any violins for him.

By lantern light, the doctor unwound Adrián’s bandage, which had become rather soaked with blood.  The wound was no longer gushing, though it was still steadily bleeding.

“I’ll help him out of his clothes,” Emánuel volunteered. “Don’t worry, I’ll cover you with a sheet, haver.”

Adrián closed his eyes as Emánuel maneuvered him out of his coat, shirt, boots, and trousers.  Mercifully, Emánuel covered him with a blanket, leaving only the bleeding shoulder and affected part of the outer thigh visible.

“My name is Dr. Svoboda,” the doctor said as he poured saline over each wound in turn. “My, that bullet took a nice chunk of flesh off your shoulder.”

“Just pull it out!” Adrián howled.

U.S. Army medic (45th Infantry Division) and captured Wehrmacht medic working together on a wounded German soldier, 6 February 1944, Anzio, Italy

Svoboda means “freedom” in many of the Slavic languages. Haver means “friend” in Hungarian, one of many Hungarian words taken from Hebrew and Yiddish. The Hebrew word for friend is chaver.

Machal and Le Meurice

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Machal is an acronym of Mitnadvey Chutz L’Aretz, Volunteers from Outside the Land. During Israel’s 1948–49 War of Independence, about 4,000 volunteers from around the world (some Gentiles) came to the newborn state’s assistance. Right after Israel declared its independence, she was attacked by Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Liberation Army. All hands were needed on deck.

Most Machalniks were WWII Army vets from the U.S. and U.K., but many also came from other countries. A total of 58 countries provided volunteers. The majority of Machalniks served in Israel’s fledgling Air Force, since they had a lot of experience with flying planes during WWII, and were able to purchase used planes for relatively cheap.

In all, 123 were killed in action, 119 men and four women. Possibly the most famous Machalnik who was killed in action was American Mickey Marcus. Another important Machalnik was Milton Rubenfeld, father of Paul Rubens (whom I as an Eighties kid will always think of as Pee-wee Herman). Many returned to their countries of origin, but some stayed in Israel. Some of the founders of El Al airline were Machalniks.

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My character Imre Goldmark leaves his studies at the University of Montpellier to fight as a volunteer after his girlfriend Csilla and her friends leave for Israel in 1948. Imre is a hopeless intellectual, romantic, and dreamer, but he wants to prove his manliness to Csilla by fighting on the front lines. Csilla has no idea he’s in Israel, let alone in uniform, until she hears him screaming her name in hospital, in the throes of the worst pain of his life.

Csilla, who doesn’t know the true extent of his wounding, vows to take care of him and nurse him back to health. However, before Imre can be discharged and released to her care, his mother and professors intervene and have him taken back to France against his will. It’s a long, twisted road to happily ever after for these two.

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French Machalniks

Le Meurice is a gorgeous 5-star hotel in the First Arrondissement of Paris, opposite the famous Tuileries Garden, on the Rue de Rivoli. The Louvre is a short walk away. Its 160 rooms and suites are decorated in the style of King Louis XVI.

The first Hôtel Meurice opened in Calais in 1777, and the Parisian branch opened in 1815, at 223 Rue Saint-Honoré. In 1835, it moved to its present location, in a new, beautiful, luxurious building, with all the same amenities and perks.

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Copyright Axou

In 1891, electric lights were added, and in 1905–07, the Hôtel Métropole on Rue de Castiglione was added and the building underwent a thorough rebuilding under the direction of famous architect Henri Paul Nénot. Modern, tiled bathrooms were added; Louis XVI style was introduced; telephones and electric butler bells were added; reinforced concrete was added for privacy; public rooms were relocated; a wrought iron canopy was put over the lobby; a grand salon and new restaurant were added; and the lift was a copy of Marie Antoinette’s sedan chair.

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Hotel restaurant, Copyright Janine Cheung, Source Flickr

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Copyright Langmuir family, Source Flickr

From September 1940–August 1944, the occupying Nazis used the hotel as their headquarters. During that final month, General Dietrich von Choltitz, the military governor of Paris, stayed there. He was under orders to destroy Paris, but he disobeyed Hitler and surrendered to Free French forces. Supposedly, Hitler screamed “Is Paris burning?” to him over a Le Meurice telephone.

Many famous guests have stayed by Le Meurice, such as Salvador Dalí, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, FDR, the Shah, Rudyard Kipling, Plácido Domingo, Ginger Rogers, Yul Brynner, Mata Hari, and Elizabeth Taylor.

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Copyright Langmuir family, Source Flickr

The cheapest lodgings, the Superior Room, starts at 830 Euros a night, and the priciest option, the Belle Étoile Suite, starts at 14,500 a night. Other options include the Presidential Apartment, Executive Junior Suite, Deluxe Junior Suite, Superior Junior Suite, Prestige Suite, and Superior Suite. It’s a very child- and pet-friendly hotel, and has an amazingly beautiful restaurant, with fine dining.

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Copyright Langmuir family, Source Flickr

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Hotel restaurant, Copyright Janine Cheung, Source Flickr

My characters spend a thrilling week by Le Meurice in December 1945, financed by Marie’s dear friend Wolfram Engel. They run into one another by the depot, as Marie and her friends have just arrived from Florence, and Wolfram has just arrived from Lyon. Without a wife and children, Wolfram has a lot of disposable income.

Staying by Le Meurice is a dream come true for these young survivors, a complete turnaround in their fortune in less than a year.

WeWriWa—First meal of freedom

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when 17-year-old Adrián and 18-year-old Emánuel were brought into a safe house under the protection of Czech partisans. One of the partisans just promised to fetch a doctor.

Egyptian olives and olive oil, Copyright Dina Said

The tallest partisan spoke to the four partisans who were already in the house, and two of them ran off.  The third partisan from the forest, a brunet with one blue eye and one green eye, rummaged around in the small pantry and came back with a bottle of olive oil.

“Both of you are really malnourished, and it’s best to give an empty stomach a protective coating before sending down heavier foodstuffs.  We’ll give you tea, mashed potatoes, and chicken broth after this.”

Emánuel grabbed the bottle of olive oil, let a generous amount drizzle onto his tongue, and gulped it down.  He then passed it to Adrián, who started to reach for it with his right hand.  A wave of pain shot through his shoulder and radiated down his arm, resulting in a loud gasp.  He dared not scream, either in front of these tough older guys or from fear of the wrong person overhearing.  Adrián took the bottle with his left hand and drizzled olive oil onto his tongue, then swallowed.

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One of my Sephardic friends told me about the custom of breaking the Yom Kippur fast with olive oil, for the reasons explained above. After not eating, or barely eating, for a long time, the body can’t just immediately adjust to normal food. The olive oil is a transition between fasting and regular food.

WeWriWa—A safe place

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, when 17-year-old Adrián and 18-year-old Emánuel were taken up Boubín Mountain to a safe house occupied by their new partisan friends.

Adrián was shot during the escape, though he had enough adrenalin and strength to get to Boubínský Prales and away from his captors. Emánuel has had a very concerning cough since his time in the mining camp Jawischowitz, though he’s managed to contain it to avoid being killed.

This has been slightly modified to fit 10 lines.

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Little house in the Šumava (Bohemian Forest) region of what’s now the Czech Republic, Copyright Chmee2

When the cart stopped, the partisans pulled Adrián and Emánuel out of the hay and hustled them inside, where they were set on two thin pallets under exposed eaves.  These pallets were off in a remote, shadowed corner of the house, near a wood-burning stove.  The shortest partisan pulled up Adrián’s coat and tightly wrapped a thick roll of cotton around his bleeding thigh.  Emánuel buried his face in his sleeve to cough, finally letting loose with all the coughing he’d been suppressing since their escape.  Everyone stood back from him.

“I think he has some lung disease,” Adrián gasped. “We worked in a mine for three months; I was only a coal breaker, but he was an actual miner.”

“Don’t try to talk,” the shortest partisan said. “We’ll get a doctor in the resistance to come by, and he’ll help both of you.  I don’t want to imagine what you must’ve gone through.”