Posted in 1930s, Atlantic City books, Historical fiction, holidays, Shoah, Writing

WeWriWa—A promise of hope in the coming year


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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. 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.

Happy New Year! To mark the holiday, I’m sharing the middle of the three sections in the last chapter of Movements in the Symphony of 1939, “Farewell, Nineteen-Thirties!” In Part II of the book, we’re introduced to a subplot with a Polish family Cinni’s father has been trying to bring to America. Though most of them managed to escape before the borders closed, the five people left behind were sent to Stutthof in the early days of the occupation.

Hans, the one who wrote this letter, is a mysterious young Luftwaffe pilot who provided many of them with travel visas and got them onto trains permitted to leave Poland before the country officially surrendered. He has a secret crush on Emma.

In the bitter cold of Stutthof, Emma shuddered under the thin wool coat she’d come with. The cold season had already begun creeping up on Poland at the end of September, but it hadn’t been cold enough to merit fur. Emma, her aunt, and her three uncles had left their best clothes hanging in their closets and wardrobes back in Warsaw, along with their best boots, all their Judaica, their fine linens, the beautiful tableware they’d entertained with a lifetime ago, all their books, their family photographs, and all their other personal mementos. Emma wondered if they’d ever see their home again, if any of their dear ones had gotten out of Poland safely, and if the Robleńskis were still alive. Most of all, she wondered where Dawida was.

“There’s a package for the blonde,” one of the guards announced, throwing a lump at Emma. “Happy New Year.”

Emma pulled off the thick outer layer of paper and found several slices of bread, smoked meat, some kind of crackers, a few cooked potatoes, and sliced raw carrots. Before September, she would’ve laughed at the thought of this feeding five people for more than one pathetic meal, but now it was a veritable holiday feast. At the bottom of the package, she found a handwritten note.

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

Dear Emma, Zofia, Aleksander, Borys, and Paweł,

Happy New Year. I can’t promise anything certain, let alone so far in advance, but you must believe I’m coming to get you, not all at once, but as fast as I can. I haven’t forgotten you, nor the necessity of rescuing you from the terrible things I see coming. Never lose hope. By next year at this time, you’ll be in freedom again, maybe in your own home, and with as many of your former possessions as possible. Please believe I’m your friend and have your best interests at heart. Your redemption and rescue can’t come overnight, but they will happen. Hope never dies, even when it seems impossible.

Your unlikely friend,

Hans

Posted in 1940s, Historical fiction, Shoah, Writing

WeWriWa—Precious protection

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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. 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.

Ráhel and Dániel Kovacs, eight and four years old, escaped from a death train under cover of night and found shelter in a nearby convent. They’ve been put in a hidden room upstairs, and a doctor performed a tracheostomy on Dániel, who has diphtheria.

After being assigned the Polish names Liwia and Fryderyk, the Polish forms of their middle names, a nun asked where they got the rosary and scapular they arrived with.

“A very nice lady gave them to us before we got off the train. She taught me four Catholic prayers, and taught my brother a very easy prayer for little children. Her parents converted before she was born, but the Germans thought she was still Jewish.”

“Oh, good, you already know some prayers. Some of the other people we’ve hidden didn’t know anything. What’s your dolly’s name?”

“Ambrózia. My sister bought her in a big store in Budapest. She came from France.”

Dr. Kaczka smiled.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene (and chapter).

“Well, let’s hope she’s your ambrosia and confers the same kind of protection on you as it did on the Greek deities. No one can live forever, but living a long life is good enough.”

After Dr. Kaczka and the nuns had gone, Ráhel leaned over and whispered the Sh’ma and its first paragraph in Dániel’s ear, just as Mirjam had commanded. She also added the last paragraph, and then repeated it in Hungarian, adding the concluding line of the Our Father afterwards.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Take to heart these words with which I charge you this day. Teach them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Bind them as a sign upon your hand, and let them serve as a symbol before your eyes; inscribe them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Thus you shall remember to observe all my commandments and to be holy to your God. I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God. And deliver us from evil. Amen.”

Posted in 1940s, Historical fiction, Shoah, Writing

WeWriWa—New names

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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. 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.

Ráhel and Dániel Kovacs, eight and four years old, have escaped from a death train under cover of night and taken shelter in a nearby convent. They’ve been put in a hidden room upstairs, and a doctor performed a tracheostomy on Dániel, who has diphtheria.

Now they’re asked about their names, and Ráhel provides their middle names like her older sister Mirjam told her to do.

The nun who’d answered the door touched Ráhel’s hand and addressed her in Esperanto. “What are you and the boy named?”

“My name is Lívia, and my brother’s name is Frigyes.”

“Freed-yesh? Is there another form of that name? You’ll both need Polish names when our orphanage school starts in the autumn.”

Ráhel thought for a few minutes about her history lessons in school. She knew Dániel’s middle name was in honor of a famous emperor from a long time ago.

“Frederick!” she said excitedly. “My brother’s English name is Frederick!”

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

“I should’ve guessed that. The Polish name is Fryderyk. Your name will be Liwia. We’ll call you Liwunia, and your brother Fredzio. If you have Jewish names, please don’t tell us. It’s best if we don’t know.”

“Do you feel sick too?” Dr. Kaczka asked.

“No, I had torokgyík last year.” Ráhel took a drink from the new glass of water on the nightstand. “Thank you very much for being nice to us. My mother and sister will give you money after the war.”

“We don’t need money for doing the right thing,” a very young nun said. “For now, the most important thing is to get some rest. We’ll take very good care of you, teach you Polish, and protect you from the Germans. Where did you get that scapular and rosary from?”

Posted in 1940s, Historical fiction, Shoah, Writing

WeWriWa—Tracheostomy

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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. 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.

Ráhel and Dániel Kovacs, eight and four years old, just escaped from a death train through a hole in the floor, under cover of night, and ran to a nearby building for shelter. They were greeted by nuns, who showed them to a hidden room upstairs and gave them food and the chance to bathe. Now a doctor has arrived to help Dániel, who has diphtheria.

The doctor’s surname means “duck” in Polish.

Source http://wellcomeimages.org/indexplus/obf_images/38/73/d7c3216a583a0abf51b860ae5509.jpg

“We’re members of the International Union of Catholic Esperantists and the Polish Esperanto Association,” one of the women in brown said. “We’re also Carmelite nuns. This is Dr. Kaczka, a member of the local underground.”

“We can’t risk going to any hospitals,” Dr. Kaczka said as he opened his bag. “I’ll have to perform an old-fashioned procedure here. I thought diphtheria was gone after last year’s epidemic.”

Dr. Kaczka injected a numbing agent, cleaned Dániel’s neck, draped it with a big gauze square, and made several cuts to reveal the outer wall of the trachea. Ráhel watched, fascinated, as her brother’s neck was cut into and blood gushed forth. One of the nuns daubed up the blood with more gauze. Once the worst of the bleeding looked contained, Dr. Kaczka cut an opening in the trachea and guided a small silver tube inside.

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

He then closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and sucked out the grey pseudomembrane which had been causing Dániel’s neck to swell up and cause so much croupy coughing.

Dániel’s skin went from blue to pink, and the dazed expression in his deep brown eyes lessened. He looked around in confusion, but he no longer looked as though he were fading.

“Praise God. That old trick still works.” Dr. Kaczka smiled down at Dániel, then addressed the nuns in Polish. “Sisters, you’ll have to leave the tube in his throat until the worst of the illness passes and you’re sure he’s on the mend. It shouldn’t adversely affect his drinking, eating, or breathing, though he might not be able to speak normally for a few days. If he puts his hand over the tube, he’ll probably be able to speak better. What’s the boy’s name?”

**********************

P.S.: Happy seventh birthday to my rook piercing! It’s the curved barbell with lavender opals, and it’s always been one of my favorite piercings of my collection to date.

Posted in 1940s, Historical fiction, Shoah, Writing

WeWriWa—Shelter

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

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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. 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.