My 2017 A to Z themes revealed

Continuing my tradition of themes related to my writing, this year I’m featuring places and things from my WIP, The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, and its sequels (each following a different group of characters), Sweet Miracles and Rebuilding the RemnantsBranches in turn begins with three of the characters from The Natural Splash of a Living Being escaping a death march, while Splash continues without them.

Branches is set in locales including Abony, Budapest, Florence, Paris, Béziers, Montpellier, and NantesSweet Miracles follows the characters who immigrate to Newark in November 1948 (the name taken from the mousery and rabbitry one of the couples starts), and Remnants follows the characters who immigrate to Israel after the British are finally gone.

You’ll learn about topics like:

Dohány Utca Synagogue, the Great Synagogue of Budapest and one of the largest in the world, which Eichmann used as his headquarters during the Nazi occupation.

Jewish Newark, which is now sadly just a fading memory. In the mid-twentieth century, Newark had the sixth-largest Jewish community in the U.S., with countless synagogues, schools, bakeries, cemeteries, and other communal institutions.

Machal, the all-volunteer fighting force from abroad which helped Israel to win its War of Independence.

La Samaritaine, a historic department store in Paris.

Hashomer Hatzair, a Socialist–Zionist youth group which supported a binational state. (Contrary to what many people on the modern-day Left believe, it’s very possible to be both a Socialist and Zionist without any conflicts!)

Vailsburg, a Newark neighborhood which now has a much different character than it did at mid-century. It includes a former movie palace which today serves as a church.

Košice, Slovakia, the hometown of my character Artur Sklar and Slovakia’s next-largest city. It was also the first European settlement to get a coat of arms.

Ospedale di Santa Maria Nuova, Florence’s oldest hospital, founded by the father of Dante’s love Beatrice.

Basilica di Santa Croce, an impressive complex that’s so more than just a church. It contains Dante’s empty tomb, waiting for Ravenna to return his bones already.

Neology, a uniquely Hungarian denomination that’s akin to Liberal Modern Orthodox Judaism.

Tempio Maggiore Israelitico di Firenze, the breathtaking Great Synagogue of Florence, which was saved from Nazi destruction in 1944 by brave members of the Italian Resistance. They managed to diffuse almost all of the explosives left by the retreating occupiers.

University of Montpellier, one of the oldest universities in the world, and home to the world’s oldest med school still in operation.

Pasarét, a Bauhaus neighborhood on the Buda side of Budapest.

Gellért Hill, a beautiful, storied hill on the Buda side, with lovely outlooks of the entire city.

Lower Galilee, a beautiful, peaceful region I hope to someday live in, far from the maddening rush of the big cities, and with wonderful interfaith relations. You’ll learn the story behind the most bizarre grave I’ve ever seen!

Several letters have two or three topics, but I kept everything within my usual average of 400–800 words. All non-public domain photographs are properly credited. Since I’ve been to the Lower Galilee, many of those photographs are my own work.

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My names blog will feature (mostly) names from Greek mythology. Since the Greek alphabet doesn’t have certain letters, I found mythological names from other cultures for those days. In the interest of fairness, I always do both a female and male name on each day.

WeWriWa—Unexpected friends

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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 starts the second scene in the fourth section of Chapter 18 of The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. During the pandemonium which broke out during a fight at night, 18-year-old Emánuel Karfinkel and 17-year-old Adrián Fridman were able to escape.

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Boubínský Prales in the Bohemian Forest, Copyright Chmee2

Adrián collapsed in Boubínský Prales, several meters from three armed young men in dark brown clothes.  Emánuel stopped and put his hands up.

“Don’t shoot!  We’ll do whatever you demand, so long as you don’t shoot us for escaping!”

“We’re not Germans,” the tallest young man said. “We’re Czech partisans on night patrol in Šumava.  No one’s going to shoot you for escaping God knows what.  We’ll take you to a safe house.”

“Where are you fellows from?” the shortest partisan asked. “I can tell that’s not a Czech accent.”

WeWriWa—The most dangerous force of Nature

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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, and closes the first scene of the fourth section of this chapter.

18-year-old Gáspár turned from making fun of 18-year-old Emánuel, who’s just disappeared, to making fun of 14-year-old Móric. He mocked Móric for having been so close to Emánuel, and said he was only still alive because his two older brothers took him out of the women and children’s line.

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A potential future mass extinction event, Attribution: National Science Foundation

“Zaki and Viki aren’t here now, and Mórci’s kept going without them,” Kálmán said. “Give him more credit.”

Adalbert cast his eyes up at the dark night sky, lit up with a nearly full Moon. “Nothing will matter soon enough.  It’ll be our turn eventually, and no one will be left to tell our story.  The only people lucky enough to go to Palestine will be the ones who went into hiding, or who escaped to safer countries.  Maybe this is the next mass extinction event I learnt about in geology, accomplished without any meteors, floods, volcanoes, or other natural disasters.  Man evolved to be more dangerous and deadly than all the forces of nature combined.”

WeWriWa—Infighting intensifies

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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 immediately follows last week’s, when the disappearance of Emánuel and Adrián was noticed. 15-year-old Kálmán is horrified to learn no one told him earlier, but his three older friends care less.

Not only are they picking on Emánuel, who’s no longer there to defend himself, but they also return to their second target, 14-year-old Móric, the youngest member of their group. Both of them have survived long past the time anyone expected.

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Memorial to death march victims, Copyright High Contrast

“By all means, go ahead and try to look for them among these corpses,” Gáspár said. “They’ll shoot you too, and there’ll be one less thorn in my side.  I can’t believe you’ve gone this long without losing hope.”

Móric lifted out a shovelful of cold dirt. “Mani can’t be dead.  He was always so good to me, and took care of me like his own brother.”

“Birds of a feather.” Gáspár threw off the dirt on his shovel and pushed it back into the slightly unthawed ground. “Mani never would’ve been a man’s man either.  We all know you’re only here because Zaki and Viki felt sorry for you when we arrived.”

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Móric was only 13 when they were deported, and everyone considered him a boy, particularly his mother and older brothers Zakariás and Viktor. He’d become bar mitzvah, but he wasn’t deemed old enough for long pants yet, and he didn’t get to do as many things as the older teenagers in his local youth group.

His mother insisted he stand in the women and children’s line when they arrived at Auschwitz at the end of June 1944, but Zakariás and Viktor had a bad feeling about the selection patterns they observed, and went to get Móric. He smiled the biggest smile of his life when Zakariás told him, “I take back everything I said.  You’re a man now, little brother.”

Móric was separated from them when they were chosen as mechanics for another camp. Zakariás entrusted their friends with looking after him, since he’d never be able to face his mother in the other world if her youngest remaining child were murdered. His parting words to Móric reminded him he’s a real man now, and to always act like one.

WeWriWa—Where are Emánuel and Adrián?

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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 immediately follows last week’s, which closed with 18-year-old Adalbert asking their friend Emánuel if he has any fancy psychological mumbo-jumbo to explain their situation now and saying he has to crack sometime.

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Memorial to 200 Hungarian victims of a death march, Copyright Haeferl

“Mani’s not here,” Ágoston said. “I say good riddance.  I hope he stays far away from us from now on.”

Kálmán looked around, his heart racing faster and faster as he failed to find Emánuel anywhere.  Adrián had also disappeared.

“Why didn’t you tell us!  We could’ve already buried both of them, and didn’t get a chance to say our goodbyes!”

Adalbert grunted. “I grew to hate both of them.  It’s every man for himself now, and long past the time when we could’ve carried on like normal human beings.”