WeWriWa—A gradual journey

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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’m now sharing excerpts which, as you’ll see next week, are related to a new project I’m researching, an alternative history set in Medieval Italy. This comes from my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors from Hungary, France, Czechoslovakia, and Italy as they readjust to the land of the living and decide where they ultimately want to settle.

It’s December 1945, and the friends have gone to the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence before departing for Paris. Young doctor Caterina was apprehended here by the Nazis in November 1943, despite a priest invoking the rule of sanctuary. It took three people to haul her off of Dante’s empty tomb.

“Do you think we’re about to ascend into our own version of Paradise?” Eszter asked. “The past three weeks have been so nice, it feels like we’re already there in some ways.”

Caterina shook her head, still touching Dante. “It’s more like we’re ascending to higher terraces of Purgatory. Dante didn’t go through all those levels of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise in one fell swoop. It was a gradual journey, with lessons to be learnt at each stage.”

Imre pulled out his golden pocket watch. “I’d love to spend the entire day exploring this place, but we don’t want to miss our train. We can always return to Firenze later and do everything we didn’t get around to this time around.”

Caterina swept her hands down the monument and put them back at her sides.

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

“Yes, we sure can return. Unlike Dante, our exile isn’t forever.”

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

This tomb may finally be occupied soon, at least temporarily. Since Dante’s 700th death anniversary is in September, negotiations between Ravenna and Florence have been in the works regarding a transfer of the remains to mark this special occasion. Maybe someday his bones will return to his native city to stay.

WeWriWa—Trepidation in a train

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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. I’m now sharing from Chapter 45, “Imre’s Revenge,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s, and ends the chapter.

After a violent fight with a former gendarme, Imre Goldmark is being smuggled out of Budapest and into Italy to join his girlfriend Csilla and their friends. Imre is afraid he killed the gendarme, and his mother doesn’t want to take any chances. Imre’s sister Júlia decided to leave Hungary too.

They’re now safe inside a cattlewagon of a train under the protection of the Brihah. Imre has just told Júlia he thinks he loves Csilla, and that he wouldn’t have killed a man for any of his prior girlfriends.

Budapest’s Nyugati Station in 1936
Copyright FOTO:FORTEPAN/Lőrincze Judit

“Are you really sure you killed him? Maybe he just passed out or was badly injured.”

“There was no pulse or breath.” Imre fell silent at the sound of footsteps pacing around outside.

Throughout the night, various voices drifted through the air. Some of them were Russian soldiers, but others were Hungarians. Every so often, they heard voices in a third, unfamiliar language, which they hoped was Hebrew being spoken by Brihah agents guarding the train. It was difficult to fall asleep with only straw for a bed and no blankets, but eventually both Imre and Júlia’s exhaustion got the better of them, and they were sound asleep by the time the train pulled out of the station and began making its way towards the birthplace of Dante, Boccaccio, and the Renaissance.

WeWriWa—Plunged into darkness

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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. I’m now sharing from Chapter 45, “Imre’s Revenge,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s.

After a violent fight with a former gendarme, Imre Goldmark is being smuggled out of Budapest and into Italy to join his girlfriend Csilla and their friends. Imre is afraid he killed the gendarme, and his mother doesn’t want to take any chance. Imre’s sister Júlia decided to leave Hungary too.

They’ve just climbed into a cattlewagon of an unguarded train with assistance from their smuggler.

Copyright zenobia_joy

They were plunged into darkness after the door slid shut and the locking mechanism closed. Júlia eased herself onto the straw on the floor, and Imre followed her lead after removing the heavy sack.

“So this is how Csicsi travelled,” he whispered. “Now I know a little bit how she felt. If this feels degrading, I can only imagine how much worse it must’ve been to be packed in with eighty other people in the heat of summer, and with a hostile gendarme hanging onto the outside of the car.”

“You really like her, don’t you?”

“I think I love her. She’s not the type of woman I would’ve considered myself interested in, but we seem well-matched so far. I wouldn’t have killed a man for any of my other ladies.”

WeWriWa—Leaving Budapest

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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. I’m now sharing from Chapter 45, “Imre’s Revenge,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. This week’s snippet comes about one page after last week’s.

After a violent fight with a former gendarme, Imre Goldmark is being smuggled out of Budapest and into Italy to join his girlfriend Csilla and their friends. Imre is afraid he killed the gendarme, and his mother doesn’t want to take any chance.

Imre’s sister Júlia announced she wants to escape too, and Mrs. Goldmark granted permission. Now they’re on their way to a train with their smuggler, with both their luggage and Csilla’s recovered valuables.

A Brihah train in Austria, 1945

The Brihah man pulled the sled down the stairs, and Imre and Júlia followed after him in the dark. Every step of the way, Imre prayed the pain wouldn’t decide to make a sudden reappearance. He could already feel people looking at them strangely, though people carting around a lot of luggage hadn’t yet become a completely foreign sight in these early postwar months.

The Brihah man led them around to an unguarded train standing still on the tracks. He first tried the coal cars, then began trying to open the cattlewagons. Near the end of the line, a door finally slid open, to the sight of several large cows and their calves. Without wasting a moment, he hoisted the luggage-laden sled inside, and then Júlia climbed inside with the skis, globe, and bag of food. Imre climbed in last, the weight of the postal sack heavier than before.

“Good luck,” the Brihah man said. “Remember what I said about kicking the cows if you absolutely need to make any noises.”

WeWriWa—Mrs. Goldmark’s magic

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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. I’m now sharing from Chapter 45, “Imre’s Revenge,” of my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees. This week’s snippet comes right after last week’s.

It’s November 1945, and Imre chose to stay behind in Budapest when his girlfriend Csilla and their friends were smuggled into Italy. Hoping to prove himself a hero, he went to Csilla’s hometown Abony to recover important possessions she hid last year.

Imre broke his entire left hand after a violent fight with the gendarme who took over Csilla’s house, and has been advised to hide in his mother’s apartment till a smuggler can be found. Less than 24 hours later, that smuggler has arrived and promised to get Imre into Italy.

View of Pasarét, Copyright Globetrotter19

“Their ultimate destination is France,” Mrs. Goldmark said. “My beautiful Imcsi wants to study literature at the Sorbonne.”

“How did you know my address?” Imre asked. “I didn’t have a chance to tell you.”

“I took today off work, claiming a personal emergency, and asked around in all the Pest synagogues and Jewish committees. I was finally directed towards a smuggler, whom it turns out knew someone who’d recently helped with smuggling a group in Pasarét. When I spoke to this other smuggler, I got the address, and I went over there immediately to retrieve your luggage. Mirjam was shocked to learn what’d happened, but promised to keep mum. She wishes you well, and looks forward to seeing you again when she comes to France.”

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

Mirjam is the much-older sister of Imre’s friend Eszter. She and her roommates opened their apartment to Imre’s female friends, and found a vacant apartment across the hall for the boys. Mirjam fled home to Abony after the Nazis invaded Budapest. Though that made her fate much worse, it also enabled her to send her youngest two siblings to safety in a last-minute miracle.