WeWriWa—Two lucky shots


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


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.

Košice, Slovakia



Orthodox synagogue of Košice, Copyright Liadmalone

Košice is the hometown of my character Artur Sklar, though he’s Czech and not Slovakian. It’s the next-largest city in Slovakia, and the largest city in eastern Slovakia. In 2013, it was named (along with Marseille) the European Capital of Culture. Košice sits on the Hornád River, and is bordered on the west by the Slovak Ore Mountains. Today, its population is about 240,000.

The city was first recorded as Villa Cassa in 1230. Other historic names include Kassa (Hungarian), Kaschau (German), Cassovia (Latin), Caşovia (Romanian), Koszyce (Polish), and Kaşa (Turkish). People have been living here at least as far back as the end of the Paleolithic Era.


Interior of Neolog synagogue on Zvonárska Ulica, Copyright A.fiedler

Košice has a very well-preserved Old Town, the largest in Slovakia. Many of its buildings are protected as cultural heritage landmarks, among them the Dóm Svätej Alžbety (St. Elisabeth Cathedral), Slovakia’s largest church. The Old Town’s long main street is lined with churches, historic houses, palaces, cafés, restaurants, boutiques, and shops.

Košice was Europe’s first settlement to receive a coat of arms, in 1369.


Copyright Erika Mlejová (sk:Redaktor:Erika Mlejová)

Due to its position near the Slovakian border, it’s been in and out of foreign hands many times over the centuries. Most recently, it was part of the former Czechoslovakia from 1945–93, and part of Hungary from 1938–45. Under the First Vienna Award of 1938 and the Second Vienna Award of 1940, Hungary annexed parts of Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia.

This was a quasi-blessing in disguise, as their Jewish communities were largely left alone until the German occupation of 19 March 1944.  This slightly prolonged rendezvous with cruel destiny gave some young people more of a chance to survive, because they were old enough to qualify as workers by the time they were deported.

About 23,600 people (300 from Košice) unable to prove Hungarian citizenship were deported and murdered in the Kamyanets–Podilskyy massacre of August 1941.

During the 1944 deportations, Košice was the spot where the Hungarian gendarmes accompanying the death trains handed over control to the Germans.


Ethnic Hungarians celebrating Košice’s return to Hungary, Copyright Gyöngyi, FOTO:Fortepan — ID 6168, Source http://www.fortepan.hu/_photo/download/fortepan_11510.jpg

Many refugees found shelter in Hungary, one of the only places in Europe left to run to. Local organisations and individuals helped most of them to reach Budapest. In 1941, the Jewish Women’s Association created a home for 60 children and young women who’d fled Slovakia.

Košice Jewry were forced into a ghetto beginning 28 April 1944. About 1,000 exemptions (mostly doctors, medal-holders from WWI, politicians, and professionals) lived in another ghetto. On 13 May, the main ghetto was liquidated and its residents moved to the master ghetto for Abauj–Torna County.

Altogether, about 14,000 people were deported to Auschwitz on 13, 19, and 25 May, and 2 June. About 100 people had gone into hiding, and several dozen more escaped the ghettoes for Slovakia or Budapest.

Like most places in Europe, the returning survivors tried to rebuild their community, but there weren’t enough of them left. They left for the bigger cities or other countries. Today, almost no one uses the synagogue.


Luxemburg Tower fragment of Medieval wall system


Electric tram on Hlavná Ulica (Main Street)

There’s a lot of culture in Košice, such as the Košice State Theatre (drama, opera, ballet); the Old Town Theatre; the Marionette Theatre; State Philharmonic Košice; the Slovak Technical Museum (which has a planetarium); the East Slovak Museum (established 1872 as the Upper Hungarian Museum); and the East Slovak Gallery.

Other landmarks include the Greek Catholic Church of Virgin Mary’s Birth, the Executioner’s Bastion, a zoo, the 14th century St. Michael Chapel, the St. Urban Tower, and the Archbishop’s Palace.


Košice Theatre, 1900


Pre-1900 postcard with theatre at centre

Košice boasts a number of schools, among them the Technical University of Košice, Pavol Jozef Šafárik University, Security Management College, and the University of Veterinary Medicine. Several other schools also have branches in Košice. There are 47 elementary schools, 13 vocational schools, 20 gymnasia, and 24 specialised high schools.


St. Elisabeth Cathedral and St. Michael Chapel, Copyright Maros Mraz (Maros)


Archbishop’s Palace, Copyright Rl91

It’s been a long, hard, painful road to independence, but today Slovakia is finally free.


Copyright Bubamara

WeWriWa—First meal of freedom


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.


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


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.


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.”