Recap: Bayla hears the terrible news on the radio that Germany attacked Poland. Aunt Aimee tries to call Bayla’s parents but they can’t get through.
“I’m holding Fraidy’s ears. We’ve closed all the shades. The bombs are whistling around us.”
“We have to get out of here,” Papa says, as he is calmly packing up our kitchen supplies. Mama has already packed our suitcases.
“We have to wait for Bubby and Zeidy,” Mama says.
I will ask them to hurry.
There’s a low whistle. I feel my stomach muscles tighten, waiting for the explosion. It comes. It’s right near our house.
“It’s too close.” Papa is working frantically. ”If they don’t get here soon, we will meet them, Sarah. We can’t stay here with the children. We have to get to the train station.”
“Where are we going?” I ask. Fraidy is sobbing hysterically. The noises are so terrifying. I feel like sobbing, too.
“We’ll take the train out of Warsaw and head away from Poland as far as we can get.”
Another deadly whistle, the wait, and another explosion.
Just then Zeidy is at the door. “Come quickly. The carriage is in back.” We head out the back door. I gaze around. I want to remember every part of our house. I don’t know when we will return.
Mama urges me forward. I’m holding Fraidy’s hand in one hand and my flute case in the other. We bundle into the carriage. Bubby is there, hidden under piles of suitcases. Zeidy taps the horse hard with the rein and we head out. “We will take the back dirt roads. The German tanks are everywhere.”
My heart is pounding. “Keep your head down in case,” Zeidy calls.
In case a bomb falls on us. Then it will be all over. I start reciting T’hilim by heart. I’m holding Fraidy tight. She’s stopped sobbing. It’s like she’s too scared to cry anymore.
We see neighbors and thousands of people walking or in carriages heading down the main road.
The steady clip-clop of the horse on the dirt road and the swaying of the carriage create a rhythm of hope. I try to picture Bayla. What’s she doing now? Is she thinking of us? I wish she was here but I’m glad she is safe.
The sun is setting with rose and amber stripes. It’s a beautiful sunset, defying the ugliness of hate and war.
Finally, I see the train station. So many people are converging into the station, schlepping suitcases. Babies and toddlers are crying.
Bombs are whizzing overhead. My heart is pounding. It’s like a giant nightmare, only it’s really happening.
Papa leads us into the station. Mama is carrying Fraidy. Papa and Zeidy bring the suitcases. We stand by the tracks, waiting. Papa goes into the booth to see the schedule.
Time passes, and more and more people crowd into the station. A loud bomb explodes right outside, and people are screaming. A woman runs inside. She’s frantic. “A doctor! We need a doctor. My mother was hit.”
A man follows her outside. He must be a doctor.
I’m shaking and reciting T’hilim by heart. Mama has her free arm around me.
Papa comes back. “There’s no one in the stationmaster office. Just then, there’s an announcement. “The station is closed. No more trains will leave Warsaw!”
“We have to go back home,” Papa says. We head back to Zeidy’s wagon.
What will we do? The Germans are coming. We can hear the tanks and the marching boots like daggers stabbing our homeland.
Papa whispers in my ear, “Remember, meidele, Hashem is with us every step of the way in darkness and in light. A y’shuah can come in the blink of an eye.”
We made it back home. None of us could sleep. The night wore on and on until suddenly there was a knock at the door. Mama whispered, “Don’t answer.”
Papa walked towards the door. “Someone may need help.”
It was Jan Zabinski. “Quick, I’ve come to take you to the zoo. It’s safer there. Please come quickly.”
We piled into his truck. Papa loaded our suitcases. We hadn’t unpacked yet, which was good. Again, we left our home.
The streets were strangely silent. There was a hush over everything, like the very stones and bricks that make up the city’s houses were anticipating the next attack.
We pulled up to the green gate and he unlatched it and hurried us inside. “Thank you, Jan,” Papa whispered.
The zoo is eerily quiet. It’s like the bombs muted the animals’ natural instincts.
It was so strange to be coming here now, at night, instead of on a sunny day when we would be exploring the zoo for a family day of fun.
Antonina Zabinski opened the door. She’d been waiting for us. Just then a bomb whistled close by. “Come in.” She ushered us quickly inside.
Mama hugged her friend. “You’re so kind. We hate to trouble—”
Mrs. Zabinski interrupted her. “I need you to all go upstairs. There’s a long, narrow closet near my bedroom. It’s best you hide in there now. Nazis have been coming by the zoo looking for food, and I don’t want them to see you.”
It was not necessary to explain more. We rushed upstairs and into the closet. There were cots lined up in the closet, all spread with blankets and pillows. Mrs. Zabinski followed us upstairs with a pitcher of water, mugs, and apples. She suggested that we hide upstairs during the day, until she could determine the Nazis’ routine.
Fraidy had fallen asleep in Papa’s arms.
“How will we keep Fraidy quiet?” Mama whispered to Papa.
Just then, Rys strode in holding a baby lynx. He offered to let me pet it. I touched its soft polka-dotted coat.
Mrs. Zabinski brought a radio into the closet and turned it on. We heard the announcer state, “Poland has surrendered to the German army.”
Mama and Papa exchanged worried glances.
My stomach clenched. This was a terrible thing, especially for the Jews in Poland.
Mrs. Zabinski ushered Rys out. “If you need anything, let me know.”
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for The Queens Jewish Link and she writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivahs and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.