Recap: Fraidy and Bubby and Zeidy are hiding with a farmer. A German zookeeper came and he’s taking many of the animals away. Mrs. Zabinski is very upset. Mimi misses Bayla and wonders how she is.
The sun was shining through the glass terrace doors. We dared not go too close to any windows. German soldiers were patrolling right outside the zoo. Rys and Mrs. Zabinski were going up and down the paths of the zoo, feeding the remaining animals. Papa and Mr. Zabinski were off on another one of their missions. Mama says they are doing what they can to defend Poland. I’d heard whispers about an underground. I suspected they were involved in it but I didn’t ask.
Mama had a strict learning schedule for me. She taught Parshah and then Navi. We took a break for lunch. “I wonder how Fraidy and Bubby and Zeidy are doing?” she said.
“Can’t we go see?”
“No, Sweetheart. Antonina says it’s much too dangerous for Jews to be walking in public. She will check on them for us when she can.”
“She’s such a good friend to us,” I said.
Mrs. Zabinski had brought in some water colors and a sketchpad. She left it for Mama.
“I’m going to paint the view from this terrace of the zoo,” Mama said.
I sat down and practiced the fingerings on my flute of the Mozart sonata I was working on. I did scales and exercises. I wished I could practice with blowing but it was too risky.
It was towards the late afternoon that something was happening, and I could sense it in the clipped tones that Mrs. Zabinski was using with the cook. I heard a truck pull up outside, but no one got out.
When it was dark outside, and stars twinkled in the sky, seven people stepped into the villa and hurried upstairs. I recognized the Miller family. Serina and I had been friends when we were little. “Serina!” We hugged.
They all looked dirty and tired.
“When we can, we will fill the tub, so you can wash up,” Mrs. Zabinski said.
“The cook was giving me a hard time about preparing so much soup,” Mrs. Zabinski confided in Mama. “I was short with her and I may have to let her go. I don’t know if I can trust her.”
Mrs. Miller sat down on a chair and sighed. “It is dangerous what you are doing. There are signs posted that say anyone harboring Jews will be shot on the spot.”
Mrs. Zabinski brushed away her comment. “I will bring up the dinner soon. We have a signal for when it is safe to come downstairs. I will play a Bach invention on the piano. “Listen and you will hear it. But if I play this one,” she played a Chopin Prelude, then run quickly into hiding.”
Mama whispered in my ear. “We can’t eat the soup. Papa will bring us food.” I understood. Only if we were starving would we have to resort to treif food.
Much later, Papa brought bread, cheese, and milk for us. ”Sorry, you must have been hungry. It was difficult to barter for the food.”
I realized Papa couldn’t just go into a store and buy food. Jews weren’t allowed in stores.
Mrs. Zabinski offered us cucumbers and tomatoes from her garden. “My beautiful lilies, hydrangea, and irises were all destroyed, but the Germans missed my vegetable patch, thank G-d.”
As we were eating, Mr. Miller said, “There was a Kindertransport taking children to safety in England. It ended when Germany attacked Poland, but my husband has inside information from the Underground that one more boat is scheduled to leave from Holland in the spring. I am thinking of putting Serina and Navah on it.” She wiped away a tear. “I wish we had a relative who would sponsor them in England, but I was told they will get assigned to foster homes.”
Mama and Papa exchanged glances. “What is that Kindertransport? I never heard about it.”
“It’s from a Jewish committee in Germany. They formed this special transport for children under 17. It’s a way to safely get our children away from this war. It’s rescued a lot of children, but it stopped now except for this one. We need a way to get the girls to Holland. We’re going to ask Jan for help. It’s the best thing we can do for our children.”
I pushed away the bread I was chewing. “I want to stay here,” I whispered to Mama.
Mama didn’t answer me. She kept asking Mr. Miller questions about the Kindertransport. Then I heard them discussing Fraidy. The farmer and his wife next door were not necessarily agreeing to keep Fraidy indefinitely.
“Your cousin in England, Yosef. Can we write to them?”
“Yes, it’s a second cousin, but I’m sure they will want to help us. We’ll send a letter with their name. I have to see if I still have their correct address in my book.”
No, no. I needed Bayla. She would be able to let my parents know that this was a terrible idea. She wouldn’t just acquiesce to this plan. I didn’t want to leave Mama and Papa and go alone with Fraidy to another country.
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.