Recap: Another Jewish family is brought to hide in the zoo. Mimi hears the parents talking to her mother about a Kindertransport. Her mother wants to send her and Fraidy away. Mimi doesn’t want to leave her family. She wishes Bayla was with her.
I’m crying so hard. ”Mama, please don’t send me away. I can’t live without my family. I’m not independent like Bayla. Please.”
“Mimi, it’s not anything I want to do. I just don’t know how much longer the farmer will keep Fraidy. She’s too young to tell her to keep quiet. One sound and we risk all these people’s lives. Besides, Papa and I would feel much better knowing you two are safe in England.”
Our family splitting up all over – I hated the Germans for doing this to us.
I held onto the hope that two months was a long time and that the war could end before that.
More and more people had joined us in our hideout. Some were staying in the lion cages, and some in the aviary section of the zoo.
Journal Entry: November 1939
I keep davening that the war will end before I have to leave with Fraidy. I think of Bayla. She was so brave going off to Paris. Of course, she wasn’t expecting to be gone so long. I miss her like a part of me is missing. I finished writing in my journal and a tear blurred the last word.
Journal Entry: November 1939
More people have come since yesterday to join us in our hiding place. Mr. Zabinski goes into the ghetto and brings back many families and some children. Mama puts me in charge of entertaining the children with games. They all understand to be very quiet. They are like little grown-ups, these children who have had to face the demons – the Nazis.
There’s a cute boy named Benny who must be around six. His parents were taken away somewhere. He says they went on a trip. I don’t contradict him, but I worry where they really are. Benny is smart as anything. He can read like a much older boy, and he draws beautiful pictures of butterflies and flowers. He told me, “We had a huge house with a big garden and Mama gave me art lessons.”
Then there were Lauren and Millie, twin girls a little younger than me. They were there with their aunt. They were both shy but very sweet, and they told me about the ghetto. “It’s horrible. There are so many people crowded into a small space. There is no running water. Conditions are so bad. It’s dirty and people are sick. Our parents both got typhus. They are both in the hospital. Mr. Zabinski promises that when they get well, he will bring them here.” Lauren has large, blue eyes. She doesn’t cry. I think she is too sad to cry. Millie cries quietly. She has a look of terror in her eyes. I try to help them. We say T’hilim together every morning.
Papa is gone most of the time with Mr. Zabinski. We don’t know what he is doing, but Mama tells me he is getting food for us and helping Mr. Zabinski rescue Jews. She doesn’t explain how he does this. I picture him with a gun, shooting Nazis. I worry about him and I wait every night for him to come back. I can’t fall asleep until I hear his footsteps and I hear him talking to Mama.
One day, I was showing the children how to play Red Light, Green Light. I instructed them that they couldn’t make any noise. Benny especially loved the game. He learned to squelch his squeal of delight every time I turned around. I was “it” and I was just starting to turn around when we heard Mrs. Zabinski playing a Chopin Prelude very loudly. I put my finger to my lips and signaled the children to come close and huddle near me. Laura and Millie were holding each other’s hands. Laura’s blue eyes were wide with fright. Everyone knew not to make a sound. Mama was frozen like a statue across the narrow room, listening.
We heard the click of soldiers’ boots on the floor below. “There was a fire in our storehouse!” A Nazi is screaming at Mrs. Zabinski. “Did you set it? You will be arrested.”
Another Nazi entered the house. “This is a fire against the Third Reich. How dare you set this warehouse on fire! You will pay for this damage with your life!”
I swallowed. Please, Hashem, don’t let them hurt Mrs. Zabinski. I am holding my breath.
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.