Chaya

October 18, 2008
By
The railroad car rattles harshly as we go around a corner. I hear Shifre whimper
softly.
“It’s ok.” I whisper.
“Tivka, I’m thirsty and hungry.” She says quietly.
“We’ll be there soon.”
The truth is I really don’t know where we are going. I’ve lost track of time. Through the
cattle car’s small window I can see it’s daylight, but nothing else. We have spent several
days in here and we have no latrine. My stomach aches with no food and my mouth feels
like cotton. I’m losing hope.
I close my eyes and dream of home.
I am standing on the steps of our small cottage. The sunlight is on my cheeks it
feels so real and warm. Children play in the dirt road with a jump rope. I smile as they
laugh and have fun, just like before... I turn away and head around the back of the
cottage. I see someone hunched over the garden. Mother... I run toward her.
“Mother! Oh, mother.” I hug her tightly
“What’s the meaning of this surprise, my Tivka!” she says
“Oh mother, I’ve missed you!” I say into her shoulder.
“Ah, Tivka, I’ve missed you too.” she says, hugging me back. She lets go of me
and looks me over confused. She just smiles and shakes her head.
“Go on now! I’ve only got a couple of hours before the sun goes!” she says
shooing me off with her hand.
I smile at her and walk toward the cottage. I walk inside. Everything’s the same
way I left it before... I inhale the sweet smell of butter and vinegar. I walk in the kitchen
slowly savoring the moments. My aunt is churning butter.
“Aunt Ester!” I cry
“Child, would you set the table for dinner?”
I walk over to the plates and set them at all nine spots. I set some napkins out and some
forks. I grab a load of wooden cups and set them on the table.
“All done!” I say smiling.
My Aunt looks up puzzled.
“What has gotten into you? You are so bright.”
“I’m happy” I say.
“To set the table? You usually groan and shuffle your feet!” she huffs “Ah, I’ll
never understand you. Go get your Father and brothers from the fields.”
I run quickly outside and almost run into Mother.
“Oh!” she cries almost dropping the corn.
“Oh mother, I’m so sorry! I was-“
“Go on now. Go!” she laughs
“What has gotten into her?” I hear my Aunt say.
I run around the garden and toward the fields. The rolling hills are beautiful this
time of year. The wild flowers are just now blooming and the wind is blowing so that
they sway lazily. I breathe in the air. Sweet mountain air! I watch a bird fly high above me. I laugh and run faster toward the fields. I meet my two older brothers Shmuel and
Avrom, along with my Father. I smile and greet them cheerfully.
“I wish I could be that happy when I come out to the fields.” Shmuel says
laughing along with Father.
“How’s my Tivka?” my Father asks, eyes twinkling.
“ I’m well, and you?” I say in a mock curtsy.
“Hot!” says Avrom.
“My guess is that it is time for dinner?” says Father.
“You have guessed correctly!” I say laughing.
We make our way cheerfully back to the cottage. When we finally make it back my little
sisters run out.
“Father!” Margrot cries, followed by Eva and Rachel.
They all gather around and hug him. I stand back and smile.
“What have my girls been up to?” Father says.
“We went to the market!” cries Rachel.
“We got another chicken!” cries little Eva.
“It’s a hen!’ adds Margrot.
“Come; tell me more at the table so we can eat.” Father says laughing.
We all file in the cottage and sit in our respected places. Father at the head,
mother, Aunt on either side, and the rest of us fall in. I breathe in the mixed aromas of
bread, corn, and hot cakes. I look around at my family. We are all so happy. Just like
before. Here together.
I open my eyes. The smell is horrendous. My tears flow steadily. The cattle car
door rushes open.
“’Raus, ‘raus, schneller!” a harsh voice yells. “Out, out, faster!”
We all climb out of the cattle car. The sunlight burns our eyes, its been so long.
When we get out, and the soldiers push in a line. I stand next to little Shifre, the small girl
I met on the car. She has lost her family like I have. She’s very young maybe six or
seven.
“I’m here.” I whisper. Be strong.”
She looks up at me, wipes her tears away and squares her jaw.
“Welcome to Dachau, your new home.” says a soldier. “You must work to stay
alive. We will keep all your valuables, so please hand over everything.”
We put anything that we have into the wheel barrel rolling by. The soldier
continues down the line.
“Now, go through that door and take a shower, get your clothes and your
number.” says the soldier. “Welcome to hell.”
I lift my head high and walk to the showers. My name is Tivka and I’m Jewish. A
single tear rolls down my cheek. My name is Tivka and in Hebrew it means hope... I
watch a bird fly across the sky.
“Chaya” I whisper.
Life.





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