Prisoners keep

October 25, 2008
By Sarah Chipley, Orlando, FL

Gavriil Manazai had lived in the Butyrka prison for 11 years, ever since she was 7. When World War II began, Gavriil and her parents were on vacation in St. Petersburg. While there, the Nazis attacked the area they were in, burning down many buildings, including the one her parents were staying in. Little Gavriil was the only survivor but had been blinded by the heat. All she had left was her mother's diamond ring. The ring was the most expensive thing she had ever held. The general, who was in charge, was inspecting the results and found Gavriil cowering in the middle of the street. For some reason, he found sympathy toward her and let her live in his prison for as long as she could survive.

“Number 308?” The prison guard looked up from his clipboard. “Are you number 3-0-8?” There was a short silence then a rustling sound.

“Yes, I am number 3-0-8. What do you want?” Gavriil opened her eyes although she saw nothing.

The guard looked back down. “You are in line to go outside. You are to come with me.”

She raised her head and sat up straight. “No.”

The guard looked up in disbelief. “You would rather rot in this musty old prison than go outside?”

"Yes." The guard shrugged and thought it would be less work to go on to the next cell.

“All right then, Number 310.”

The man looked up. “What?!”

The guard kicked the bar of his cell. “Don’t use that tone with me, Jew! Now do you want to go outside or not?”

The man looked at Gavriil and shook his head. The guard shrugged again and walked down to the end of the hallway.

“Hey, you, girl in 308”the man whispered.

Gavriil looked up. "Yes, what do you want?”

The man looked at her pale face; her pure white eyes seemed to pierce through his soul. She had on the same gray and dirty cloth as he did and had brown twisted hair that mangled together like straw. “I heard that some of the other prisoners are going to make a break for it.” Gavriil’s face didn’t change its expression. “I think that is good news. I think we may finally get out of this Hades of a prison!”

Gavriil sighed. She raised her head up with a disappointed look on her face. “I have heard of many escape plans in the 11 years I have lived here. I do not think this plan will do much better than all the rest.” As the guard started to walk down the hall with a prisoner, Gavriil simply turned away and went back to sleep.

Three weeks passed. The escape plan failed miserably with eight prisoners killed in retaliation for one guard being hit in the face. Gavriil was the only one on the 3rd floor not to participate. One of the prisoners, who had been killed, was the man in 310, and a new captive was to take his place.
“Here’s fresh meat to poke all your ideals in. This one's skinny though, I don’t think he’ll last long.” The guard threw the young man into the cell and laughed as he left.
Gavriil had awakened from the noise and listened for the man. “My name is Gavriil Manazai. Who are you, and why did they bring you here?”
The boy was scared. “Um, my name is Tom, and they brought me here because I stole food from the Nazis.”
Gavriil moved closer to the bars. She always had sympathy for the hungry. “Why did you steal food from them? You couldn’t have just stolen from a store?”
The boy looked down in a mixture of anger and sadness. “I stole from them because they stole from me. They stole my parent’s lives.”
Gavriil moved back to the corner. She laid down on her cot and pretended to sleep, hoping he would do the same.

Another three weeks later, another escape plan had been formed. However, this plan was different. Tom had somehow gotten a blue print of the building, and Gavriil was in charge of listening for guards. Tom was talking about the escape. "There is a small air shaft in my cell behind this toilet. If I can get a tool to open it, I can crawl down and up to cell 308 and unlock it.”
“Can’t you crawl to another cell that doesn’t have a blind person in it?” Tom looked up from the plans. “Gavriil, I need you to help me. I have a good feeling that you’re destined to help us out. Trust me.” Just then Gavriil heard foot steps and made a signal that told everyone who was watching to go to their cots. Once the guard was gone, Tom explained to everyone how to take pieces from their cots to make weapons without the cots becoming loose and falling apart. Then he put the plan under his blanket and went to sleep.

Another week had passed by and everyone on the third floor was prepared for the escape. "Gavriil, are you ready for tomorrow?”
She looked up and boldly said, “Yes!” She stood up and felt her way to the bars then felt the wall. In the wall, there was a mouse hole. Gavriil reached inside and pulled out a box. Inside the box, she took out a broken medal comb, an old tooth brush and a dead moth.
Tom was confused. “Why are you taking a dead moth with you?”
Gavriil moved toward his voice and smiled her first smile in 11 years. “It was trapped in the box one day while I was feeling my mothers comb. I am taking this dead moth with me one because it is trapped in a prison like me. The other reason is that I believe that no prisoner, whether he is a prisoner of war or prisoner of a small box, should be left behind tomorrow!”
Night had passed and all the prisoners were awake and ready for the escape. “Gavriil are you ready? You know this has to be quick.”
Gavriil raised her head. “I’m ready.” The guards were changing out, and for a few minutes, no one came down the hall. Tom loosened the toilet and climbed into the shaft. Gavriil crawled over to the shaft behind her cot and moved the covering away with her toothbrush. Tom climbed in her cell, took the old comb and picked the cell lock, having practiced with his own cell lock many times. One by one, they gathered. They made their way to the guard quarters and killed them in there sleep, taking weapons and freeing more prisoners in the process.

“Gavriil, we have to leave now! We have to leave before the new guards show up!”
Gavriil had heard a bark and crawled over to the sound, finding a dog tied to a steam pipe. She started to untie it. “I said I wasn’t going to leave anything prisoner!” Tom grabbed her arm, but she shoved it away. She had almost untied the dog when the guard walked in.

Tom watched helpless as the guard pulled out his pistol and shot Gavriil in the chest. Tom shot at the guard, who ran off. Tom ran to Gavriil. “Gavriil hold on. SOMEONE COME BACK, HELP ME!!!! Hold on, hold on for me, please!”

He was crying now looking at her pale face and knowing she would die. Gavriil opened her eyes and smiled. “Tom, I have done what I was sent here to do. I met you and helped you free these people. Here.” She took off the ring her mother had given her and put it in his hand. “Take this and live a life that I will never have.”

Tom looked at the ring then back down at her with tears in his eyes and on his cheeks. “I don’t want you to leave.” She closed her eyes and smiled again. “Goodbye, Tom.” Then she died in his arms.

The other prisoners ran in and saw Tom holding Gavriil in his arms and saw the hole in her chest. The women started to cry, and the men stood silent in respect, knowing she had helped save them. Men walked over and touched Tom on the shoulder. They looked down at their leader. “Sir, we have to go. Tom, let's take her and give her a proper burial.” Tom looked up, wiped away the tears and nodded. The men picked Gavriil up and took her outside.

Three days later, there was a gorgeous funeral. Everyone worked together cleaning the land and making everything as nice as it could be. The men had dug a hole and had made a beautiful casket made of a very large pine tree. The border of it was made to look like vines and the top had a grand painting of a flying dove. Men and women cried as they dropped wild roses onto the beautiful casket. When the funeral was over everyone returned to the camp they had made of sticks and old cloths. Tom had taken the ring and sold it to buy a tomb stone for Gavriil. It said: “Here lays Gavriil Manazai, who had lived in a prison, most of her life. She died while helping a prisoner of the Nazi’s. She vowed to save every living thing, man or beast in the prison. She succeeded, but gave her life for them in the process. She will be greatly missed.”

This is what Tom wanted it to end like. In reality, there was a small hole dug in muddy dirt. Men had made a simple box out of a small, wiry tree. They placed the box in the hole and filled it with dirt. The women of the camp had made a woven cross of wild flowers. Many tears were shed, and everyone returned to camp.
Tom stared at the pathetic sight of a funeral. He raised his head to the rain and screamed with all his might. Then he looked down with tears in his eyes. "I will make sure that every prisoner, of every prison, concentration camp and penitentiary, will be freed. For you.”

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This article has 3 comments.

Writer said...
on Nov. 3 2008 at 5:14 pm
Thank you!!!

dchipley said...
on Nov. 2 2008 at 2:31 pm
I know how hard you worked on this story. Great job!

The Dreamer said...
on Nov. 1 2008 at 4:31 pm
This is great! I hope to see more of your work soon!


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