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“Hide before anyone sees us!” said Mum as she grabbed my arm. I was scared, what was going to happen to us if we were seen. My brother David and sister Ania were with us, but where was Papa? We ran further down the hallway, then as we turned around a corner we saw a dark figure approaching. I slowed my step.

“Anelie hurry we mustn’t slow,” whispered my mother fiercely.

It was hard to carry David, but my mother was carrying Ania. We got closer to the figure and I realized it was Papa. He took David and handed me a heavy backpack. I put it on and we started to go faster. Soon we came to the end of the hallway, it was an open room. In the middle was a ladder. My father started to climb up it; he said it led to a secret train depot someone had told him about. It was to arrive any time now. From there we would board a secret train out of Poland.
“We should have left earlier Florentyna, we may have missed the train,” Papa told Mum.”
“I know Marcin, but we couldn’t leave with barely any money. I’d rather miss the train and get on the next one arriving then have spent all the money we have on the tickets and not have any money when we arrive in England,” Mum replied.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I poked my head out of the hole into a smog filled depot, it was crammed with anxious faces, those mostly of parents going with their children out of Poland, but the ones sending theirs away were scared and overwhelmed with grief. Most children sat quietly and either talked or played with siblings, ones with no siblings sat silent, afraid of what they didn’t know, their faces and perhaps thoughts mirror images of their relatives. Many looked as though they had been there days, Papa said the arrival of the train was unpredictable but it always came. I hoped that the train would come today or tomorrow, for we had already waited too long to leave Poland. Papa proceeded over to the ticket booth, money in his fearful shaking hand.

“Where to sir?” asked the gruff, fat old man behind the sticky, dirt covered window.

“Five tickets to England please,” Papa said nervously.

“That will be $46.25, I’ll need it all in cash,” the man demanded almost greedily. Papa counted out the money, bill after bill; that was almost half of the money we had conjured in the last month.

“I’ll also have to have exact change,” commented the man. Papa was being ripped off a precious 75 , but he handed the man the extra dollar anyways. I knew he didn’t want to cause any sort of commotion that might eliminate us from the train ride.

“Alright, here are your 5 tickets to England. The conductor does not call England at the stop he uses the code word królowa*. When he says that you must say “Oh conductor I seem to be having some trouble with my seat.” Then he will come by you and escort you to a different car where you will get off when the train stops,” the man explained to Papa.

“Thank you kindly sir,” responded Papa. We went over to an open bench and sat down with our bags. I fell asleep quickly, I was overcome in anxious exhaustion. I woke up to my mother urging me to get up; she heard the train in the distance. I gathered the bags I could carry and squeezed and squished my way to the boarding platform, right behind my mother holding more bags, and in front of my father holding Ania and David. Every once in a while I would look back to make sure he was still there. We finally got to the edge and there it was; freedom. We saw it rolling down the track, slowing, the smoke rolling off the top of the stack like squishy pillows. Then it was in front of us, a tall, lanky man screamed at the top of his weak lungs: “All aboard!” We struggled onto the train as fast as we could, searching for a seat where we could all be together. I saw one!

“Hurry Mum, over there, quick get it!” I shrieked at Mum. We ran to the seat, we got it. Papa handed me Ania and David so he could put our bags above on the rack.

“Ah there all set, now let’s settle in for a comfortable ride,” said Papa.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We were on the train for some time then finally I heard someone shout królowa. Father called out the secret message; a man came over and led us to a different train car. The train stopped and we stepped out into a very remote location, there didn’t really seem to be a depot anywhere in sight. There was only a long and sort of wide wooden board, in the middle of what seemed to be a grassy meadow. It was pretty much overtaken by men in brown uniforms. One of the men approached us and said he would take us to safety.

“Keep your heads down and hold your belongings close to you,” instructed the man, “we will be going through a large gate and from there I will assign you to a barr… hotel; you will get numbers that you will be known by until you are moved to your new location. I assure you this will not take long.” We walked with the man for quite a while, because we were not allowed to lift our heads I could not see what was around me.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We had arrived, we got our numbers and were led with many others to a very tall and wide building, most of its windows were broken or scratched or so dirty you couldn’t tell they were a window. At the door we were told by a very heavyset man that our room was on the fourth floor, seven sections to the right of the staircase. When we got up there it was so crowded we were lucky to find two beds next to each other. We laid our bags in the trundle under the bed and set Ania and David down for a nap.

“Mum how long will we be staying here, I don’t very much care for it?” I asked Mum.

She responded, “Not long sweetheart,” then she said quietly, “hopefully.” I was scared, I didn’t know where we were or how long we would stay or where we would end up next.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning we went downstairs to receive our breakfast.

“Your ages?” asked the heavyset man we had seen yesterday.

“What?” asked Papa.

“I need the ages of you and all of the members in your family for work purposes,” answered the man.

“Oh, well then,” Papa said confused, then he stated the facts the man required, “Florentyna, my wife, is 35, as am I, my daughter, Anelie, is 13 and my twin babies, David and Ania, are 1 and a half.”

“Thank you sir, you, your wife and perhaps your daughter will start work tomorrow,” the man bid well to us and moved to a different couple.

“What was that all about Marcin?” Mum asked Papa.

“I’ll tell you later Enty, but really not right now,” said Papa. I was suspicious, why wouldn’t Papa tell us. I wanted to know what was wrong too.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

That night I overheard Papa telling Mum that the person who had told him about the secret train lied to him and that the train really brought unsuspecting Jews to work camps. They were at Lublin; at Lublin they worked for short periods then sent to Auschwitz to be gassed. Now I know why Papa hadn’t told Mama in front of me; I really wish I hadn’t overheard because now I was scared and frantic.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning Papa and Mum had to go to work, I was to stay and watch over Ania and David while they were gone. They promised they wouldn’t be gone long and they would return at dinner. I was still fretful about the conversation my parents had last night and wasn’t so sure that Mum and Papa would come home. Then I saw a red dot on Ania, noooo, no, no, no! She didn’t have typhus it was just a mosquito bite, I tried to convince myself; but I knew it was the truth and I also knew that you were killed if you were sick. They did inspections weekly; hopefully she’d be better by next week, that’s if she didn’t die before that, I knew I shouldn’t be so negative, I shouldn’t have even thought that. There were no doctors at the camp which meant no medicine and no cure, there was only hope that she could live through it at such an early and prone age to die of such a horrible and unforgiving disease. I stripped her of her dress so I could clean it, then I checked David, he was fine. I picked all the lice off of Ania, wrapped her in a blanket, that I was sure was clean, and went to wash her dress in one of the large basins in the hall. Ania started to cry as I left the room.

“Oh sweetheart I’ll be right back, all I have to do is clean your dress,” I told Ania reassuringly, then I decided to wash David’s clothes as well because I didn’t want him getting sick. When Mum and Papa get back I will tell them about Ania and what I did to help her, surely they’ll be proud of me, I thought as I walked out of the room, two sets of miniature clothes in my hands.

The hallway was packed with old women hobbling around asking for sons or daughters that have been gone for so long now it’s a wonder how they remember them or left them to be captured by the Nazis because they would be dying soon any ways and wouldn’t remember what happened in their past. There were also plenty of little girls jumping, skipping and running with new friends; they were so full of ignorant happiness, not knowing their fate that they have done nothing to deserve. I washed the clothes silently, then walked back in to the room to two sleeping babies; I covered them up in the heavy blanket. I hung their clothes on the side of the bed to dry, then I sat down to read and watch over my sweet kaczki*.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Mum and Papa arrived late; the dinner line was almost over. They looked dirty and disheveled; they were at complete and utter exhaustion. They could barely walk, I didn’t want to tell them about Ania but I knew I had to.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

They were devastated, Mum told me how to take care of her and that I was what I was doing was very good. She also told me about something else.

“Anelie,” Mum paused for a long time, her face looked weary but ever so anxious, I didn’t know you could be so worried when you’re so tired, “your father has got a plan to escape. . . . tonight.”

“Why tonight, can’t we wait just a little longer?” I inquired.

“Because otherwise your sister, and probably all of us, won’t be able to survive here much longer,” Mum replied. I knew she was scared for my sister, brother and I because we were the most prone to get sick and die, but mostly for Ania.

“All right what’s the plan?” I asked in a wary tone.

“This is the only night in the week where no guards are on duty on the outside gates, so at 12a.m. we will awake and gather our bags, we can only take one small bag each so choose what you will bring carefully, you must also pack some things of your brother’s and sister’s or else they will have nothing for our journey, your father and I will also. Then we will cut through a section of unbarbed gate into the woods where there is a kind Czech women’s house. We will reside there for a time until Ania is better, when she is better the women will help us get to England. Do you understand Anelie?” Mum told me.

“Yes Mum I do, should we begin to pack now?” I asked.

“Yes, but do it quietly and subtly so as not arise suspicion,” explained Mum. I began to pack my bag, I was terrified of what would happen if we got caught, I had heard the stories of what they did to babies when their parents were caught trying to escape they were horrible gruesome stories. I had always wondered how someone could do that to an innocent baby, they hadn’t even lived their life, they barely had enough breaths to count as a life.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


It was pitch black, I was trembling, I had no idea where we were on the camp grounds, I was scared but I trusted in Papa to get us to safety. We had finally arrived to the opening after walking a good amount of time, Papa went through first with David, then I with our bags and lastly Mum with the sickly Ania, she had gotten worse throughout the day; more red spots had appeared. I believe she also got an eye infection because her eyes were puffy and red. As we walked through the forest twigs scratched my already raw and tired feet and branches grabbed my dress, torn and withered from work and anxiety trying to pull me back into an unforgiving life.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The night had been horrible and terrifying but in early dawn we arrived at the house. The woman was a doctor so she was able to help Ania. We ate, cleaned and slept; finally our luck was starting to turn. Soon we’d be free, zdrowy* and happy; like old times. There were no more scary questions, uncertainty, or anxiousness. We were finally free to be who we wanted to be, but for the most part I was glad Ania and David would have little to no memory of it.


*
Królowa translates to the English word “Queen”
Kaczki translates to the english word ”ducklings”
Zdrowy translates to the English word ”healthy”





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