September 21st 1942 - Bernd
A bird flew over the camp today. I wasn’t sure what species it was, or even if it was a bird. But I choose to believe it was because this means that Spring is coming. This means that the nights of bodies taking their last breaths of freezing air around me, are over. This means that I can stop worrying whether Anka will wake up in the morning or not. This means that the guards may be in a better mood. Which could mean one more day with Anka.
September 22nd 1942 - Bernd
I was wrong. It is cold again today as the General rings the bell for us all to rise. I make my bed and then head outside. It is still dark and the cold air hits me smack in the face as my subconscious leads me to the fields. Halfway through the morning I hear the familiar breakfast bell and follow the other group of men into the cement building. In here it smells of rotten compost and of soldiers' cigarette smoke. I search desperately for Anka. I see a bob of curls over near the soup table and breathe a sigh of relief. Safe for another day, I think. She catches my eye and instead of smiling at me she is crying. From almost 50 metres away I can see the purple circles under eyes and the red around her nose.
“How are you?” I mouth to her, already knowing the answer. But before she can reply she is bent over, spilling the meagre contents of her gut out all over the cement floor.
September 23rd 1942 - Bernd
Before I had the chance to speak to her I already knew what had happened. The intimate moments I had managed to spend with this beautiful girl had caught up with us. Suddenly it is not only Anka I have to be worried about. There are now two people.
December 12st 1942 – Anka
As I stepped out of the toilet chamber early this morning, a hand curled around my wrist and pulled me roughly. The familiar smell of cigarette smoke on the man's breath made my stomach drop and my head spin.
?“Let's go,” he told me, his voice coarse. He pushed me out of the barracks. We arrived at the SS Commandant's office. I searched the fields desperately for Bernd but was pushed into the building.
I was allowed to go back to the barracks after my meeting and spend the rest of the afternoon there until dinner. A small compensation for a big loss. I was not necessarily wedded to the idea of having a child. I did not want it to grow up in this environment. The chances of it dying were incredibly high. But they made threats. The thought of them forcibly taking something that is one hundred percent mine, makes my blood boil.
December 24th 1942 – Bernd
At dinner this Christmas eve, I try to imagine that the vegetable soup we are served today - the same soup we are served every day - is in fact the traditional cabbage soup we would drink around the fire back in Czechoslovakia. Christmas eve was always a big deal in my family. Christmas eve was also when I met Anka.
I remember it was snowing, the street was lit up only with the lights of neighbouring houses’ living rooms. The air smelt like fireplaces and cabbage soup. There was a figure, a small young woman sitting huddled on the steps about five doors down. Perhaps it was the 6 pivo’s in my blood stream, or that the Vanocé spirit had got to me, but I decided to go and speak to her. She told me her name and then dove into a lengthy description of her night - how her family was fighting about the cabbage soup and whether her uncle should kill the cat. And while I could not guarantee the safety of her cat, I invited her to come and try some of our cabbage soup that Christmas eve. I have seen her every day since then.
Yesterday Anka left me a note in my shoe. She says they have threatened to kill our baby. She thinks they will kill her. If I could talk to her, I would tell her that we should run. But I cannot see her and I cannot talk to her too. Ever since they found out about the baby they tightened the rules on man-woman contact. I only ever see her at dinner now, no other meal of the day and we never cross paths between the factory and the fields. We communicate via notes left in shoes or inside pillowslips. Brief and to the point. Today's one read:
Feeling better, look for me at soup-time – A
April 19th 1943 - Anka
It has been 5 days since I gave birth to Eva. I do not remember much.
I remember the German soldiers screaming and yelling out “Die Amerikaner sind hier! Die Amerikaner sind hier!” The Americans had come.
I remember the soldiers going on a shooting rampage and shooting men in the fields. I saw a dark head of hair fall to the ground and noticed the crooked nose. It was him. I screamed and began to run towards the soldiers, but as soon as I began running, I realised that my pants were soaking wet. My waters had broken. Now even more frantic I raced towards the fields, like many others carelessly running around the camp, unsure of what to do. I barely made it ten steps before I was knocked over by a German soldier. I was then picked up, carried and flung on top of other injured and sickly people on the back of the SS cart. If I could’ve waited until the Americans had taken over the camp and given us food and water and medicine I would’ve.
But I could not. I gave birth to Eva right then and there, laying upon a massed heap of typhoid ridden prisoners. I remember holding her in my arms and – of all things – feeling an itch in my shoe. I pulled out a piece of paper from under my toes. A tiny, barely living child in one hand, a note in the other. Three words. Written in Czech.
I love you – B