As I saw the moonlight, I froze. 24 hours had passed since I last saw my family. 24 burning hours. Each hour, full of expectation and reality. I was impatient. I had it in my genes. Even an hour of waiting felt like an entire year wasted. Now I was back, just waiting. Just sitting down in that dull-witted gray room. Where are they? I ask the paint-chipped walls. They don’t respond and I wonder to myself… how did I get into this? Only half a year ago I was a perfect child. A child full of ambition, a child with a goal. Currently, I felt anxious. My impatience grew as every second passed. Now the moonlight disappeared. How long has it been since I’ve last seen them?
As my thoughts travel in multiple different ways, my legs start trembling and shaking by the feeling of desperation to see them. I couldn’t hold it any longer. I had to get out of this place. Out of this horrible world, full of sadness and loneliness. I had to deal with my biggest problem- I felt all alone in this terrible war.
It feels as if days had passed since I’ve last seen them. In reality, it has only been a day. That cold-hearted bloody reality struck me, and yet again, I am anxious. There is nothing I can do. Nothing I can control. I feel as if my body is frozen and as if my mind just wandered off with its thoughts. How miserable am I? Just sitting here, counting down the seconds and minutes until I see them. 24 hours ago I was still fighting for my life, had no control over it. They had all the control. The warriors had all the control. Yet, they used it as if I was a toy. Playing around with me like a dog, my heart pounding with every step I took to fulfill any task they ordered me for. And now, as if all my fear had gone wild. As if I couldn’t control my train of thought. Finally, I heard footsteps. As my heart stopped, the door opened forcefully.
“Gloria, it’s me, Marc.”
I wanted to say something, but the words just couldn’t get out. My thought was trapped inside me and my legs began trembling again.
“Gloria, you are safe now, you are with us.”
Knowing that I was safe now finally triggered a reaction. I spoke, heart skipping beats.
“I thought I lost everyone. This war has been horrible and when they destroyed my hometown of Dubrovnik I thought it was all over. I thought I was going to die so I ran, as far as I could, until I landed upon this cold-bloody reality.”
“They told me, your family told me you’ve escaped, but they didn’t know where.”
“So how did you find me then? Did anyone follow you here?”
“They. The soldiers burned down the city and took everyone. You know this city by heart so I figured you would run. Run until you found something. That’s how I found you.”
I looked at Marc and my legs trembled yet again. He knew me too well. I did run. I ran until I found this cold reality. This room full of emptiness and anxiety. I stood up. My backpack was still underneath the couch I had been sitting on. I lay down on the floor and look under the couch. The green jansport backpack is still here.
“Did you take everything with you?” Marc asks.
I open the backpack and examine all of its compartments. I remember buying it, when I traveled abroad to America. When the world was still at peace and the streets were safe. The first compartment held a flashlight, a swiss knife, a first aid-kit, a water bottle and the picture of my family. The second compartment contained all of my journalist things, a notebook, a pen and my best-written article.
“Seems like I did. Let’s get out of this place.”
As I stood back up, my legs trembling again, I took my backpack and headed in the direction of the door. With one hand motion, the door was open. It was pitch-black outside. The moonlight was gone hours ago and no street lamps worked.
“Take the flashlight.” Marc said, in a quiet voice, and as I was opening the first compartment, I knew I was about to begin a very long journey. A journey with two resolutions; death or survival. A journey that would forever change me and challenge me to be brave. A journey my mother went through forty-six years ago, in The Second World War.
Born in 1939, my mother, along with the rest of our family, survived that terrible war. The war that killed millions of innocent people. A war we still talk about, to this day. The Second World War. My mother was born 7 months before the war began. She celebrated the first years of her life in terror and anxiety, along with very harsh conditions. She slept with her 6 brothers and sisters on hay, ate only rice with a bit of bread and was constantly traumatized by the consequences of the war. Even though she was just a little child, she still remembers one day in particular, the 5th of July, 1944. Just a day after the Americans celebrated the Declaration of Indepence, the war was back. My mother, being 5 at the time, didn’t know much about how mean people could be and she just sat there, on our small house’s raw lawn, imagining peace. Imagining a better life than the one she was living. Imagining her first day of school, everything she would learn. Her mother had called for lunch minutes ago, but the feeling of eating rice and bread once more didn’t cause her emotion, so she just sat there, thoughts wandering off.
“I wonder what the world will look like when I am 20 years old.”
And just as she was about to start fantasizing about her dream school, she heard a loud noise, as if something had exploded.
“Maria, run to the cave and meet us there! Now!” her mother was yelling
The cold-hearted reality struck her. The Germans had arrived with their bombers and were planning on bombing her hometown, her one childhood, Dubrovnik. Her body frozen, my mother grabbed a piece of dry hay and stood up. She looked up at the sky one more time, thinking; It must be my last day on Earth.
My mother, known for her queer personality, just sat down and watched in agony as her hometown was getting bombed. It wasn’t long until she was joined by the rest of her family. Her mother was holding her loaf of bread, and praying to God, praying for peace, for an end to all the misery she was going through. Her younger sister, Anne, crying in terror, singing a lullaby her mother had taught her. Her younger brother, George, was on his knees, trying to calm down his sister Anne. Her youngest sister and brother were both in the hands of their father. Her father, his heart beating fast, sweat going down his forehead. He was trying to calm down. His hands were shaking with anxiety but soon stopped as he almost dropped his youngest child onto the ground. They all went through terror. Horrible trauma. Every hour of their day passed with fear, but none was this agonizing. What seemed like ages, the whole bombing ended in about 4 hours. Fallen asleep, a sudden noise woke my mother up.
“Mother, father, is anyone awake?”
“Is anyone awake?”
“Maria, it’s all over now!” George exclaimed.
My mother, with all relief, stood up from the hard rock, legs trembling and hands shaking. She glanced outside the cave and sighed with relief.
“This agony is finally over.”
My mother, the girl who survived The Second World War along with her family members.
My mother; the woman who inspired me to keep on going when I was on my own journey. The journey that changed my life.