When the sky shone blue

Submitted into Contest #137 in response to: Write a story about someone forced out of their home.... view prompt

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Christian Historical Fiction

Wednesday 14th March 1945

Will it ever end? The suffering, the pain. Will life ever return to what it once was? Will the sun ever shine on a land so peaceful and green? Will Papa ever come home to us?

I don’t know.

We don’t know.

Mrs. Woźniak gave me this empty notebook, she told me to write in it, that it will help pass the time. Although, I am unsure if I like it.

It is chilly today. The ice is skittering across the floor like translucent snakes riding the wind. The blizzard hisses and wails through the narrow gaps by the ceiling, I like to imagine it as wounded soldiers crying out for help. Although that isn’t the most positive thought. We are freezing, but safe. And Mama said that is all that matters.

Friday 16th March

Nazi planes flew over yesterday, their engines groaned and mumbled over the tempest, like the unsettling orchestra of war. We were worried they might bomb us, but Mr. Woźniak assured us we are safe and gave us more blankets.

The wool is itchy, I think Mrs. Woźniak knitted them. But they keep us warm. The checkers are fascinating, the neat squares cling to one another in chaotic clashes of bright colour. Colour is a nice change. My favorite colour is blue, that deep azure blue of the sky above us.

I peered out through the wooden slats today, I could see a lot of black smoke in the distance. Mama advised me to stay away from that wall, but I long to see the sun and the sky. It has been so long.

Shabbat 18th March

Today we had shul, hidden away in the tight confinements of this musty cellar. Mama whispered to us to be proud we are Jewish, that it is who we are, and that we should never be ashamed. No matter what anyone says. We sung sweet hymns praising God and the angels above, our voices never raising over more than a murmur.

The sun shone brightly through those tiny slits in the planks as we read verses from the Torah. The timbers rest so high I have to stand on a wooden crate to peer out. The sunshine dances in delicate glowing rays, sending intricate patterns twirling across the grimy concrete floor. I wish it was filtering through the stained glass in the synagogue, the high ceilings echoing the chorus of our united voices as we sing.

Matya asked to read my diary today, but I reminded her she can’t read yet, she’s only four. She protested at this, but I enjoy having something to call my own. It is all I have.

Papa used to read to us, his voice a deep but soothing grumble. His grey flecked beard curled along his jaw. I wish he hadn’t left, but I know he didn’t go by choice. The memories still burn my mind, the fear still lingers as I remember hiding in the attic of our home, peering from behind the moth-eaten curtain as the Nazis dragged and beat Papa before throwing him into the back of a truck. That was the last time I saw him. After that we were forced to flee our home, for many nights we ran, our feet blistering and swollen until we found refuge here. I am sorry, the pain is too much, I cannot go on.

Monday 26th I believe?

I am writing by the light of the moon, I pray the clouds will not obscure my vision as I must write these words.

Papa is gone. As in dead. Mr. Woźniak informed us at noon, and Mama has not ceased crying since. I can still hear the whimpers and hiccups from the writhing mound in the corner of the cellar. Matya and I cried too, the ache in my chest is unlike any other. It is as though the Nazis ripped a piece of my heart out and won’t give it back.

Salt streaks stain out cheeks, the chalky white stark against our dust covered faces. I long for a bath, to sink below the steaming hot water and just feel the stress of each day wash off my shoulders.

The light is fading, although I fear I have not said enough. I feel as though I must pour out my heart onto these pages, even though no one shall read them. At least I don’t think anyone will.

I peeked at the stars earlier, when the moon wasn’t so high. They glow and twinkle in the most mesmerizing way, like the light of lost souls shining so brightly above us. Perhaps Papa is up there too. Back at home, the stars were never so bright. We lived in a small town, not on a desolate farm somewhere in the countryside. I must admit it is beautiful here, but it is increasingly hard to appreciate the beauty while hiding in a bunker several feet below the earth’s surface.

I miss home, the sweet scent of buttery loaves in the early morn, as Mr. Katz flung the doors of his bakery open. The hustle and bustle of women as they went about their daily routines, their voices high and pleasant amidst the call of songbirds from the branches of those spindly trees. I miss Papa’s booming voice as he called to us on the Shabbat, to ready ourselves for another Bar Mitzvah. I miss everyt-

Tuesday 27th March

The clouds choked my sight last night, plunging the cellar into complete darkness. The night felt lonely, devoid of colour and life, black like the stone-cold hearts of the Nazis. So, I apologize I did not complete my entry.

The sky is grey today, full of vivacity and fury. The clouds billow and swell, melding into one another in the most mesmerizing fashion. Matya clambered into my arms just to peek through the slats, her blue eyes were wide with fascination as the rain poured down. Mama is still in the corner, her body so engulfed by thick woolen blankets that she barely seems human, her eyes are swollen and red. I long to be her comfort.

Mrs. Woźniak brought us creamy pumpkin soup earlier. It was chunky and delicious, I swear could have eaten the whole pot. I had to share though.

Wednesday 4th April 1945

Mrs. Woźniak let us come upstairs today. Well, me and Matya and I went up, Mama is still mourning Papa. The house is wide and airy, the sunlight trickles through broad open windows, the dust particles stirred up by a fluffy white cat. I petted that cat. Its fur is so soft, I made it purr. Mrs. Woźniak said its name is Biała Sowa, which means White Owl in Polish.  

I am glad Mr. and Mrs. Woźniak can speak Deutsch, if not I wouldn’t be able to speak to them. Mama said we are very fortunate to have made it over the border into Poland, but I am not sure. The war is still here, and we aren’t safe. I know that Mama just wants to make us feel better, and for Matya’s sake I don’t confess my feelings, instead I scribble them down amongst these white pages.

We ate bread in Mrs. Woźniak’s kitchen. It was a sweet homemade sourdough, lathered with creamy butter and toasted on a skillet over the fire. It warmed my belly so deliciously. I saw photographs hanging on the wall, I asked Mrs. Woźniak who the people were, she told me they were her children, Andnej, Hanna and Alina. I like the name Alina.

I stepped outside for the first time in months, the sun was high, the sky the deepest azure blue. My favorite colour. The sun kissed my skin with the most serene warmth. The snow has long since melted and shoots of green now peek up out of the soil. Spring is here.

Matya curled up on the ground seeking the warmth, Mrs. Woźniak and I found it amusing. To be completely frank, I wish I could have too.

We are back in the cellar once more; I do not know how long it shall be before I feel the warmth of the sun again.

Tuesday 24th April

Many days have passed since I last wrote in this diary.

The Nazis invaded this house yesterday, but they didn’t find us. Mama said there is hope for us yet, but as each day drags on, I struggle to believe her. How can there be hope when there is so much evil around us? How can we hope that we will one day be safe and free, when Papa was murdered by these people? It is not fair.

The fear is still fresh in our minds. The panic. When the Nazis bashed on the door, the thumping echoing around the house and down to where we hide. Mrs. Woźniak had rushed to us, tossing in a loaf of bread and desperately begging us to stay silent. Then she lowered the trapdoor. Last time Matya and I went upstairs she showed us the door. It fit so snuggly against the floorboards, each line matching up so when it was closed, you would hardly know it was there. I was amazed.

I recall the Nazis great boots stomping overhead, their guttural shouts felt as though they bit into my flesh. I could hear the Woźniak’s, their voices a false calm as the Nazis rampaged their home, stealing food and shattering vases and chinaware. And then, before we knew it, they left. I have never felt relief like I did once Mr. Woźniak opened that trapdoor, his wrinkled face peering down at us, with a glimpse of a smile playing across his lips. I know that if we were caught, we would all die. I feel guilty about that.

Saturday 28th April

I am sad today. I feel so lonely and miserable down here. I spend most of my time standing on the milk crate, staring at the world beyond those rotting wooden slats. Mama is up now, but I can still see her body is laden with the burden of grief, I suppose having two daughters and being a family of Jews hiding in a cellar does not ease the weight.

Perhaps I will write a poem to cheer myself up.

In this dark cellar I now call home,

Where there is little space to roam,

I find refuge in the stars and the moon,

Though I wish to leave, pray it may be soon,

My Papa has gone to heaven up high,  

His smile is in that blue azure sky.

I read my poem to Mama, she smiled and gave me a hug.

I feel better now.

Thursday 3rd May 1945

Matya has been ill, that is why I have not written. We praise the Lord that her fever has now broken, and she is on the mend. For I daresay I could not live without her. Mrs. Woźniak has been an angel these past few days, her vegetable broth seems to work miracles. I read stories to Matya while Mama stroked her brow with a damp cloth. My eyes are tiring as I write, for my only light is simply that of a flickering candle. The wax is dripping off in the most fascinating way, the urge to touch it is almost unbearable, yet I shall refrain as I fear a burn is not what I need at this moment.

I can hear the soft snores of Mama and Matya, I wish I was asleep also, but my body seems to resist it. I cannot see the stars tonight, for the clouds are thick and plentiful. I think of Papa, the way he used to tuck me in at night, pressing a soft kiss to my forehead and whispering Gute Nacht Shira.  

I shall try to sleep now, for I am exhausted.

Tuesday 8th May 1945

The sun has not shined so brightly since the war first started, I feel as though the whole world is rejoicing. The war is over. Mr. Woźniak came home not even an hour ago, shouting in delight. We were released from the cellar, our eyes taking moments to adjust to the brilliant light.

I can hear church bells clanging victoriously in the distance, Mama is swinging Matya around by her arms, their laughs infectious. I cannot help but beam with happiness.

Right now, I am resting below the wide branches of a Sycamore tree. My bare toes are digging into the grass and soil, a sensation I didn’t know I missed. Birds chirp from the tops of the trees, their songs harmonizing with the clanging of the bells and excited laughter. Dreamy white clouds float lazily across the sky as if they too are finally at peace. I want to roll down this hill, to laugh and shout and make as much noise as I want, and now that the war is over I can.

I am free.

We are free.

It hardly seems real. There is no more hiding, no more cowering the darkness, no more trembling in the face of the Nazis or Hitler. I am Jewish and I am free. I do not know where life will take us, but I know that this day I will remember until the day I die.

The air smells so sweet, like blooming Gerberas and the gentle spring breeze. I must put down this diary now, to gather my family in my arms and rejoice. Together we shall rebuild the life that was stolen from us. I will smile at the sun and the sky that shines so blue, for I daresay there is nothing we cannot achieve.

Love,

Shira Cohen – Aged 10

March 16, 2022 08:16

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1 comment

Valda Austin
09:45 Mar 24, 2022

A sad and lovely strory! I enjoyed reading it well done 👌🏽

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