1905, Warsaw Poland
The doll was specially made for Solomon Rubinstein at his own request, to give as a gift to his eight year old daughter. The doll is made of porcelain, with bright blue colored eyes, rosy cheeks and brown colored hair, plaited in French braids, wearing a white colored laced dress. The doll itself looks beautiful. Solomon stares at the doll in awe and then looks at the man, Jakub, the doll maker.
"You have outdone yourself," Solomon said.
Jakub smiled. "What can I say Dr. Rubinstein? Anything for you and your family,"
Solomon looks at the doll. His daughter will really love the doll. She already has a collection of dolls lined up in the cupboard in the playroom. But this doll will be special to her. In his heart, he knew that this doll will have an impact on his daughter's life.
1919, Warsaw, Poland
Katia Rubinstein is getting married. She is having mixed feelings about getting married. She didn't really want to get married but her mother said that it is high time she gets married. Many of her cousins have already gotten married and has children of their own and Katia is now twenty-two which is high time for her to get married. Luckily for Katia, she will be living a little closer to her parents' home so she can come and visit anytime she wants.
Her maid, Dorota has packed most of her personal belongings she would take with her. Including the doll. The doll she got as her eighth birthday gift from her father. Many of the dolls she used to own were given away to orphaned children or to her cousin's children but she was determined to keep the doll, whom she named the doll as Saskia. Saskia with brown hair, plaited in French braids, with white colored skin and bluish eyes. And she was going to take Saskia with her to her new home. Because if she had a daughter, she is going to gift Saskia as a birthday gift.
1935, Warsaw, Poland
Minka Rubinstein is holding Saskia in her arms as she sits on her mother's lap, the radio playing some Chopin piano music. Minka has already fallen in love with Saskia. She would even take Saskia with her to bed, even telling her bed time stories and combing her silky hair. Minka is acting like a doting mother to Saskia. Katia smiles whenever she sees Minka hugging Saskia in her arms. Minka is lucky that she was the only girl in the family, with only two older brothers, who are least interested in dolls.
"Mama, Grandpa made Saskia for you?" Minka asked curiously.
"Yes," Katia smiles, stroking her daughter's hair. She hugs her closely, breathing in the baby soap smell coming from Minka. "He specially made Saskia for my eight birthday,"
"I wish Grandpa is still alive so he can see how much I love Saskia," Minka said softly.
Katia smiled, a soft tear rolling down her cheeks. Her father passed away a year ago and her mother is already on the death bed.
"Someday, when you get married, you should give Saskia to your daughter," Katia said softly, stroking her daughter's hair.
"No, I am going to keep the doll with me," Minka said stubbornly.
"OK, you can do that," she smiled.
1942, Warsaw, Poland
"All Jews are required to move into the Warsaw Ghetto by the end of October, any Jew failing to compile with the law will be dealt harshly," Minka's father read in a monotone voice as he put the newspaper away angrily.
Minka's mother sits on the sofa, looking white and ashen. Minka's older brother, Jakub is looking angry, his hands clenched at the sides. And Minka, she was angry too, like Jakub, as Germans have no right to drive them out of their own house--where they were actually born in and grew up in. Where they had all those fond happy memories in the house. But Minka was sad and hurt too.
"I don't want to go," Jakub replied stubbornly.
"Don't be stupid Jakub, we will get killed," his father replied sternly.
"They don't have a right to drive us out of our own house!" Jakub yelled and before anyone can reply, he got up and left the living room, stomping up the stairs to his own room.
"Who will live in our house?" Minka asked curiously.
"Probably one of those high ranking Germans, after all, our house is one of the nicest here," her father replied, trying to sound indifferent, although Minka can feel his voice shaking and his hand shaking as he was struggling to light a pipe.
Her mother was the only one who didn't speak a word.
That night, Minka took Saskia out of her own bed and tiptoed down to the living room and to outside. It was freezing, the snow falling down gently. Minka looked at Saskia. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she takes one last look at Saskia--those gorgeous blue colored eyes, French braided hair and rosy cheeks...still even at the age of thirteen, Saskia has been sleeping with her. But Minka cannot take Saskia with her to the ghetto. Her mother tearfully told Minka that they will only take clothes and many other valuables...but not the doll. She knew Saskia was special to her mother, as it was her own birthday present from her father, who made specially for her. Minka, who dreamed of gifting Saskia to her own daughter would never able to do that.
"I don't want a German to have you," Minka said softly to Saskia. "I am sorry...I can't take you with me."
And with a heavy heart, she dumps Saskia into the garbage and runs back into the house, tearfully.
1945, Warsaw Poland
Minka survived the Holocaust. Jakub, her brother too survived. But their parents didn't and both perished from the rumors in Treblinka Concentration Camp along with the other residents of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Minka and Jakub are sitting in the dining room of their father's Polish friend's house. Both looked thin and frail, after having gone through years of starvation and torture but both managed to survive the huge ordeal.
"Russians will be worse than Germans," Jakub said softly.
Minka remained quiet. Returning back to Warsaw had been a mistake, but she wanted to know if her family survived. She was happy that her brother survived but sad that her parents died. She couldn't really bear to live in Warsaw. And luckily, Jakub shared the same feeling with her.
They are going to catch a train to Lodz and then another train to Stuttgart, Germany so they could get their aunt, who is living in New York to sponsor them the visas for them to leave Europe. They are going to reunite with their oldest brother, Henrik and start their lives again.
"Oh, I have something for you," Jakub said, getting up from his chair. Minka frowned as he pulls a box and then keeps the box on the table.
"Open," Jakub coaxed.
Minka curiously open the box and then gasped.
Inside the box lies Saskia, her favorite doll. Minka couldn't believe it. Minka thought Saskia was gone forever. Though her white colored dress look brown and dirty, with specks of dust on her face, she still looked serene with those blue colored eyes.
"I can't...believe this," Minka whispered, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I threw her away the night before we left for the ghetto." she then starts sobbing. "Mama would have been happy that Saskia survived!"
Jakub hugged her. "I know we hate the Germans, but there were some nice Germans," he said softly into Minka's ear. "One of them put Saskia into a box,"
Minka hugs her doll into her chest. She is going to take Saskia with her. Saskia, like Minka will leave Poland for good. And will start a new life with Minka, somewhere in America.
1994, Cincinnati, Ohio U.S.A.
"Your grandmother was sad that she couldn't have any daughters," my father was telling me as I was holding this porcelain doll in my arms. "And when her brothers had daughters, she was going to give away Saskia to them, so to carry on the tradition of handing the toy to the next generation but they didn't want to. And now since I had you, your grandmother wants me to give you this,"
I look at doll. The blue colored eyes, hair tied in French braids, now wearing a nice looking cream colored dress with red colored bows. Nana told me that Saskia used to wear a white colored lace dress but she changed the dress when she moved to America from Europe so she too can have a new life.
I hug the doll to my chest, I know this doll is more than ninety years old, made by my great-great-grandfather to my great-grandmother and my grandmother got Saskia on her eight birthday from my great-grandmother. And now today is my eight birthday and so Dad gave Saskia as my birthday present.
But Mom wouldn't let me play with Saskia, as she considers Saskia as an antique doll that needs to be protected. And so instead of sleeping with me and my other dolls in my room, Saskia is loved in the display cupboard in the living room, so everyone will know Saskia's full ninety year old story.
Present Day, Colombo, Sri Lanka
"Her name is...Saskia," I told my daughter, Kesha as she stares at the now more than hundred year old doll.
Kesha stares at the doll in awe. Saskia is now lying on the cupboard I have for old toys in the playroom. Still, she looked serene even after all these years. If only Kesha is old enough to listen to Saskia's life story--from the time she was made back in early 1900's, to how she survived the war in Poland and made her way here to the U.S. and now here in Sri Lanka. Saskia seemed to have travelled around the world and had witnessed so many events.
Someday, Kesha would give Saskia to her daughter in some part of the world.