The Holocaust Survivors

Hello! This is my movella for historical fiction contest.
It is about a man-Lev and his band of eight 'monkeys' who are living in the Warsaw Ghetto. How they escape from the resettlement and concentration camps forms the crux of the story.

The story is fictional but the background is real. I have attempted to state only authentic facts. If there is any mistake or error, I'd be happy to correct it. It is not meant to hurt anyone or defame any religion or person .

I hope you enjoy....! Thank you...

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4. Epilogue-1962

 

Strong pungent smell would fill one’s nostrils. The crowded soup kitchen would echo with the clattering of spoons and children reciting poems in the background. Helga, dressed in one of her long colourful frock, would grin in a welcoming fashion and pour the cabbage soup into the bowl. The people in the kitchen, all wearing the Star of David armbands, would be talking amongst themselves. In the afternoon, they would set out for work together and in the evening, when they would return to the same measly cabbage soup after a hard day’s work, little, brave and ever-smiling children would welcome them to smuggled, stolen yet tasty titbits. But out of the blue, a child would cry uncontrollably. And before anyone can understand there are gunshots. Cries. Blood. Tears.

 And finally, Lev is awake.

Lev had nightmares of the ghetto and frequently too. He got up from the bed before he was reminded of anything else. He wandered around in his rich mansion quietly and finally, he paused to see the dawn breaking in the balcony.

‘I see the roses bloom,

 And this takes away my bloom.

For the pansies are beautiful, the sunflowers bright,

The tulips look happy and the lotus glistens in the light.

But as far as I can see,

Red poppies, red poppies …in the field,’ he sang gently to himself. He would often sing this song which he had created years ago and then, he’d feel magically better.

 

Although he had escaped from a condition equivalent to death, he couldn’t get away from bad memories.

Time had passed by swiftly. Lev, Rosa and the boys had been ‘shipped’ away to safety and when the war came to an end, they settled down in the United States. Life seemed much pleasant now. Lev had managed to get a job. He married Rosa and he could provide education to all the ten boys. But they never heard from their relatives or friends. Hans Schmitt. David ‘Spikey’. Helga. Tomas (who was Helga’s husband). Chleb (whose real name was later found to be Rene Schweinsteigger).  Captain Jacques. Asriel. Herr Schneider-owner of Schneider Works. Lev’s neighbours. The boys who were eager to learn prose and poem. The soup ‘slurpers’ who would drink the cabbage soup loudly. The good Samaritans who would share their treasured stolen snacks. The little girls who would hide behind their fathers. The little boys who would never leave their mothers’ hands. And many others who seemed so close yet so far….

Lev never got to know about them. There was an uprising in the ghetto but…the fate of familiar faces was unknown.

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

It was evening. Lev was neatly dressed. Blue shirt along with black pants looked good on him. A multi-coloured tie added a nice touch to the ensemble. His wavy yet greying hair was neatly combed back.

He was sitting in his study, scanning through the old photos. They were taken soon after he settled in New York.

Energetic yet seemingly-violent Aaron was now a pilot.

Ambitious Avniel studied well to become an architect.

Young, sensitive Cale earned a medical degree and presently, he treats animals.

Ever-hungry Jedd surprisingly found his calling and became a chef in a five-star hotel.

Michael, intelligent and full of aspirations, became a businessman.

Dovev and Nadav, the supposedly naughty twins, started their own business selling food products-taking cue from their brave mother.

Smart and quick-witted Seth is presently a news reporter working in an acclaimed newspaper.

Tobias or lovingly known as Toby works as an engineer.

Practical Yoel is a physics professor in a reputed university.

They had settled down with their 

ladies and didn’t have any problem.

Lev felt like a proud parent.                                              

“Rat-a-tat-tat-tat!” There was a knock on the door. Lev put his photos away and turned to his young son struggling with his tie.

“Dad, there’s a problem,” the boy grumbled. Lev looked into his eyes- they were brown just like the boy’s mother’s deep hazel eyes.

“I figured,” said Lev smilingly as he rose from his chair. He walked towards him, took the tie and began adjusting it.

“I’m sorta…nervous. It’s my first par-dy,” the 19-year-old spoke.

“Don’t worry. You won’t make a fool out of yourself, I’m sure of that. And besides, all the guests are familiar,” Lev replied as he finished his work with the tie and handed it back to his son. “I got your back, son.”

“Thanks, dad,” the 19-year-old replied casually as he put on his tie. “Good luck,” he added before he darted out of the room.

“Good luck to you too, Abel,” said Lev as he went back to his chair.

He was about to replace the photo album back into the drawer when his eyes fell on the Star of David armband.

Though hideous, the band held a unique place in his heart.

‘The edelweiss remains hidden by the trees,

Thousands o’ yellow daffodils dancing to the breeze.

The geraniums are lively and pink, the fragrance of jasmine sweet,

The marigolds are golden and the valleys of lilies where we meet.

But as long as you and I can be,

Red poppies, red poppies…in the field’ he hummed to the enchanting tune again before memories could flood his mind.

 

“Singing again, aren’t we?” Rosa, at the door, interrupted. Lev turned to his wife. He looked at her grey hair and puffy eyes. Nevertheless, she still looked stunning.

Lev smiled.  

“Well, Mr Smith is needed downstairs at his own charity dinner,” she said she put her arms around her middle-aged husband. “But turns out he’s busy singing about red poppies.”

“What do you think about this? The donation?” he asked.

“I think helping the Holocaust survivors is good way of helping and reaching out to others.”

Lev nodded as Rosa took her hands off him.                                      

“Now, let’s not keep our sons waiting,” she said as she walked out.

Lev, with his hands in his pocket, strolled out.

 

Lev could never forget his stay at the Warsaw ghetto. Although only ruins stood there now, it had an important place in history. Lev couldn’t save the others but…as Schmitt said that one should save oneself while one can. Presently, he could only make an attempt to help others. He could only hope that in the future, no one would go through such hardships, that no one would be forced into slums, that no one would be forced to work or die, that no one would be forced to eat the horrible cabbage soup…and that sacrifices of Helga and many others would not go to waste.

For Lev, memories weren’t so sweet but the future wasn’t bleak. Cabbage soup would never make him happy. He could still feel the strong smell. The soiled Star of David was in his drawer-controversial yet it was a souvenir. The apple-which was a gift from the boy, was safe in his memory.

But whenever he would remember his experiences, he would always remind himself that everyone was a red poppy in the huge field.

‘Red poppies, red poppies…in the field….’

                                        THE END

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