Not Now, Not Ever
by Jean Frank of Kalisz,
must have been a few days after Yom Kippur that we started to talk
about my escape. Now I was to join Mommy and Guta in Czestochowa.
I was afraid to
leave my father and my sister and brother, not even sure I would see
Guta and Mommy again. As much as I hated Warsaw and the wire and the
wall, where was I running to? Into a bullet or a furnace? Into
another filthy camp? And so I held on to the last glimpse of what
was real and known. I walked again, out with people. I was sorry for
them, and for myself. I stared at the half-bare trees, where a few
brown leaves hung to the branches, just before they crumbled into
nothingness. I closed my eyes, trying to force the memories of white
winters and cold, sharp air; and the protection of wool caps and
scarves and kitchen stoves, and springs waking up to buds and leaves
and branches spread to the sky ... and summers' birds coming back to
join us under the pine trees, among the lilacs and daisies and
poppies, pecking for food in the green carpet of grass ... I shuddered to look around me.
We decayed like the leaves. Like the broken branches, we were
cheated out of spring.
How stupid and
childish my reminiscing! In slavery, I dreamed about freedom. Living
among the dead, I thought about life. I worshipped food because my
stomach scraped and growled in me. Futile, wasted dreams. What then
should I dream about now? About the beautiful past that is dead?
About the ugly, real future that I know will be? Those two need no
one to dream about them, because they have been or will be anyway.
Have I said there is no hope? No, there is none. Except me. I am
hope. Oh, God! Let me live. Let me love and be loved. Give us hope
we have lost, give us freedom. Answer my prayers, ease the pain, dry
the tears ... the tears. Let me live, God or
I stared at the
walls and saw the swastikas that weren't there. I closed my eyes,
hoping that when I opened them the swastikas and the walls would
have disappeared ..."