b. Warsaw, Poland, 1927
The only sound I hear is the steady, somewhat rhythmic rattle of the wheels on the cobblestone road. The only other vehicle I see is the one we are following, a gray, open truck, identical to ours: two benches on each side filled with grayishgreen uniformed soldiers, tired, silent, their bodies moving back and forth, ever so heavily, drowsily, some dozing to the monotonous hum of the engines.
The streets we are passing are deserted, quiet as though tired, heavy with things unexpressed, burdened perhaps with the screams, explosions, havoc and fear of not so long ago—some of the buildings are in ruins—others seem to be inhabited, but the naked, gaping windows show nothing of their inner life.
Under the gray indifferent skies we drive on, going somewhere in Poland, to yet another unknown place.
It is 1945—perhaps. Dates are difficult for me to remember. My friend and I are traveling with a lieutenant of the Russian army and his soldiers. We are eighteen years old, and recently liberated by the Soviets from our concentration camp. He, the officer, brought a note written by Isidor A., that said simply, “Follow this man, trust him, he will bring you safely to me.”
The wheels continue their steady rattle. We trusted Isidor. He was a benefactor, bringing food, a towel, a shirt—whatever he could salvage. Isidor was a Jew and we were the first Jewish prisoners he met. His wish was to adopt me, the youngest in our group, and take me to Leningrad after the war, where his wife and daughter waited for him.
“Follow this man, ” he wrote, and we trusted him. I am glad that Roza decided to come along. She is active, strong, a decision-maker. I am passive, life still flows over me, but not through me. I'm still numb.
The soldiers are dozing—the gray sky becomes grayer. Evening approaches and we are still travelling. How strange, it never occurred to us to ask how far we are going, how long the journey.
We are passing an empty, abandoned village, not a soul nearby, not a house standing … the trucks stop. The lieutenant gives orders, the soldiers jump down and begin to prepare. There is a barn without a door. Someone makes a
fire and soon the smell of cooked food reaches us. Roza looks at me; we are the only ones left on the truck. Suddenly we realize that they are settling here for the night.