A preview of my new novel about the Holocaust "The Silenced"
| February 1st 1999 - Bochnia Poland
It is very cold right now, but everything has always been that way. I sit in the small wooden chair at the table that still stands in my childhood home. There are so many memories tied into these walls, good and bad. It is still quiet in this small house just the way I had always remembered it was. Nothing has changed, I am the only thing that is completely different. Even that old rag doll that my little sister, Bayla, called Amelia is still sitting where it always sat on the couch.
I live alone now, but Bayla visits me often. She left a few days ago to return to her husband and three children. My three daughters all live on their own now with their husbands and children. I miss them dearly, but like Bayla, they visit me often.
I sit still, staring blankly at the empty journal in front of me. Bayla told me that I should try to write something, at least try to get some of my emotions out, but I don’t know how. I have kept all of my feelings inside for so long that I don’t know how to let them out, or if I am even strong enough to. I have so much to say, but I don’t know how to say it.
I look to my left where a painting hangs on the wall in a heavy wooden frame. I painted it many years ago when I first came back to Bochnia. It is a man that I knew long ago. He was tall with a rough looking face, steel blue eyes, dark brown hair, a scar on his left cheek that marked what he had seen in battle, but he had a kind and gentle voice. He was a Nazi soldier. Bayla thinks it is strange for me to have the painting of a Nazi soldier hanging on my wall because of what happened to us, but that is because she doesn’t remember him, let alone what he did for us.
Suddenly, I know what to write. I carefully tear a piece of paper out of the blank journal and I begin to write a letter to Bayla.
I am old now, my years have withered and passed by, now remaining very few in number. During the years that have now been lost somewhere in the wind of time, you and I never had the greatest of days, though I suppose it is difficult for you to remember exactly what happened all those years ago. After all, you were much too young to understand what was happening to us in the year of 1939, when the Holocaust changed our lives forever. Although these were very dark times in our lives, I don’t want them to be forgotten. I want you to remember, remember what our lives were like before and during these times and the man who saved us in the end. You have never understood why I have the painting of a Nazi soldier on my wall, but now I want you to know who he really was and what he did for us. Had he not done what he did, well, neither of us might not be here today.
- Hodaya Alperstean
I put the letter aside and set the journal in front of me. I know how to write what happened to us, but I will have to do it in a way that allows me to express exactly what it was like for myself. It will not be easy to do, but even as I begin to write, I can almost hear his gentle voice. “Promise me that you will stay here until all is silent,”