In the Arms of War

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On the way

Zofia is sitting on the couch, thinking about her daughter and Alex leaving. She is praying. Suddenly, she can hear upcoming steps and conversation in Russian. She gets up and walks towards her bedroom. The attic door are getting opened and the two German soldiers appear. She looks at them and gives them a sign in silence that Soviets are outside. Quietly, the German men ask the woman for an alternative way out. She points out the window in Laura’s room...

Moment later, Someone is knocking the door...Dogs are barking in the neighbourhood...

Zofia takes a deep breath, closes her eyes for few seconds then slowly and quietly opens the door. There are four Soviet soldiers standing outside. They are holding weapons with sharp knives at the end.

- We’ve heard that two German soldiers are hiding here. We have to search the house. - One of the Soviets says with cold look in his eyes.

Entering the house, they look around and begin to search. They check every room, under bed, wardrobe, bathroom... They find dresses, cutlery, jewellery, paintings...They pack them up into their rucksacks. Zofia is watching them carefully, praying in her thoughts, that hopefully, they will leave soon without hurting anyone.

One of the soldiers finds Laura’s photograph standing on the shelf. - Who is she? Your daughter?

Zofia: - Yes.

The soldier: - Where is she? The other soldier looks at the photo. - She is pretty! We could have a lot of fun with her guys! They all are laughing. - Where is she? The soldier repeats his question with contempt in his eyes.

Zofia: - She doesn’t live here. She has moved out. Her voice is shaking, so her hands.

The soldier: - What a pity! I am so disappointed! He says with anger in his eyes. - Where are the Germans?

Suddenly, the other soldier calls: - I know, where they’ve gone. Let’s go!

The soldier is looking in Zofia’s eyes, approaching her closer, then begins to walk around her and sniff like a dog. She is breathing faster, her hands are shaking. She keeps them together, trying to stop them from shaking. After while, he says: - I’ll come back to you bitch. He leaves her house. She can hear someone’s shouting and running outside. She doesn’t wish to know, what is happening out there as she is feeling so rigid. Few minutes later, she can hear few gun shots...

The menacing sound hits her deeply in her heart. She has just realised that someone has died...



***



Alex is travelling on the horse with me walking behind with my hands tied up as we planned. We have walked past the suburbs of the city, carefully avoiding Soviets and Germans. As we have reached the edge of the forest, Alex gets off the horseback and unties my hands. He helps me to get on the horseback, sits down behind me and from now, we are riding a horse together.

We are laying in tent, somewhere in the forest, hugging each other. I hope, that nobody finds us. I’m worried about my family. I’ve lost my father, now I am concerned about the rest of my relatives. I am afraid of Soviets...

- Alex, will we ever come back to Poland?

- Sure, when the war is over, we will.

We have got up early this morning when it was still dark. We have packed up tent, belongings and got on the horse. We have to move on and try to find the way to get to Bavaria safely.


We have been traveling couple of hours with some short breaks.

- You know Alex, I have been dreaming to become a princess one day and ride a horse with my prince.

- Then here you are with me my princess. Alex smiles and kisses me on my neck.

From time to time we stop to have a look on the map. We are on the right path. Traveling on the horseback isn’t the most comfortable way of transport, but having loved one so close to your body makes it bearable and quite pleasant. I feel, that it’s actually so romantic. From time to time I take a glance at Alex, he then smiles, looking into my eyes.

We are so lucky that we travel in summer. The days are sunny, the nights are warm.



***



[Three days later...]

Knocking on the door.

Zofia is playing with Wanda in the lounge. Suddenly, she feels uncertain. She approaches the door and opens it. About five or six German officers are standing behind the doorway. She can recognise one of them. She remembers him staying over night few days ago...

- Good morning Mrs. May. My name is lieutenant Karl Arndt. I have come here due to death of one of our soldiers. I have been reported that he and his colleague found the shelter here in your house, but unfortunately, someone has reported them to the Soviets. In consequence, one of the boys got shot dead by the Soviets. Juergen managed to escape. Surely, someone from your family must have betrayed the boys. I want to know, who did it! You tell me now or I will kill all of you!

Zofia lets the officers to come in to the house. She looks really concerned and touched. Her eyes are filled with tears...

- I need to talk to someone and find out if this is that person whom I suspect for betrayal. I am so sorry for what happened. I have heard the shots that night. Soviets came in to my house unexpectedly. Before the entered the house I had directed your boys to the alternative way out, through the window in my daughter’s room...

- That’s true. The young soldier says. I was one of them, you remember me. We run through the street and split up. The Soviets captured Hans and killed him.

- I need to talk to someone. Please, give me few minutes.

- You tell me who and I will sort it out. The officer says firmly.

- I think of one person.

- Who? Name? Name! He shouts.

- Lyna. I have no chance, but to tell them everything I know. She needs to confess or we all will be killed. God save us...

A couple minutes later, Zofia and the other family members are gathered outside the house with the German soldiers. The officer asks loudly, who betrayed their boys. They warn the family that, if they do not tell them, who is responsible for the betrayal, they all will die.

- Lyna. I have heard her talking to Soviets shortly before the shooting took place that day. The neighbour interferes.

- They all don’t deserve to die just because of her. Lyna, you would better confess.

- Yes, that was me. I... was scared of the Soviets, they have made me threatened... I had do choice, but...

- You are sentenced to death, you cow, move! Stand by the wall!

- Please, lieutenant, I beg you! She has three children! Please, forgive her! Juergen, I am sorry for what happened, but it won’t bring your colleague back to life and another life taken will cause more tears and despair! Zofia is begging the officer on her knees, sobbing!

Lyna has stood by the wall shyly, watching everyone’s reaction. She is shaking, her eyes are getting filled with tears... The soldiers are waiting for command to execute the woman. They all are watching her standing like a beaten dog,. They have reached for their machine guns...The silence has come...

Juergen approaches the lieutenant and whispers something to his ear...

Suddenly, the lieutenant says: - Back off and disperse! The men leave, looking at crying Lyna with contempt. Crying Zofia begins to feel relief and turns her face to the lieutenant: - Thank you lieutenant!


***


Zofia and Lyna are standing opposite to each other. - I want to see you in my house now. Zofia quietly refers to Lyna with anger in her eyes.

[A couple of minutes later in Zofia’s house]

- Do you realise, what you have done? Because of you, we all could have been killed right now! Why did you do this? Did you really have to betray them? I swear, I haven’t met more stupid person than you in my entire life!

- How about the Germans? They are cruel to us...

- Same as Soviets! But in these circumstances such as war, we have no power to fight them, so the only thing we can do, is to protect ourselves by keeping ourselves from troubles! You have betrayed someone to death, a young man, German soldier. You know what they might do! For one dead German, ten Poles get killed! Did you know that? We are lucky we are still alive! I have saved your life, Lyna! Now, you may leave. I don’t want to see you again in this house. I don’t want to do anything with you. Keep yourself away from my family...

- How about you, Zofia? You think, you are innocent, pure, decent woman. Just look at yourself, look in a mirror...Do you think, I don’t know about you and your French lover, Jean? When Laura and Zyg are at schools, he comes to your house. It seems, you have already forgotten about your husband.

Zofia approaches Lyna and slaps her in her face saying: - Leave my house now. It is not your matter, what I do and my reasons for that!

Lyna looks at Zofia with tears and anger in her eyes, touching her face she directs herself towards the door and leaves the house.


***


[Six months later]


We have safely reached our destination in Regensburg, Bavaria. As soon as we arrived I wrote a letter to mama. We have survived thanks to people we had met on the way. They supplied us with food and water. Me and Alex told them our story. The folks felt touched.

Mama has given a birth to daughter, Alina. Jean has been looking after the family. He provides them with essential food, clothes and cosmetics. He often visits France and sends my family parcels from there. He is very carrying, encourages mama to rest after feeding the baby. I would love to meet my little sister. Mama has promised me in her letter to send a photo of Alina. I am happy that my family is safe. Mum has mentioned about two German soldiers been attacked by the Soviets... Lyna had betrayed them... From what mum describes, I assume that Juergen on our family’s side, persuaded his boss to pardon the punishment on auntie Lyna. He has always been nice to us. I remember him praying with his brother next door... I am happy that he managed to escape from those Soviets and is alive. I feel ashamed by Lyna’s betrayal. She knows Juergen. She knows Alex seeing me too. What if, we decided to leave the house later? What if Alex was still with us when the Soviets knocked the door? She is an evil woman and one day she will pay for her betrayal.


Alex and I got married in a small village chapel.

Our wooden house is located in the forest. It seems to be reasonable and suitable place to live during the war time.

I am painting a landscape sitting in the covered porch. I have wed up myself with the scarf and warm blanket. On the table next to me is warm cup of tea.

The view of the mountains covered by snow is unrepeatable. The sky is pure blue. I can hear birds singing in the trees. They keep my company as I paint each day. They watch me. Sometimes they approach me closer to ask for food when I eat.

When it’s dark I observe lights coming from the village. Alex deals with fireplace to keep us warm for the night. He is carrying and loving.

Just week ago, I discovered that I’m pregnant. My belly has not grown yet, but soon it will be visible. Alex seems so happy and excited to be a father. I have sent a letter to mama and naturally, I shared the news with her.

Alex has began to study medicine and works as a assistant in local hospital. At the moment, we are going to remain in Bavaria till the end of the war. We both learn English. I sell my paintings and in future, I will attempt to work at the theatre, when my child grows and goes to school.

Alex has grown his hair and moustache as a camouflage. We feel safe but we are also vigilant. We grow our own vegetables and breed chickens. We enjoy riding a horse, but since I have discovered my pregnancy, I resigned from that leisure.




***



A week later, on the cold winter evening, Zofia is reading a letter from Laura. The tears are flowing down her cheeks as she finds out about Laura’s pregnancy. She is holding her baby. Jean is currently in France visiting his family. Suddenly, someone is knocking the door...

Zofia is afraid of unexpected people as she has experienced terrible guests, Soviets, Germans. Now, perhaps, she needs to face an another one... She puts little Alina into the cradle. Full of fear, she opens the door...

Her face begins to go pale. Everything around become to swirl, her head is reeling...- Oh my God, is it ghost?

Her husband is standing barefoot outside...

- I’m back, Zofia.

- Oh God, you are alive?!

***

- While fighting in France, German squadron, it was SS group surrounded us. They captured me and my colleagues. We were taken into the huge vehicle, sort of transporter vehicle. Then, I knew that the way was only one, one destination. I heard the conversation between two SS men. They mentioned Stutthof. Stutthof labour camp. At that point I’d known that I had to abscond the vehicle somehow. In the vehicle, among us, there were few dead men situated next to each other. I chose one...his appearance...resemblance...was most accurate to mine. I put my Identity Card into us pocket and emptied his. I basically swapped our documents.

On the way to Poland, we had some layovers. Sometimes Germans were so tired that weren’t watching, weren’t paying attention what was going on with us. On one occasion when we stopped, I decided to abscond and it succeeded.

I walked through the fields, walked further ahead, alongside the river, slept in the bushes, then walked through the forests and again...fields. I passed out several times, hungry, thirsty, cold and exhausted.

One day I passed out in the fields of wheat. I was found in the next morning by some good people from the local village. It was Polish family. They got me up and guided me to their house. They took care of me. They gave me warm clothes, food and let me stay for another months, till the end of war...

Zofia is profound shocked. She cannot believe it is really happening. She has told Jan about Laura, Alex and the baby that she is carrying. Jan is touched, smiling with tears in his eyes. - I have missed all of you. I won’t be able to see my Laura so soon. When you write a letter to her, I will personally add my words. Let it be my surprise from me.

- This is a beautiful idea. There is something that I need to tell you...It is very difficult for me. What I am going to confess may hurt you much...As I was informed and the thought that I am a widow... one day, I may a French man. Eventually we got into relationship and I have a baby that is his child...

- I don’t know what to say...Do you love him?

- I have loved him, but now everything has changed, because you are alive. You are my husband.

- That’s enough. It is my fault. I should have given you a sign that I was alive. I have hidden myself...for so long. I am angry that you met that man. I will need some time to get over... What are you going to do now?

- I will write a letter to Jean. Tomorrow. I bet he will be angry too.

- How about the baby? May I see the baby?

- Of course. Her name is Alina.



***


- Alex! Alex! My father! He is alive!

- What? How? It is great news! Alex is standing up from the rocking chair in the garden and looking at me really surprised...as much as I am, I suppose.

- Mama says that he absconded on the way to Stutthoff Labour Camp and was hidden by some Polish family in Posen.

- Laura, one day we will visit your family. Alex gives me a hug, touches my belly. Do you think your father will accept me?

- I’m sure he will love you! I am so happy and excited!

- I love you two. I got my little family. Alex is looking at me with charm in his eyes and smile.

He takes my face into his hands and we kiss...


The end.



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