Our lives changed forever on September 1, 1939. The dawn light was not yet bright enough to shine through the lace curtains that covered our windows, as my mother stood over me, franticly shaking my body and screaming, "Czas ma przybyl!"
At first, I thought that our Messiah had returned, and I wondered why were still here. Had the deafening sound of my mother's sobs not drowned out the roar of tanks, noise of machine gun spray, and panicked screams that were taking place only blocks away from our quaint home in Krzepice, I would have understood what she meant.
My mother led me away from the sleeping quarters and into the communal area of our one-story cottage where my father was furiously trying to incinerate my belongings in our wood stove. I overheard him say to my older brother, "The Germans are here my son. You must take your sister to safety. Travel the rail lines by night. Sleep in hiding by day. May God bless you."
I stood in shock as my mother strapped dry leather shoes directly to my feet. I saw the sadness in her eyes and I realized that this would be the last time that I ever looked into her loving gaze. Our parents gave each of us a kiss on the forehead during a moment that seemed to last an eternity. Then, my brother sternly whispered to me, "My musimy udawac sie," as he grabbed my hand and pulled me out the back door.
We ran through alleyways until we reached the outskirts of town. At our first opportunity, we ran into the thickest brush we could find. Once we were shielded by a dense wall of shrubbery, my brother motioned to me to get down on the ground and move slowly. We crawled on our bellies, hardly making a sound, with no regard for the wet mud that soaked our clothes or the thorns that scraped our brows. As the sun began to rise, though, we found some thick ground cover to hide under during daylight.
As night fell, my brother nudged me, and we began to crawl again. After what seemed like forever, but was in all actuality probably only a few hours, we reached the rail line. We crawled out from the forest and began to walk along the tracks. I tugged on my brother's shirt and said, "Stanislaw, I am tired. Can we rest?"
He turned to me and replied, "We must keep going. Father said, 'Travel by night, and sleep by day.' When the sun rises, we shall sleep." He held my hand and continued moving forward.
Just as Stanislaw had said, as soon as the sky developed a reddish shade and the morning dewfall commenced, we re-entered the woods and made a bed under a ceiling of vegetation.
As our travels continued over the course of the next few weeks, our standards sunk to levels that I could have never imagined. When we were unable to find a stream to drink from, we drank from mud puddles. We ate whatever we could find, from roots to bugs. Our finest meal was consumed on the night that Stanislaw killed a brindled gopher. We had no fire to prepare the meal by, but it was the only opportunity of our journey to consume meat.
One night, about a week after that meal, I became ill with a fever and was too weak to travel. The cold nighttime winds of the fall were making my condition worse and Stanislaw vowed to find me a warm, dry shelter. The next evening, as darkness fell, Stanislaw leaned over me and whispered, "I'm going to find a new resting spot." He kissed me on the forehead and ran off.
The longer he was away, the more fear set in. With each far away cry of the grey wolf, my horrific dreams seemed closer to reality. Sunrise came and the sky was illuminated, with no sign of Stanislaw. Tears rolled down my cheek, but my sorrows were relieved when I heard footsteps bounding towards me. Then I realized that the sound of these footsteps was too heavy and loud to be my brother.
Suddenly, I heard my brother scream, "Nad tutaj! Nad tutaj!"
The footsteps stopped. Then they went off in a different direction.
My mother's words came to my mind. Czas ma przybyl. She was right. The time, indeed, had come.
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