Morning came. The first morning of our imprisonment. Today would reveal weather we lived or died. It was all up to me. Me and Mama and God.
Papa had traveled to Canada with his brothers. He was to send for us. We were to have a new start in life. We were to leave Volhynia behind, leave Russia behind. We were to be free to live as Germans without the sideways glances and suspicions. But instead of sending for us, Papa returned.
“They treated me like a nobody!” he told Mama. “Me! I am an important man here. I am the master blacksmith. We have a big house, servants, nice things. You don’t want to go to a dusty little town in the middle of nowhere, do you?”
“But things aren’t safe here anymore for us,” Mama argued. “All Germans are considered spies.”
“Nonsense. My family has been here for close to 70 years. We are respected.” He puffed out his chest. “We stay.” That was the end of it.
Without warning the police came. We were prodded into cattle cars with all other remaining Germans from the area. The train climbed out of the Sluch River valley and headed north. Before we reached Siberia, the final destination, Mama was dead.
When the train finally stopped and we arrived at the Farm, the men were separated from the women and children. All skilled men were commanded to step forward. Next, the women and children belonging to each man was told to present themselves. Lotty took my hand and pulled me.
“Whose daughters are these?” The guard barked.
“Mine,” Papa replied softly. For the first time in my life Papa was not in charge. He kept his eyes to the ground.
“You are a master smith. You are useful. What skills do your daughters possess?”
“Lotty, the oldest, is twelve. She is good in the kitchen.” It was true. Even though we had cooks and cooks helpers, Lotty was always wanting to be in the kitchen.
“Paulina, my youngest, is ten. She can sew.” He looked at me hard. It was enough to stop the protest from my mouth but my eyes were questioning, denying. I had never picked up a needle or thread in my young life.
“If this is true, you will live in the servants quarters of the main house instead of the barracks. If it is not, you will all be shot as the German spies that you are.”
We were led to the main farm house. It was huge. Bigger than the house we left behind. Once inside, the warmth nearly knocked me over. We were shown to our meagre room.
“Papa, I don’t know how to sew. What am I going to do?” I cried into his strong arms.
“Don’t worry, little one. We will pray. God will look after all the details.”
Sleep finally came to my exhausted body and with it a dream entered my troubled mind. It was Mama.
“Paulina, I’m going to teach you to sew. You will be a gifted seamstress. All will be well. Papa, Lotty and you will eventually be freed. You will go to Canada. Remember me and use your sewing as a blessing to others.”
I have told no one of the dream. It is too unreal, even for my child’s mind.
I am brought to the head seamstress. She gives me some mending to do. The needle and thread do not feel foreign to my tiny hands. I make fine, even stitches. Each project I am given I accomplish. I have the gift. We will not die today.
Eventually we were freed. We did make it to Canada. Papa was a humbled man. We were grateful for our freedom and for whatever blessings came our way. As for sewing, yes, I continued with the gift I was given. Many people were blessed because of the miracle I received.
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