Author's Note: Hello, everyone! No, I am not dead, and yes, I have had a severe case of Writer's Block for the past eight months. I'm not kidding: almost everything I've written has been school-related. Not cool at all. But I was looking through my documents whenI found this, and decided it wouldn't be such a bad idea to post it. We were reading Night by Elie Weisel and the wrap-up project was to create both a written memoir and an artistic representation (butterfly-shaped, in honor of a certain Holocaust poem) of a real Holocaust victim given to us, either living or dead. Keep in mind while reading this that it is only lightly edited - I wrote it at 3:30 AM the morning before it was due (yay for procrastination!). :P I did recieve a 22/25, though, so I'm guessing it wasn't all that bad. ;D Enjoy!
Paula Wajcman's Story
Three sharp raps on the door.
I will always remember this conversation that my father and I had about three years ago, back when I was only eleven and still had much to learn about life. It was September 3, 1939, only two days following Germany's invasion of Poland. This one boy in my class whom I had been eyeing for many weeks, I think his name was Peter, had invited me to his birthday party. Peter's family was one of the wealthiest families in Kielce, the town where I lived, and his birthday parties were reputed to be more elaborate and fancy than many of our parents' weddings. While Peter may have invited nearly all of the students in our school, the invitation he gave me had a small block of chocolate in it, something (though I didn't know this at the time) I would never be able to have again. I had to go. However, when I asked my father after he came home from a long day of work at his trucking company, he refused to let me attend.
"But why?" I had asked, well aware I was whining like a three-year-old.
"Because, my dear Paula, that night is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and as I am positive you are Jewish, you must go to shul with us that day."
I remember stomping my feet, having a fit, yelling and screaming, throwing my school books to the floor. I told him that he never let me do anything fun, that all the kids would make fun of me. That I would rather be anything but Jewish.
At this, my father had slapped me across the face. I will never forget the look on his face, the one that stung more than the smarting of my cheek, as he said, "Never forget who you are and where you come from, Paula. Never forget that you have a family. Your family will always be there for you. There will be many more fancy little birthday parties to go to, but you only have one family."
Of course, being young and stubborn, I whined and ranted and pouted the rest of the day, through the Rosh Hashanah services, up until my father loaded us on a truck and took us away from Kielce forever.
"Open up! Whoever's in there, open up!"
Life did not change drastically after that, but I wanted desperately to return home and see all of the girlfriends whom I had not been able to say goodbye to. I wanted to receive attention from boys again, not just from my father and my brother, Herman. I wanted to be able to go outside without having to worry that some boy would hurl a pebble at me because I was Jewish. I felt as if I were being suffocated. Was I really not allowed to live a normal life because I was born Jewish? I had already told my father that I did not want to be Jewish, did that not account for anything?
The splintering of wood.
Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse. My mother was stranded in Poland after the border closed while trying to accumulate some necessary supplies for our family. I missed her terribly. It just wasn't fair. She had been mercilessly taken from me, stolen from me, like she was some material object. My father did the best he could to keep our family going, but it wasn't the same. Germans were now occupying poor Tuchin, the town in which I now live, and had made it so that Jews could live without really living. I could no longer go to the park, or the moving picture theatre, or even the bookstore. We may have had been free in political terms, but in my terms, we were locked inside a cage with no way out.
Dolls. Papers. Books. Strewn about the floor, soon to be without a home.
On September 24, 1942, life as we knew it was officially over. The police had moved into the ghetto. There were fires everywhere. People were shot for being people. For being Jewish. Amidst the chaos, my father and I ran to the bunker under the textile factory where we worked. It's been almost six months since then, and we're still here. It is dark, we have little food, and tensions are always running high. I no longer feel as if I am in a cage, because I no longer feel like I am living. What is there to live for, inside a musty room underground with little food to eat and no one to talk to but my father? Oh, I really am selfish, aren't I? God bless him. He is doing everything he can to ensure that life is the best it can get for me. We're safe here, aren't we? I may not have any friends, but my father was right: family is always there for you. And the Germans can do nothing to take that away from me.
Two gunshots. Short. Sharp. Piercing the air. Piercing two hearts.
Author's Note: The majority of what you just read is true, save for the introduction - that part almost completely came from me. And okay, I just noticed that the introduction is, like, half the story, but shh. :P But all of that historical stuff? So true. For more details on Paula Wajcman, just google her and click on the first link that comes up - it should be the Holocaust Memorial Website's short biography of her. (: