Art by Gracie Gralike, 19
No one expected the deaths to start so quickly in this war. It wasn’t until I had heard the gunshot ringing throughout the empty street that I had known it was war.
I hurried out of the apartment. My skirts flapped around my legs, making it nearly impossible to run. The man was lying on the pavement, the pale white of his skin contrasting greatly with the dark pavement. I sucked in a large breath at the sight of him. His skin was waxy, as if someone had carved him out of stone and laid him there as a statue.
“Be warned,” the lieutenant said in German, the words harsh and violent. I gasped slightly and felt a sob building in my throat. Zachary came up behind me, his powerful stance similar to Father’s as he wrapped his arms around my shoulder. My little sister, Helen, came forward, wrapping her arms around my leg.
“Vera?” she whimpered, her dark eyes full of tears.
“Shhh,” I murmured, holding her tight against me. I didn’t trust myself to speak words at that moment for fear that I might cry.
“Go pack,” Zachary said quietly in my ear and I nodded, hurrying back into the apartment with Helen in tow.
I slammed the door to our apartment, hurrying to the bedrooms and pulling open drawers and closets as tears threatened to spill over. Helen stood at the door, eyes wide and a frightened look upon her face.
“Go get your things together, Helen,” I told her, craning my neck to see her, “Pretend you’re visiting Eleanor.”
She nodded slowly, her tiny feet pounding against the hard floor as she ran to her room. I crossed the room in two strides and reached for the closet. My fingers fumbled with the hangers before I ripped the clothes off and stuffed them in the suitcase on my bed.
I heard the door slam and hurried out to meet Zachary.
“They’re gone,” he murmured, running a hand through his dark hair.
“We have to leave, now,” I told him and he shook his head.
“We have to leave in the night, Vera,” he corrected and I frowned.
“Why us, Zach?” I asked him and he turned.
“I don’t know,” he muttered, sinking down to the couch.
“It’s because of Father, isn’t it?” I murmured, “That’s why they haven’t been home.”
“I said I didn’t know, Vera!” Zachary snapped and I winced.
But he did know. He knew that Father had been helping the Jews escape the country and that’s why Mother and Father hadn’t returned from their trip. They had been taken. Or they had left.
“Just, go pack and get ready. We leave at midnight.” He said quietly and I sighed, walking back to my room.
I was frightened, there was no doubt about that. Yet, I couldn’t bring myself to worry about anyone other than my family. I was focusing on Zachary and Helen; their safety meant the world to me.
At the moment, there was only one safe place for us, a place that was foreign to people of our country. A refuge for Jews and everyone alike:
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