Heart of the Sunrise Ch. 06byAdrian Leverkuhn©
"He is in Russia, near Moscow. The name of the village is Shchyolkovo."
"I don't understand," Anna Podgolskiv said. "Russia? Moscow? Why?"
"We tried to get him out of the, well, trap that had been set, but this was the best we could do. Apparently when the Red Army took Peenemunde they took custody of many scientists and engineers. Most have been moved to this village. The Soviets are building a community near there, a community of people involved with rockets. Tomas is one of the most gifted designers there is, the metallurgy of nozzles, or so I've heard, and we think his name must have come up... Local officials had been called in to search. "
"I don't understand? You keep saying 'we'? Who is this 'we' you are so fond of reminding me of?"
"We," Sasha Levine said while he looked at Anna with piercing grey eyes, "represent a group trying to locate Jews and get them to Palestine. While we can."
"What do you mean, 'while we can'?"
"Surely you must understand that the war is not over. The lines have been redrawn, certainly, but the hatred that has defined our lives for two thousand years has not disappeared. Only now is the depth of the tragedy becoming known, like Buchenwald, and great things are happening in Palestine, in the United Nations. We may have a home at long last, soon, a home for all the Jews, now that the British are no longer a factor in the region."
She looked at him, at the complexities within his offer. Who was he?
"Tomas wants me to come to Leningrad," she said petulantly. "It was in his last letter."
"He's not in Leningrad, Anna. He never has been."
"But, why? Why have they taken him so far away?"
"I think it is mistake for you to go there. If you do go I think it unlikely you will ever leave Russia. That would be a tragedy for us all, Anna. A great tragedy."
The words hit her like a slap across the face, yet she felt the recoil in her belly.
"What? What do you mean by that?"
The man looked around, unsure of himself, sure of what he wanted to say, unsure of how to say it.
"I saw you play in Paris once," he finally said and Anna quickly looked away, her eyes now distant, almost vacant.
Neither knew what to say as memories drifted in the air between them, and time seemed to slow, then stop. Sasha longer to hear her play again, Anna longed for the silence of oblivion.
"That was a long time ago," she said at last. "Another life."
"I understand," Sasha said. "I think you would find our new homeland very welcoming, Anna. And I promise to keep working to get Tomas out."
"Do you think he is -- what are you saying -- trapped in this village?"
The man shrugged his shoulders, looked away. He could not bring himself to tell her he had been searching for her for two years, and how desperate he was to get her to Palestine. She would question his motives, perhaps rightfully so, and he was afraid of this particular truth, what it might cause in the minutes just ahead.
"Answer me!" Anna Podgolskiv exploded.
He turned back to her, took her eyes into his: "No," he said with grim finality.
"Then he went of his own accord? Is that what you're telling me?" She looked down at the floor; the boys grew restless in their cribs.
She turned away, covered her eyes. Sasha saw one of the boys looking at him and he turned to meet the child's gaze.
"Why?" he heard her moan.
'Because he was a stupid, a simplistic, idealistic fool,' he wanted to say. 'Because in the end he loved his silly rockets more than anyone, or anything, else. Nothing more than that, really. Just a simple fool. And he will destroy us all.'
But instead he remained quiet, silently watched thief-like grief steal into the room and take her from him, from the promise of homeland.
At length she turned back to him and he saw the truth of Tomas's triumph in her eyes.
"It will be a long journey," he said with finality, admitting his own inevitable defeat. "Three days to Leningrad with the railroads as they are." He looked at her longingly, protectively. "From there? I cannot say. But you should be prepared to travel for a week, perhaps longer."
She nodded, tried to smile. "Is it as cold as I've heard?"
She sighed, tried to laugh but found only the infinite white drifts of despair without end calling her name. She walked to the window and looked out into the forest, saw a firefly drifting among the trees...
"There was an old man, in the woods," she heard herself asking. "He was, I think, saying prayers. When I saw him he was kneeling in a shallow depression; it felt as if the earth had swallowed up something when I found that place. Do you know anything about him?"
He looked at the innocence of an age betrayed on her face, at numbers tattooed on the inside of her arm, then at the truth of her words. Would she ever really be able to hear that truth?
"No. No I don't."
He looked into her eyes, at the understanding in her soul, and he knew he had underestimated her.
"I love him, you see. Haven't you ever loved someone, Mr Levine?"
"No. No, I haven't."
The boys stirred in their little cribs, and he thought of his own boys as they looked at him that last time. He rubbed the numbers on the inside of his arm, conscious that his own burning grief would never go away. He -- like so many others -- had lost so much at Auschwitz, so much that could never be replaced.
She moved dismissively to her children.
"Will you need my help?" he asked, already knowing what her answer would be.
"No, Mr Levine. Tomas has made all the arrangements."
He nodded, looked at her again, then walked out into the gloom of night.
He heard her boys crying as he walked to the battered old car; he might have fought to push back tears of his own -- had he not lost the ability to cry when the metal doors had closed on his own children.