Road of Bones
That's the title of my forthcoming novel (Gloria Mindock's Červená Barva Press) about two German lovers separated by war.
It's set in Berlin and the Russian Front during one cold week in January of 1945. The main characters are Hans, a soldier, and Magda, a widow and his lover.
Hans is a fictional representation of the German soldiers who killed my mom's family in 1942. I wanted to write about him so I could better understand what happened to my grandmother and my aunt and my aunt's baby.
WIPs -- an online journal that offers excerpts from novels in progress -- has published a chapter from late in the Road of Bones, along with an interview in which I talk about writing the book, my motivation and the problems finding a publisher.
Please take a look.
And buy the book when it comes out!
Click here to read the chapter.
I remember the first time I knew there was death in the world.
I was in kindergarten at St. Hedwig's, a parochial school on the near northwest side of Chicago, an area that they now call Bucktown.
One of my friends and his mom were hit and run over by a drunken driver while standing waiting for a bus on Milwaukee Avenue across the street from the Congress Theater.
We didn't know what happened to him until a couple of days later when the nuns took the whole class to the church to see him one last time.
There were two open caskets. His mom was in one, and Jimmy was in the other. He was dressed all in white and his hands were holding a white flower to his chest. The sisters told us that he was in Heaven and that we would see him again when we got there, but still that couldn't keep me from grieving for him, wondering about his last moments, his fear.
It's 65 years later, and I still think about Jimmy and his mom.
Sometimes, I see him standing on the corner with her across the street from the Congress Theater waiting for the bus, not knowing a car was going to come and kill him. He's talking to her about school that day, and how he ran around the play lot with me and two other boys. She smiles and tells him it's good to have friends.
When we first arrived in Chicago in 1952, we were lost.
We had spent 6 years in the DP camps in Germany and another year outside of Buffalo, NY, working for a farmer who paid our passage over.
But now we were in Chicago, and we were lost.
We had nothing, just the things we brought with us from Germany, some plates, a crucifix, a wooden comb, some goose down pillows, a frying pan, and letters from a friend in America.
In Chicago we lived in dark rooms in small apartments that we shared with other DP families from the camps in Germany. We were all people who had left everything behind, our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our brothers and sisters.
We were alone and didn't know where anything in this new world was. I remember one time my father went out looking for a store where he could buy some Polish sausage and my mom said to him, "Maybe they don't have kielbasa here."
I was 4 years old that first winter in America, and I remember staring out a window at the snow falling on the buses moving slowly up and down Milwaukee Avenue, and begging my father to take us back to the refugee camps in Germany.
We were lost in America -- but sometimes people helped us.
We didn't know who they were, what their names were, or why they helped us. But they did.
Here's a poem I wrote about those people who helped us in Chicago during that first winter.Charity
The women who came to our apartment
didn't speak Polish, and the only English
my parents knew was "Thank you, Missus,"
but they came and brought dresses for my mom,
rubber boots for my dad, cans of pork and beans
and loaves of bread for all of us,
and for my sister and me, comic books
and sometimes a hard rubber toy, a doll
or a red truck with a missing tire.
We didn't know who they were or how
they'd found us or even their real names.
But they had names: "dobra
" and "fajna
and we knew what those words meant.
These were "good" and "fine" women.
The poem is from my book about our refugee experience, Echoes of Tattered Tongues