Viaţă

The woods somewhere around Wrocław, Poland

My father was a king, which would make me a princess, except that we were only dirty gypsies to the Gavvers. And when they stormed the camp and marched my people to the woods, I bit back the cries on a blanket, and hid in the small space behind Bana’s trunk, until the screams and shots quieted to mean laughter. And when it was still, I walked the other direction from camp, barefoot through the puddles left by the Gavvers’ boots.

I thought I had nothing but a throat choked with smoke, and the screams I didn’t scream for them. With them.

“Come, chahvi,” said a voice from the train. I turned, startled. Her black hair was parted in the center, her dark eyes fierce and bright.

In a month I had nothing—and everything: papers, passport and transport, and that one thing without which nothing can be had: Viaţă

150 words

I beg your tolerance on this one–I went far from the location and wound up sticking my clumsy nose in some history I’m not qualified to tell, not to mention my wild guesses at language and terminology. But my research led me to Alfreda Markowska, my new favorite hero. After her entire clan was massacred by the Germans, she went on to personally rescue at least 50 Jewish and Roma children. Such a courageous lady!

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

12 Comments

  1. Fantastic piece of history, and well told. The wonderful thing about Pegman is that you can wander as far as you like!

    1. You’re very kind. Thanks.

  2. Atmospheric and chilling. I did look up “Viaţă” but couldn’t get a definitive meaning. Or is it the name of a place?

    1. It means ‘life’ according to the the translator I used. Thanks for reading!

  3. peterkirsch

    Having just watched “Fugitive Pieces” not two nights ago, this one is incredibly timely.
    I’m unfamiliar with the terminology as well, but the artful contextualization in your telling allowed me to understand it easily.
    Nicely done…again.

    1. Thank you & thanks for reading. Fugitive Pieces…I’m intrigued. I’ll have to check it out.

  4. Neat story I’m glad she hid and was able to escape, that she found this dark haired woman to help her on the train. And I think at the end ‘Viata’ translates as love? I had a hard time finding an exact definition but this one seems to make sense in your story. Great happy ending!

    1. Love would work just as well… I meant it to be “life”, but for the life of me, I can’t dig up the website where I came up with that translation! Starting to wonder if I made it up. Thanks for reading.

      1. You’re welcome. I guess they are similar terms in some ways.

  5. Forlorn but compelling. Loved the starkness of the opening line, the acceptance, and how that is closed by the last line.

  6. A most moving story. The blend of pathos and courage is compelling, and you tell the story very well indeed.

    1. Penny, you are most kind. Thank you.

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