It has been quiet here, to quiet, the silence is used to scare us, I understand that. I am not going to give them the satisfaction of seeing me afraid, and Mother and Father tell me they feel the same way, but we cannot always be strong, I hear the fear in their voice late at night, and Ivan hear the fear in my own voice, I just do my best to be strong for Naomi, she cannot know how afraid I really am.
Mother and Father do a lot of whispering late at night when she thinks we are asleep, but sleep no longer comes easily. I often lay awake at night, hoping and praying things will get better, that someone will come and save us from this hell we are living through, and it only gets worth.
More families disappear everyday, taken to the Ghetto’s or camps, or shot for no reason other than their very existence. It’s not fair, but that is the way it is now.
Why are people who do not even know us, so determined to destroy us?
I’m only a little girl, how can I be such a threat to them? How can Naomi?
Haven’t they taken enough from us already, our freedoms, our education, most of our books, our art?
They have burned books by many, including Helen Keller, Mom told me she’s a famous American who is both blind and deaf, but does remarkable things. Why would they burn her books?
I have a lot of why’s and no answers. I wonder if I will ever know the answers, the one thing I do know is that I cannot let the questions worry me so much, that I forget how to protect Naomi, she is my twin, it is my duty to protect her.
I do my best, keeping her busy with stories I have written down, in the stories we are always free and there are no Nazi’s. In the stories nothing of ours was taken from us, and books were not burned. Father is still working, and there is so much food we are always able to eat until we are filled.
In these stories Naomi has all the toys she can want but at the core she is the same as she is now, forever four years old like Mother says, and to me that is not a bad thing, I love Naomi the way she is now, she does not need to be any different. In my eyes Naomi is perfect the way G-d made her, and I have no doubt about that. But right now in this world, I wish Naomi could be normal, only because it would be safer for her that way. The Nazi’s want yo destroy anyone is different.
My sister is going to be okay though, as long as I am able to protect her from these men, but I cannot always protect her, and the day may come where she must learn to protect herself. I just do not know how someone with the mind of a four year old is going to do that.
“Lydia, there maybe a time when it is you and Lydia alone, they may separate us, but whatever happens do everything you can to protect Naomi, make sure she speaks as little as possible, because her speech will give her away, it will show them that Naomi is not normal, and that will put her in even more danger.”
“I know Mom, I will do my best to keep Naomi safe.”
“I am proud of you 1. habat sheli, I pray you are never given reason to question my love for you.”
“I know 2 Ima.” I said softly. “And I am thankful.”
Mother had smiled at me, a sad sort of smile. She looked at me with sadness in her eyes and said “I am sorry Lydia, that you and your sister have to endure this, monsters have stolen your childhood from you.”
“It’s not your fault Ima.” I said softly. “A monster named Hitler is the one to blame.”
I did not like Mother blaming herself for what a monster did, a monster by the name of Hitler, this monster was so ruled by hate, he did not care who was killed, it did not matter how young or old the person was.
Even infants are murdered, who murders newborns who haven’t had a chance to live.
I worry that things are only going to get worse.
But I’m here, and right now I need to focus on that, but it’s hard when you live in a world of shattered glass, literally and figuratively. We are alive though, and for now we are together. But I know that we can be separated at anytime.
“You’re going to be able to visit Nadia today.” Mom said gently. “Katarina knows how important it is to you, and how good it will be for Nadia, but I want you prepared, Nadia had to have brain surgery to remove the pressure from her school, her head is bandaged.”
I didn’t even want to think about what this meant, Nadia’s beautiful thick dark hair gone, shaved, but she was a live and I had to focus on that.
“I understand.” I said softly.
“She understands what you are saying, but struggles to speak, and she becomes easily frustrated, Katarina wants you to understand that it’s not anything you’ve done, she is just trying to figure out how to communicate.”
I found myself swallowing hard, I didn’t like even thinking about how frustrated Nadia must be, but I could not focus on that. I needed simply to focus on my best friend.
G-d why did our lives have to be upended by hatred. Bobe fought so hard, to stop that kind of hate destroying our lives, but it still sneaks in.
Our family was no stranger to how hatred destroys the very ones we loved. The Grandfather I had never met, had survived the Holocaust, only to be found murdered and tossed in an alley, days after my Mother had graduated high school, they had carved a swastika into his chest. It was something Mother rarely talked about, because it was so painful. She still carried the heavy burden of that loss with her.
Grandfather had walked out of Auschwitz, only to be killed on his way home from the grocery store, it had been entirely unfair. and it made Mother angry, had broken her heart and Bobe’s as well.
“We cannot let hatred win Babula, if we do it, the enemy gets the power.”
Bobe’s words still rung true, and I knew that we could not give them the power. We needed to remember that it was only G-d who truly had the power.
I still leaned on Bobe for strength even long after she was gone. Bobe was still sharing her wisdom, and I was grateful for that.
I needed to remember Bobe’s words when I went to go and see Nadia, I was going to need to cling to those words for strength. I was going to have to lean on Bobe once more, because that was how I was going to find the strength, through G-d and through the vessels he used.
A little while later, we were headed to see Nadia, I felt both a sense of relief, as well as a sense of worry over what I might see. I wasn’t even entirely sure if Nadia would know who I was. I did not want my mind to go to that dark place though.
“Naomi, she has not forgotten who you are.” Katarina said gently, as if she had the ability to read my mind. “She remembers us, but she has a long way to go, and she’s going to need us, just as I know you need us.” Katarina said, holding tightly onto the handles of the chair.
“I’m glad she remembers.” I said softly.
“Me too, and I’m sorry you were hurt.” Katarina said. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” I said softly. “I’m going to be okay.”
“You are strong like your Bobe was.” Katarina said softly. “She would bs proud, but you are allowed to grieve, grief does not make you weak Naomi, it simply makes you human.”
I was touched by the way Katarina was there for me, even as her daughter was hurting.
“It’s hard.” I said softly. “But I’ll get through this.”
“I know you will Naomi, but I am sorry you were paralyzed.”
I swallowed hard, the words were still hard to hear. I was paralyzed, I had no feeling or voluntary move me from mid chest down.
My life was different now, I was paralyzed.
I was going to miss running, despite the way I complained to Nadia, I had grown to love running. I had grown to love the brisk mornings when it was only Nadia and I running on the tract. Nadia was the runner, she won races, and raised money for different charities.
G-d please don’t take running away from her, she had lost so much already.
I didn’t even know if she would run again, or if she even remembered running, I prayed that she did though.
I pulled myself together, not wanting to worry Nadia. I did not want to freak her out, I just wanted to see for myself that Nadia was going to be okay.
“Don’t let the bandages scare you Naomi.” Katarina said gently. “She’s still the same, we are just slowly waiting for her to come around.”
“I know.” I said softly. As Katarina grabbed my hand and gently squeezed it. “Thank you for always being there for Naomi, she is blessed to have a friend like you.”
“I am blessed to have a friend like her.” I said softly. As Katarina grabbed my hand and gently squeezed it.
I stifled a gasp, not wanting to scare Nadia, and not wanting to upset Katarina, or anyone else. Mother seeing my pain, gently grabbed my hand.
Nadia looked so small, and so vulnerable with layers of white gauze wrapped around her head.
“The doctors say the wrappings can come off in a few days.” Katarina explained. “She’s healing well.”
I nodded,grateful that Nadia was making improvements, she still could not speak, but her smile showed me that she remembered and that she understood.
It hurt my heart to see Nadia looking so small, so fragile, so vulnerable, but she was a live, and that was a blessing. Nadia seemed to know who I was, who my Nom was, who were Mom was. She smiled at us, with a half smile, all she could manage at that moment, but it was something, something we all knew better than to take for granted.
I was grateful for that half smile, for the fact that Nadia was breathing on her own. I could not take these things for granted because G-d only knew how bad it could have been. I knew that I could have lost my best friend, that we both could have died, but we were alive, and G-d had a purpose for us. I had to believe too that Nadia would come back to us, her injuries were far worse than mine, because it had taken her speech and in a very real way a part of who she was, but Nadia would come back to us, I had to believe that.
“You gave us all a scare.” I told Nadia gently. “But we’re glad you’re okay.”
Nadia only offered a sad little smile in response, and it took all, my power not to start crying. I knew that I needed to be strong for Nadia, and freaking her out simply did not fit that Bill.
“You’re going to get stronger, we both are, and soon we will be able to go home. I know that I am going to be happy when we can leave here, and go home.” I said gently reaching for the hand of Nadia’s that was free of Iv’s.
I smiled trying to hide the tears I wanted to cry. I was not going to cry in front of Nadia, because that would only serve to freak her out, and that was not something I wanted to do, because something like that could set her back, and I was not going to be responsible for that. I would allow my tears to come later, when I was in the privacy of my own room, while Mother went to go get me lunch, something other than hospital fair. My appetite had come back, I no longer had to fight through waves if Nausea, in order to sit up. Gradually, I was able to sit up for longer periods of time, and it felt good, not always having to be in bed.
There were times though that I struggled, when I was forced to swallow the reality that though I was able to sit up, standing unaided or walking was not an option. I was paralyzed, the reality was starting to settle on hard, and after visiting Nadia, when I was alone in my room I had allowed myself to grieve. I could finally let myself admit what I had lost, and I could finally allow myself the time to grieve over what I had lost.
G-d I’m scared, scared to find out what this is going to mean when I go home. I have so much to cone to terms with, I’m used to my independence and now I need help with the simplest of tasks.
It had felt like a damn broke, and soon Mother had come in, looking worried. Finally I found the strength to explain.
“I’m not hurt, at least not in the way you think I am.” I said, sniffling a few times. “I just haven’t really let myself come to terms with the reality of my injuries. I’m paralyzed.” I said, the words still sounded foreign when it came to what it meant for me.
Mom gently squeezed my hand. “I know sweetie, and I’m going to be here for you throughout this. I really wish I could do more.”
“You are doing everything that you can, and I’m thankful for that. This is just hard Mom. I’m paralyzed, I can’t walk.” The tears I had spent to long holding back were now flowing freely.
“I know sweetie, and I wish you did not have to go through this.”
“It’s not your fault Mom.”
“And it’s not your’s either sweetheart.” Mom said.
“I know.” I said, but honestly I still blamed myself.