Running, it was the beginning of all of this. The camp, Papa, everything. It was now the end of it all. Running.
Four years ago was the beginning of all my running. I kicked and fussed, but most of all I ran. I wanted to be away from the men in green. I was only nine, a persistent girl from a good family. I was like most other girls, except for the yellow Star of David on the lapel of my purple coat.
My mother stood beside me acting calm. By her side was little Aenka. Being only five, she wore a star as well on her little clothes. Papa stood beside them, not daring to fight back. His eyes were closed, and I could barely hear him whisper.
"God, houd alstublieft mijn echtgenote en kindbrandkast bij,"1 he muttered in his first language. He was praying for our safety.
"Papa!" I cried. A Green Policeman slapped me; a red mark appeared across my little face.
I tried to run again. Why? They were taking us from Papa. The man who had told me fairy tales from his country, who held me when I cried, who loved me. They were separating Mommy, Aenka, and me from Papa. He was going to a place called Auschwitz. We were going to a place by the name of Vught.
"Das Mädchen ist ziemlich reizbar. Für einen Juden,"2 one spoke, the other laughing in reply. They spoke in their language, which only frightened me more. The blonde one grabbed my small arms and kept them still. I began to cry.
An old woman turned to me. Her sad, brown eyes peered at me. She gingerly touched my star.
"Do not be afraid dear child." She whispered to me. She looked off into the distance, looking at the gray city I once knew as a happy place called Warsaw.
"It could be much, much worse."
A filthy, meek, preteen I have become. Papa is gone, dead most likely. Mama is still quiet, though I fear it is not her normal, calm quietness. By her side, is a 7 year-old Aenka. I sit opposite them. No one speaks. The men shout from the outside, calling to the others. The shouts of their language frighten me. I only know a bit of their language. I understand few words they spoke. Death, Jews, and Hitler. I know of the man, and I fear him. I had no idea of what he has against me and my people, but I can not hate him. God has said, not to hate another. I may have lost everything, but I still have faith in my lord. I still pray every night, begging for his help.
My mother took my pale, thin hands. I looked into her dark brown eyes that once had been so filled with warmth.
"You need to run," my mother whispers. I nod. That's how the running will start again. Running away isn't easy; it took two years to plan our run.
I have reached the end. I must run again.
It was a crisp, cool fall night. I shuddered in my rags and pulled Aenka closer.
"I'm scared," she whispered. I nodded in reply. She held out her tiny hand, and I grabbed it in assurance. I started walking to the hole in the fencing. I helped Aenka through it, making sure the wires didn't scratch her. The sirens started to go off and I jerked my self through the hole, the wires snagging on my skin. I winced in pain, but quickly started running, Aenka by my side.
I heard the howl of a dog, Aenka whimpered by my side. I touched her head affectionately, but I did not stop. Shouts of the Nazi language came from behind. I kept running. Soon, the camp was out of sights. We slowed to a walk.
"I'm tired, Jopie," Aenka whispered. I looked to her sweaty, red face. I ran my fingers across my cuts from the wires. We sat down. I looked to the tiny girl. She was the same age I was when I was taken to Vught. I stood up.
"Let's go," I said, and started walking. We didn't stop again. A few days later, Aenka collapsed.
"Aenka!" I screamed. She was breathing heavily, her rib cage showed from lack of food, her face was pale white, sweat across her forehead.
"I…food," she muttered out. I grabbed the closest thing, a small herb, and handed it to her. She chewed them as I prayed they weren't poisonous.
"More," she whispered. I grabbed a piece and a strong smell came over me. Mint. I laughed, unbelieving our luck. We started to eat the Mint, when the sound of marching came. Nazis? I saw their flag, covered in stars and stripes. Americans. A man saw us and called something to another man. He nodded and walked over.
"Sind Sie Juden?"3 He asked in German. We nodded.
"Waisen."4 I replied. Aenka nodded. He smiled a big, friendly smile.
"Nicht für lang."5
When Aenka and I ran it was one week before the camp's release. Mama died two days after we left, from typhus. Aenka and I were taken to America by the man, who soon adopted us into his family. Life was good again. Yet, sometimes I hear Papa's Dutch fairytales, Mama's singing, and joyful shouts from my friends. Sometimes, I run. Down streets, around blocks, everywhere. Running saved my life. It was the beginning, the end, and now the present. Running.
1 Translation from Dutch is: God, please keep my wife and children safe.
2 Translation from German is: The girl is quite feisty. For a Jew.
3 Translation from German is: Are you Jews?
4 Translation from German is: Orphans
5 Translation from German is: Not for long