The Wooden Cross
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The CBB -> St Mildred's House

#1: The Wooden Cross Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 12:33 pm
Yesterday I was told that I have been here for six months.

I could scarcely believe it, but then Hovorka showed me the crude calendar he keeps under his bunk with some impatience. I expressed my surprise; remarking that I had thought it far longer than six months, but he turned away, with a bitter remark in his native Czech. I understood the inference if not the words. He was saying I am lucky. Others brought here did not survive six hours.

I could have challenged him, who is the one who is fortunate? I, who can work and who is therefore useful to them – for now - or those who were slaughtered straight away and no longer suffer? But Hovorka, whom I have learnt once delighted in arguments of ideology as a student in Prague, does not argue with anyone anymore. He lies quietly on his bunk, scratching symbols onto the wall with a blunt knife. I watch him covertly, he is young, the same age as my Gisela, and his eyes are as blue as the Tiernsee itself.

I sleep in one of the smaller rooms. It accommodates six and I am the oldest in it by fifteen years. We are woken at first light and taken outside for a roll call. Most of the men here are German, but there are several Austrians and a few Czechs. No Jews, apparently. I would ask why, but it is too dangerous here to acquire a reputation for being curious.

We wake, answer our names when they are called, then eat our first meal. It does not take long as there is little food. We are then marched to work on construction – building more outbuildings and also roads and a railway. For the last few weeks I have laboured long hours on the railway. I wonder why they need a railway to reach this desolate spot, many days’ march from Berlin but again I have a feeling that I do not want to know the answer.

After work, we are marched back to the camp and fed once more. We spend the rest of the evening in our huts; some of the men talk but most are silent.

Tonight I am one of the silent ones; I lie on my bunk and wonder if my wife and daughters are safe. I have no photographs here but their faces remain vivid in my memory. I remember Gisela’s wedding, how beautiful she looked, how happy my wife was and how no father could be prouder than I on that day.

I can only pray they are safe; I trust that Maria at least is safe. I remember how thankful I was when Russell said he could take her to England with her school. I wish I could see my family, hear their dear voices one more time…

Suddenly heavy footfalls indicate the guards’ approach. Everyone freezes for an instant; then they scramble to hide their treasures. Hovorka puts away his knife, though I imagine from his expression, he longs to bury it deep into the body of the nearest Nazi guard. I wonder how I would react if he did so, once I could not have condoned any kind of violence but now… I cannot think about it too deeply while they are here, my expression would betray me as his does him. I hope they will not notice.

We all stand; I glance around the room, at the set, white faces of my companions. Three are German, Lichtermann and Reimers are Communists and Schroeder, who is scarce eighteen, is not. He smiles at me. He is friends with all the world and surprisingly, everyone is kind to him, even most of the guards. He is very young; he likes to hear my stories of the Tyrol that I once told to Fraulein Joey and the other girls. He reminds me slightly of Jockel who worked in Frau Russell’s school. I wonder if that is why he is here, a child’s mind in a body that can work on the railway.

Reisner is Austrian, a Viennese, also a Communist. It astonished me that they have put me with the political prisoners when all I did was speak out about the Plebiscite, but as I have learned, they could have put me with others who suffered a far worse fate. I am loath to speak out now and that is what is keeping me alive.

The guards come in and throw the door open, letting in the cold air. I know their names; Richter and Kaltenbach. They are young too, and not the worst, but then we are a quiet room with no troublemakers. The guard to watch out for is Waldschmidt, he is cold and sadistic, but we rarely see him here. We don’t see the Kommandant either. Once Reisner, a waiter before the Anschluss, went to his lodgings to serve guests at a party. He reported that they had French champagne and quantities of food beyond imagining.

The guards do not linger, nor do they search our bunks. They check nightly if we are all still here, but where would we go? I see Hovorka’s face now looks blank and no longer confrontational. Kaltenbach jokes with Schroeder, but it is not malicious. They seem in good humour. I would not have thought they were evil but I know they are, I have seen them kill and torture and destroy.

When they leave, they turn out the light and lock the door. We get into our bunks and try to sleep.

The next morning, when they arrive to check we are up, they are not so genial. They are scowling and taunt Schroeder, who does not understand their change of mood. I make sure I pick up his bowl and spoon for him lest he forgets. It is not pleasant to see his misery. Hovorka joins us for the short walk to the place where they serve the food.

We pass a group of Czechs and they say something to him, furtively. He shrugs his shoulders. One says something sharper, still in Czech, and he replies, obviously angry.

When we are queuing, I ask what it was they said.

“The Germans have invaded Poland. England and France have declared war. That’s why the guards are angry,” he replies, tersely. “Those fools think it is good news, but what do they know? The English have never acted before – they handed over my country to the Nazis…” he blinks away angry tears, “They are fools to hope it will make a difference.”

“But what else is there if we do not hope?” I reply, surprising myself. I thought I had ceased to hope many months ago.

We are made to march quickly to where the railway tracks stop, we lay them away from the camp north towards Berlin, although I only know vaguely where we are. It is countryside and we rarely see local people.

I keep Schroeder close to me as we start work; he needs someone to show him what to do every day because he seems to forget overnight. It is backbreaking work laying never-ending railway tracks and the longer march back at the end of the day is tiring me more and more. I don’t know how much longer I will be able to do it before the time comes when I can no longer march back and they shoot me and demand my fellow prisoners bury me like I have buried other men at the side of these tracks.

“Florian?” Schroeder breaks into my thoughts, “What should I do now?”

“Bring those to me, here,” I instruct quickly, before the guard sees he is doing nothing, but then I see the guard has wandered away for a smoke and cannot see. We rest for a few precious moments. I see Hovorka talking to a group of Czechs and wonder what they are discussing. It is dangerous to wander too far from your established working group. Men have been shot for it so the discussion must be important. He is returned before the guard finishes his cigarette.

“Come on, Stefan, you can come and help me,” he says and Schroeder follows him happily enough.

It is a long and hard day’s work for us all. The September sun is hot; my sweat soaks me but I dare not stop. Corporal Waldschmidt is watching us and he is a dangerous man, quick to anger.

Hovorka is talking to the Nazis now, while Schroeder works unaccompanied. Hovorka was an engineering student in Prague and they often request his assistance with planning the work. I know he hates it, but he dares not refuse. Like all of us, he is desperate to survive.

We march back to the camp, in silence, exhausted and sore. Stefan walks next to me, he stumbles often with tiredness but I cannot help him lest the soldiers think we are talking and punish us.

At the gates of the prison camp, we march past the bodies of three men. They were not there this morning. I notice a sign next to them. It reads escapees. This is one of their ways of warning us. I stifle a curse and in front of me I see Hovorka cross himself involuntarily. Last week he told me he no longer believed in God.

The soldiers come early to our hut in the evening, catching us unawares. Luckily, we are mostly dozing on our bunks.

Waldschmidt himself enters. He paces up and down the room looking at each of us. I am frozen with fear.

“You,” he commands, stopping in front of Hovorka, who is composed but pale, “You are the engineer, are you not?”

Hovorka nods and for a second he looks afraid, but he quickly recovers himself, “Yes, Corporal.”

“Come. The Kommandant requests you discuss the next stage with him.” Waldschmidt and the others leave, taking Hovorka with them. The door slams shut.

“Where is he gone?” Stefan asks fearfully.

“They will bring him back, it is only about the tracks,” Reimers says and we all relax. This has happened before, when the tracks were first laid, and we know that Hovorka will not try anything rash. We all know that if one man acts, the whole camp suffers.

“Come and sit down, Stefan, and I’ll tell you the story of how the Tiernsee became a lake,” I say, and Stefan obeys, eagerly. He is only a child and he loves to hear my stories. The others pretend indifference but they listen too.

It is late when Hovorka returns and he paces the room, on edge. He goes to the door and listens, only returning to pace and mutter in Czech when he is sure the soldiers have gone.

“What did they say?” Lichtermann demands.

“They want us to work faster. We are behind their schedules. I must tell that bastard, Waldschmidt, each morning how to organise us so we can work harder,” his face is full of hatred. “Or they will shoot us. German logic, no? They will shoot men because they need us to do the work of more men.”

This leads to an argument with Lichtermann and Reimers, which Reisnar also joins in. I step forward, leaving Stefan, who is repeating the final words of my story to himself and laughing happily, unaware of the tension.

Hovorka turns to me, “You have told your stories?” he asks. I wonder what he is talking about.

“I mean, when I return, you tell the stories, your legends telling,” he says impatiently, his German deserting him.

“He was – God in Heaven, why are you talking about child’s stories, you fool?” Reimers growls.

“They were all outside, listening. The guards…” Horvaka’s eyes flash. “They must listen to you every night. All of them. While you talk, they listen.”

“You have lost your reason,” Reimers says scornfully, but I intervene. We must not fight among ourselves.

Later, when he is scratching at the wall with his knife, I go over to him.

“Why does it matter that I tell stories to Stefan and that the guards listen?” I ask.

“It does not matter,” he replies, laying down his knife. “I was surprised to see them all outside our room. We must find out if they congregate every night to listen. It could be useful.”

I suddenly understand and move nearer.

“What do you plan?” I ask, in English. I have had no reason to use it for months and it sounds unfamiliar on my tongue. I know he speaks English, but the others do not and therefore they will not understand.

“Not for you to worry about – yet,” he says, guardedly, in the same language. “That is… If you are willing?”

I frown. The image of the bodies at the gates is too fresh in my memory. It is not for myself that I fear.

He asks me again, three times, in the next two weeks. I prevaricate and later despise myself for my inaction. I am an old man now, in mind and body, and it is too hard for me to change my ways. I was always taught the value of obedience, I insisted on it from my own daughters. Now I am beginning to appreciate that total obedience is a dangerous thing if it lets evil like Nazism flourish.

Stefan demands my stories at night and I tell them, hoping that it helps in some small way, some kind of human contact to remind us that we are not the animals they say we are. I wish I had the strength to stand up to them, to join in the plots and plans but I am too frightened.

I worry about Stefan. Though his childishness once amused the guards, now as time runs out for the building of the railway and they grow less and less tolerant, his ways are starting to anger them. I fear for him now.

It is the start of October, the leaves are golden brown and crimson red on the forest floor. We have to brush them from the tracks before we start work.

We are being made to work harder and longer, despite the shorter days. Some days the leaves are frozen to the tracks. Stefan tells me how pretty they are. I hadn’t noticed them, except as an irritant, before he mentioned them and now I can no longer bear to look at them.

Stefan is talking nonsense, as usual. I grow exasperated with him and answer sharply. How I will regret not keeping my temper… I shall never forget it.

It is a long, hard day – there are no others – and we are lining up to march back to the camp when there is a shout. We all freeze, anxiety clear on many faces.

Kaltenbach is pointing out something on the tracks, in the section where I was working. My blood runs cold and I shiver. Something is clearly wrong. Beside me, Stefan whimpers in fright. Waldschmidt trudges through the mud to reach the track, whilst the other guards stand by, some look uneasy but others look animated, they suspect something is going to happen. I put my hand on Stefan’s shoulder, to reassure and to prevent him from drawing attention to himself. At times such as these often the best thing is to stand still and quiet, however much I detest myself afterwards for my cowardice.

Waldschmidt curses, then turns round angrily, his pistol in his hand. He is barking commands at Kaltenbach, who seems to be arguing with him. A whisper goes around the group – sabotage – and I sense the beginnings of panic.

“Those of you who worked here, step forward!” Waldschmidt says. With his gun trained on us, we have no choice. Sixteen of us step forward, it seems like hours before he speaks and demands to know which one of laid the track incorrectly in a deliberate attempt to derail a train. When we do not answer – he gives a command and two soldiers drag Hovorka forward. He is white but he appears calm. I don’t know if I could be so calm.

“You, you will answer to me, which man worked on this section?” Waldschmidt demands, which such cold menace that for a second the fear nearly overwhelms me.

“I do not know.” Hovorka answers, defiantly. “But it is not sabotage, Corporal, it is an accident – see? This part has been laid upside down…”

Stefan. I know at once what has happened. My mouth goes dry - why did I not check his work? Next to me, he is trembling. He is going to give himself away even if Hovorka will not implicate him.

Waldschmidt screams at him to answer.

“I do not know.” Hovorka says stubbornly and unafraid. “Too many men worked here.”

Waldschmidt gives a chilling smile, and raising his pistol he takes aim and shoots one of the other Czechs, who seems to crumple and fall over in slow motion. He did not even work in our section, I think, meaninglessly. I look away, back to Waldschmidt and his victim.

“There are fewer men now.” Waldschmidt says in chilling tones. Hovorka shudders and closes his eyes, his show of insubordination gone, now just a frightened boy.

“I-I take all responsibility…” he manages to choke out, “I-I…”

Waldschmidt puts the barrel of his pistol to Hovorka’s temple and drags him closer to us, taking him down the line, to look into our faces individually, to force him to identify one of us. He stubbornly refuses to do so, repeating that he does not know.

I wonder why they do not execute every one of us but then I realise. They are anxious to finish the railway and they need as many men as possible. They dare not kill sixteen men. I calculate quickly. They will kill perhaps one more man and maybe Hovorka also, for his earlier defiance. I know I must act now. I prepare myself to step forward and say I am responsible. At least the others will survive.

“I do not know, I do not know…” Hovorka is saying with increasing desperation. His lip is cut and bleeding from a blow. I open my mouth to speak, but Stefan – God in Heaven – forstalls me.

“I didn’t mean to do it wrong,” he says, his eyes wide. He is trying to smile, “But I can fix it, can’t I? Don’t hurt my friend please.” He says to Waldschmidt. He laughs nervously.

“No, it wasn’t him…” Hovorka says, but Waldschmidt kicks him aside and smiles at Stefan. His change of mood is frightening. He is starting to enjoy himself, I think, and it makes me feel nauseous. Stefan relaxes when he sees the smile and he begins to talk in his happy way. I can’t bear to hear it.

“Come with me, boy,” Waldschmidt takes Stefan away, with a cruel smile. Hovorka is sobbing next to me, we all know what is going to happen but we are powerless to stop it.

Stefan goes willingly, not understanding. Waldschmidt takes his pistol and aims it at the back of his head. There is an anguished cry, it doesn’t sound human. I realise later it came from my own throat.

Stefan turns, surprised, and Waldschmidt fires. Stefan falls to the ground, twitching like a grotesque marionette. His blood is dark and stains Waldschmidt’s boots and he steps back with an angry exclamation.

After a couple of seconds, Stefan is still.

They make Hovorka dig the two graves unassisted and bury the bodies of the Czech – I do not know his name – and Stefan. We are made to watch while he does it, as the sun sets in the western sky and the shadows of the trees lengthen. Hovorka has stopped crying and his face is set and white and hard; he exudes hatred but it is mixed with something else now, something that makes his once expressive eyes blank. Defeat.

“A third.” Waldschmidt says, as I predicted. Hovorka nods, and continues, although he is struggling now with his exhaustion. He knows it will be his own grave and he digs with a broken acceptance that chills me.

They make him kneel at the edge of the grave, a gun to his head, and I find myself murmuring a prayer. He is shaking violently, despite his resignation to his fate.

But they do not shoot Hovorka. Waldschmidt laughs and a few seconds later the other guards echo him.

"Perhaps we shoot you when the last track is laid," he sneers.

Hovorka is shaking so much he needs Kaltenbach's arm to get to his feet.

We march back to the camp in silence. I say a prayer for Stefan, lying still and cold under the rough earth.

Lichtermann approaches my bunk cautiously. Earlier we argued over what to do with Stefan's sparse belongings. I wanted to leave them, perhaps pretend his death did not happen, he thought that the guards would take them. We argued until Hovorka got up from his bunk and pulled the straw mattress from Stefan's bed, scattering Stefan's beloved treasures onto the floor. They were so pitiful they brought tears to all our eyes; a leaf, three dead wildflowers little more than weeds and a simple wooden cross that I imagine his poor mother pressing into his hands when they came for him.

We gave the cross to Hovorka, who did not speak; he has still not spoken.

I sit up and turn my attention to Lichtermann, wondering what he wants.

There is a plan – to escape,” Lichtermann whispers, carefully, one eye on the door. “Would you be willing to join?”

I am weary and afraid; I have heard the rumours of what happens to the families of such escapees. The mere thought of my dear Gisel in a place such as this – or worse - is enough to break my heart.

“No,” I say, cursing my cowardice. “I dare not. I am but an old man now…”

I notice the way the others look at each other, the rapid glances, swiftly hidden, and I wonder what they are hiding from me.

“Will you tell your story of the Tiernsee?” Reisner asks, unable to hide the desperation in his voice. “Please.”

“It is a child’s story, you are not children but grown men,” I growl, wanting only to be left alone.

“It distracts the guards,” Reisner says, growing pale. “You must, they listen too.”

But that night I refuse, there is no point if not for Stefan.

In the morning we march to the end of the railway tracks, Hovorka walks with me but says nothing and I do not speak.

I shiver in my thin clothes, it is a cold morning and the sun is a crimson splash on the horizon.

“They should send his ashes to his family,” Hovorka whispers.


“Stefan’s… His family will not know what has become of him.” His eyes are tormented. Risking the wrath of the guards, I grip his shoulder.

“It was not your fault.” I say, with anger, because I am angry with them. “They wanted to kill as an example to us all.”

“When the track here is finished, a train will come,” he whispers, “It will have the Jews on it and they will push us on and take us East. And we will never come back...”

I glance sharply at him, “Where did you hear this?” I growl.

“From the Kommandant…”

“Speak of it to no-one. Let me think.” I let go of him and he nearly falls at my feet, drawing the attention of the guard, who is lazy and thankfully lets it pass. Hovorka is too valuable to them while we still have tracks to lay.

“When does this train come?” I ask, later. He considers, pretending to examine my work, then kneels next to me, running his hands over the rail, as if checking for weakness. He speaks calmly, but his knuckles are white on the rail.

“They say in three weeks’ time.”

“That’s why you have the calendar.”

He shrugs, wary being overheard.

“They want to escape,” I keep my voice down. “How?”

“Tell your stories tonight, so the other block can dig,” he says, before Kaltenbach comes over to see what is taking so long.


“I want to know the plan,” I say, as we march back.

“I only know my part,” he looks straight ahead, his eyes not straying left, to where Stefan lies, under the oak trees, cold under the earth.

“Who is in charge?” I demand, in hushed tones, but he cannot, or will not, tell me.

I tell the story of the first Ice Carnival on the Tiernsee, a tale my grandfather told me. I know the young guards gather in their boredom to listen once more outside our prison.


“It is not ready,” Hovorka says, when I next ask, a week later.

I can sense his anxiety. The work is harder now, as he told us it would be, and tempers are short. We wake tired. The weather is getting colder and I wonder if I will survive a winter in this place. I wonder how we will escape and survive if we have to wait till winter. I know I will not last until spring, whether I stay in the camp or go with the others.

“Walk with me and Prochazka.” Hovorka says, referring to a one of the Czech prisoners he knows. I hesitate and ask if he thinks the guards will notice us talking, but he shakes his head.

“All they think of is the work – they must be finished, as I told you, before the first trains come for us.”


I dream of a train. Carriages that are filled with men, women and children, crushed and frightened. They herd us in, like cattle, and I stumble over something. I look down and realise it is a woman, lying on the floor, already dead, her clothes are torn, her long hair is loose, matted and filthy and her hands are bloody and broken. She has fought to keep the life that has been taken from her. As I go nearer to her, her face changes, as happens in dreams, and I realise I’m looking at face of my wife.

Last edited by Mia on Sat Jul 07, 2007 8:55 am; edited 6 times in total

#2:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 1:11 pm
So unutterably sad.

Thanks, Mia x

#3:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 2:35 pm
This sent shivers down my spine. Thanks, Mia.

#4:  Author: SamLocation: Essex, UK PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 3:32 pm
Thank you, Mia.

It sends shivers down my spine- and I can't even console myself thinking its "just a drabble" because it really happened.

#5:  Author: KateLocation: Ireland PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 3:33 pm
Thanks Mia. Crying or Very sad

#6:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 3:56 pm
*huggles Mia*

Hope this wasn't too emotionally draining to write. Very difficult to read, but beautiful writing.

#7:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 4:01 pm
Thanks, Mia. This is so harrowing to read so it must be harrowing for you to write.

#8:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Mon May 01, 2006 5:56 pm
Made all the more poignant because we know what happened to him, and we know it happened to so many,.

Thank you Mia.

#9:  Author: JoolsLocation: Sadly Broke PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2006 6:00 pm
Thank you Mia.

#10:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 4:04 pm
Yes, this is horrible to write, which is why you don't get a lot of it. Thanks for reading & comments

I can hear them whispering when I wake. “How long?” they ask each other, but nobody seems to know the answer. Hovorka knows, I am sure of it, but he will not say. I wonder how the escape attempt will take place and what I will have to do. Prochazka has yet to tell me.

What else is there to tell you? This day is like the others. We wake, we march, we work, we march once more, we eat, we sleep. And I tell a story of a demon that was turned into a mountain named the Tiernjoch.

#11:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 4:10 pm
Thanks for the update, Mia. Must be very hard to write - ((Mia)).

#12:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 4:13 pm
Thanks Mia - You really bring across tension of knowing something's going to happen but not knowing when.

#13:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 5:54 pm
Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad

Have no words.

#14:  Author: JustJenLocation: waiting for spring training PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2006 1:49 pm
I really admire you Mia for writing such a hard story

#15:  Author: ChairLocation: Rochester, Kent PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2006 1:58 pm
Thanks, Mia. I am echoing what LizB said.

#16:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2006 6:01 pm
Mia wrote:
We wake, we march, we work, we march once more, we eat, we sleep. And I tell a story of a demon that was turned into a mountain named the Tiernjoch.

So chilling. The story should have been told to eager children...

Thanks Mia

#17:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 1:09 am
That's exactly what I thought, Frances.
Thank you Mia.

#18:  Author: PhilLocation: London UK PostPosted: Thu May 11, 2006 1:07 pm
Thanks for writing this Mia.

#19:  Author: KathrynWLocation: London PostPosted: Fri May 12, 2006 4:22 pm
Thank you for writing this Mia, it's absolutely chilling.


#20:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 12:31 pm
I can't thank you enough for bearing with me while I write this! Dare I say that I've nearly finished it at last?


How long has it been since anyone used my Christian name? Certainly not since Stefan was killed. I look up at Hovorka. It is still early, everyone else sleeps still.

“I need to tell you what will happen. It will be tomorrow night, when the guards listen to your story. You must tell something that is long and start early. This is how they will escape.” He outlines his plans, his voice low and harsh.

“What of the others? Reisner and all of them? What of us?”

Hovorka’s smile is crooked. “They will kill us. But the others will escape.”


I ponder his words all through our work detail that day. I do not fear death for myself. Reisner does. As I look at him, his mouth is set and resigned, but he is paler than usual and his eyes tell me what he does not. I’ve seen so much death already; I have no wish for more. It is not necessary for them to die alongside me. I will not let it happen.


Hovorka is working alone, strengthening parts of the track already laid. I go to him, kneel at his side, appearing to help.

“No – this is dangerous. We need you for tomorrow,” he mutters. “Go. We will talk later.”

“We will talk now, child.” I insist, even as I realise he is sabotaging the points. A last act of defiance before the end.

“The first train that comes will carry only Nazi Officers,” he explains, not once pausing in his work. Clever little touches of sabotage, nothing that will be noticed until the train is brought down, but it will be effective. I try not to smile. Ironic that so many months of hard work could be destroyed in mere minutes by his skill. “It won’t stop them, but it will slow them down.”

He pauses and glances cautiously at the guards, but they are occupied elsewhere. “What did you want to say to me?” he asks, tiredly.

“That you are not dying tomorrow, Tomás.” I say, smiling as we kneel together, the last rays of the western-setting sun in my eyes. Unmistakable hope in his. “Tomorrow you will all escape.”

#21:  Author: ClareLocation: Liverpool PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 12:54 pm
Mia this is amazing. I've got such a lump in my throat reading it.

#22:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 1:41 pm
I hope some of them do manage to escape.

Thanks Mia.

#23:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 1:45 pm
Thanks for taking the time to write more of this - it must be very hard to write.

#24:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:05 pm
Thank you Mia.

#25:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:05 pm
So here I am, the last man in our room, sitting on my bunk with my hands clasped before me, my voice still speaking to an empty room, telling a final legend. I falter in my speech now, from time to time, for I am tired, but when I stop talking the guards who listen outside will come into the room and I will die.

I have talked myself nearly hoarse already, convincing Reisner, the Viennese waiter, Reimers and Lichtermann, the German Communists; and finally young Tomás Hovorka, to leave me to talk to an empty room. Deep in my heart, I know they have little chance to escape, but I, as they do, would rather they died in the attempt of flight, rather than cornered like rats in this foul cabin as I will be. Once I stop speaking.

These so-familiar words of the story I used to tell my children before they slept are stumbling on my tongue now. I must carry on, the longer I speak the further the men can go without discovery. I hope. Maybe they have been caught already and the guards who wait outside just want me to finish the tale. I hope this legend of old Tirol will be remembered after I am gone. I hope there are people left to remember these stories.

I’m reaching the end now, of both the story and of my strength. I hope when the end comes that it will be quick. I clutch the wooden cross that Tomás shoved into my fingers before he left, which I took from him; squeezing his hand in farewell while the tears ran down his face. I hope he lives. I hope they all live.

My head is dropping now, my voice faint. Did I say that last sentence aloud? It doesn’t matter. I hear them shouting outside. I will never finish this story now.

I permit myself a last thought of my family as they kick down the door with angry shouts.

My story is finished.

#26:  Author: ClareLocation: Liverpool PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:12 pm
Mia that is so beautiful. Thank you - it must have been so hard to write, and thank you for sharing your story with us.

#27:  Author: LesleyLocation: Allhallows, Kent PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:16 pm
I hope they all escape too.

Thank you Mia - have tears in my eyes - a hero's death Herr Marani. Crying or Very sad

#28:  Author: MiaLocation: London PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:25 pm
Thanks so much for all your comments - there will be a short epilogue, hopefully later today x

#29:  Author: MirandaLocation: Perth, Western Australia PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:27 pm
Mia that was incredible. So chilling, and yet so moving at the same time. He was such a brave man.

#30:  Author: FatimaLocation: Sunny Qatar PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 2:54 pm
I can't even begin to imagine how he could sit there and tell his stories, knowing that as soon as he stopped he would die. Crying or Very sad

Thanks Mia.

#31:  Author: KarryLocation: Stoke on Trent PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 3:07 pm
Oh, Mia! That is so well written, Poor Uncle Florian!

#32:  Author: francesnLocation: away with the faeries PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 3:53 pm
Crying or Very sad This is so sad, Mia. Poor Herr Marani. He's being so brave. This must have been so hard to write.


#33:  Author: ChelseaLocation: Your Imagination PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 6:53 pm
I just read it again from the start. So powerful and moving.

Thank you Mia.

#34:  Author: Alison HLocation: Manchester PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 10:24 pm
Thanks Mia. This has been so moving.

#35:  Author: Cath V-PLocation: Newcastle NSW PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2007 11:50 pm
Thank you Mia.

#36:  Author: JustJenLocation: waiting for spring training PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:34 am
Starts to cry.
Mia I admire you for writing about such a difficult story.


#37:  Author: LizBLocation: Oxon, England PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 7:11 am
Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad

#38:  Author: LissLocation: Richmond PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:21 am
Oh Mia, that was just amazing. Absolutely brilliant.

#39:  Author: LisaLocation: South Coast of England PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:04 pm
Oh wow. Choked. Thank you Crying or Very sad

#40:  Author: DawnLocation: Leeds, West Yorks PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:01 pm
Thankyou Mia

Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad Crying or Very sad

#41:  Author: TaraLocation: Malvern, Worcestershire PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2007 10:35 pm
This has been such a moving story, Mia. Thank you.

#42:  Author: Fiona McLocation: Bendigo, Australia PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:21 am
I can only echo everyone else and say it was so moving. Herr Marani was so extraordinarily brave. And someone must have escaped because otherwise how would Frau Marani know he had died. Anyway, thanks

#43:  Author: NellLocation: exiled from the big smoke PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2007 5:41 pm
Wow. Thank you Mia.

#44:  Author: AllyLocation: The land of the fording oxes PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2007 2:43 pm
As there had to be one that was the proper ending for his story, thank you Mia.

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