Searching for Gita, the Little Pearl: Part 11
From Chapter 9
We last hear of Gita in Chapter 9, she and Aunt Ula journey to Krakow and meet Sasha Mazur, private detective. Gita is overjoyed and overwhelmed to discover Sasha Mazur is her Sasha from childhood.
Sasha arrived the next afternoon at 11:50. His habit of being early was still alive and well. While Gita was getting ready, Ula and Sasha exchanged pleasantries. She asked him about some of the history of Old Town. She would not, however, be accompanying them today. This was their time to reconnect and she wouldn't dream of inserting herself. Sasha was mid sentence when his breath caught as Gita entered the room with an emerald green sweater. She was all there was in the universe in that moment. Self-conscious about his attention, Gita didn't look at him. Instead, she bustled about looking for her purse and saying goodbye to Ula.
Finally, Sasha held out his arm for her. "Let's do this." She took his arm and they were off.
They were quiet a few minutes waiting for the awkwardness to subside. Then he took her hand into his and they explored Old Town together.
"Old Town was once the Jewish Quarter, brimming with the beautiful Jewish people," Sasha explained. "The Nazi's emptied it during World War two. It's been twenty four years since the war ended, Jews are slowly returning. I'm hoping one day it will be fully repopulated again with my people."
Gita missed the little revelation, "my people."
They walked by ancient sights of antiquity, but they were so wrapped up in conversation, they did not give near the appreciation the sights deserved.
They entered a cafe and took seats in a quiet corner. Sasha ordered their coffee, and the waitress took their lunch orders. Then it was just the two of them.
"Gita, you have grown into a beautiful woman."
Gita's hopes for a love relationship rose. "Thank you," she said. "You look great too, although it's hard to get used to the beard. It's nice, don't get me wrong, it's just different."
An awkward silence fell between them. They studied each other, wondering what what the other's life had been since they'd last seen each other.
Sasha cleared his throat. "The moment of truth," he said. Just then their coffee came. They thanked the waitress, and alone again, Sasha asked, "Now where was I?"
"You were about to tell me what happened when you disappeared from my life. Sasha, I felt so totally alone, like there was no one in the world who understood me and protected me, who...loved me the way you did. What happened?"
"I'm so, so, sorry, Gita. Truly I am. But it couldn't be helped. Do you remember how you used to beg me to tell you about my family, what my last name was, where I came from?"
"Well, as you've discovered, I am the son of Judge Jakub Mazur. You may or may not know that he's a very corrupt and powerful man. It was not easy to be his son. When the Nazi's invaded Warsaw, we moved to our little village, where you and I met in the forest. My father met and became close to Hans Frank during that time, though how that came about is a mystery to me. He was not a judge yet, but it seemed he had some sort of power, or more likely powerful connections. "
Gita's face questioned.
"Hans Frank was Governor General of the General Government, and pure evil. At one point, he became Hitlers attorney. My father hated the Jews and became involved with Frank and did much in his power to round up Jews, turn them in, and many terrible things I'm sure I'll never know about and don't want to know about. My father was gone a lot and Mama and I were alone together most of the time. I have no siblings. Strange that I should have to tell you that after all these years."
The waitress brought their food. They dug in heartily for it was well past lunch time. They made a bit of small talk while they ate. When Sasha was finished with his meal, he pushed his plate away and resumed the story.
"You know I am a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ."
"I remember well, Sasha."
"Mama was also, and it was she who showed me the way. Mama always told me to keep it hush-hush when Father was around. He detested religion of any kind. He was a devout atheist. Because we lived in our rural village, Mama and I managed to worship with other believers during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. The Nazi's hated religion too. Our little church went underground just to be on the safe side.
"My father wanted me to be a chip-off-the-old-block and be a Jew hater. I had Jewish friends, as I'm sure you did. Living out of the way of Warsaw, Father felt secure that Mama and I would be safe from any harm that might occur to us if we would have still lived in the city. I think having us out of the way gave him more freedom also. I was eight when you and I met in 1939. My father began trying to indoctrinate me into the belief that Jews were the filth of humanity. I remained quietly noncommittal, fearing his wrath upon me if I stated my true revulsion of such hate. When he came home, which wasn't often, I'd hear him boasting to friends about assisting the Nazi's in various forms of cruelty. When I was nine, father decided I should go to Warsaw with him. I will never forget what I saw the day he took me into the Ghetto." A tear traced his cheek and there was agony in his eyes.
Blood on the Cobblestones
Sasha's stomach knotted in dread as his father drove through the Ghetto. The sights of the cruel hand of the Nazi's bore fearsome images into his young, tender heart. They saw some sort of commotion ahead on a cobblestoned street in front of a market. Jakub pulled over and stopped the car.
"Come, Son, let me show you how to squash and degrade the filthy Jews."
Sasha trembled as they came upon the disturbance. He could hear the vicious taunts of Gestapo agents, the cries of what sounded like a woman or child, and people pleading for the abusers to stop. Four armed soldiers told the small crowd of Jews to line up against a building to watch. When the crowd backed away, Jakub positioned young Sasha in front of him and gripped his shoulders. "You are trembling, Sasha. Do not be a coward. These are Jews and they deserve everything they get. Now watch." Jakub held Sasha's head painfully so that he could not look anywhere except what was right in front of him.
Two gestapos were pushing a frail, undernourished woman onto the ground. She was bloodied all over her elbows, knees, face and head. They screamed profanities at her, slapping her. Then they tore her dress and threw her down again. "Schwein, Das Schwein" (pig, the pig).
A boy, probably around six years old, and a man were being restrained by soldiers as they lunged, trying to get away. "Maria," the man screamed in agony. "My wife. Leave my wife alone. MARIA."
"Mama," cried the boy. His face was flushed nearly purple, sweat dampening his hair, and pouring down his face. Sasha could tell by the hoarseness of the boy's voice that he'd been screaming a long time. Suddenly the boy turned to the soldier who restrained him. "Leave my mama alone, Schwein. You are Schwein." He didn't know what it meant, but he knew it was vile.
"No Saul, don't say that," pled his father.
The soldier restraining Saul slapped the boy so hard he went flying several feet, slamming him against the wall of the market. Little Saul slumped to the ground, blood gushing out of his head. The soldier ran to him and kicked him away from the wall when a sobbing Sasha bolted away from his father. He ran and pushed the man away as hard as he could. "Leave him alone. He is a good boy. He doesn't deserve this." The man stumbled and fell backwards to the ground, but got up quickly and charged toward Sasha with rage and fury on his face.
"Yes," Sasha shouted, spittle flying and eyes burning with tears. "Come on, scum, give me your best shot." Sasha slowly moved away from Saul to distract the soldier and gestured his hand from his chin. "Come on, coward, picking on a little, defenseless boy. Coward."
Jakub ran for Sasha. "No, son. No! Stop this at once. Don't you realize he will kill you?"
Sasha did not hear his father. All he could hear was the cyclone of rage that roared through his brain. The soldier picked Sasha up as if he were nothing but a powder puff and threw him as hard as he could against a vehicle. Sasha lay on the cold pavement, stunned breathless for a moment. But with the adrenaline coursing through him so powerfully, he recovered quickly. He heard the cries of a man. He looked and it was Jakub, his father, being beaten and kicked mercilessly by the neanderthal that attacked Saul and himself.
Sasha could not believe what he was seeing, his bully of a father, pleading for mercy, and shouting curses to his son. A car drove up and Hans Frank stepped out of the vehicle. He made the Nazi salute. "Heil Hitler What is this?" he asked the tormentors.
They filled him in.
Frank ordered them to stop immediately. He walked up to Jakub and helped him up. "This man is not to be touched again. Do you hear me?"
The Nazi brutes nodded obediently. Frank ushered Sasha and Jakub into a vehicle and ordered the driver to take them to get cleaned and doctored up and present them to his office.
Fifteen minutes later, the only thing left of the heinous scene from that day was the dead body of little Saul laying in a pool of blood on the cold cobblestones. It was a warning message to the citizenry. The people returned to the streets once again and stared at the poor boy. Nazi eyes were nearby and none dare tend to the boy. They just looked at him and mourned and thanked God it was not their children. His mother and father were taken away, never to be seen or heard from again.
Gita was rendered speechless by the story. Her face was damp and she was nursing a Kleenex. "Oh, Sasha, how horrific a trauma that was for you."
Sasha stared out the window with sorrow etching deep lines around his eyes. He was lost in the Warsaw Ghetto, 29 years ago. Gita waited for him to come back. The waitress roused him with suggestions for dessert.
"Oh, forgive me, Gita, would you like to have dessert?"
"No thank you. Sasha, I think we need to go now."
"Yes, of course." He paid the waitress and they went out into the sunshine. They walked a short way, then sat on a bench while the sunbeams warmed the back of their necks.
"Sasha, what happened when you met with Hans Frank afterward?"
"I don't remember much. I was dizzy, bleeding, and sick in my soul. I could hear Frank shrieking that Father will be expected to train me in Nazi beliefs and to direct me away from Jewish sympathizing. I received a terrible beating a few days later when my father's injuries had healed a bit."
Gita stared at Sasha. "I remember once you meeting me with your forehead bandaged. You were walking funny. Was that what it was from?"
"Yes," he whispered.
She reached into her memory banks to try to remember what explanation he'd had.
"Now I remember. You said you'd fallen off your bike."
"I'm sorry I lied, Gita. I was threatened to never talk about it to anyone. I didn't want to anyway. But that event was a catalyst to my later activities of hiding Jews, and the repercussions of that."
"Hiding Jews? Oh, Sasha, in a way that surprises me, but then again, that's just like you. You've always been full of compassion and a protector of justice."
They took a different walking route than the one they'd taken earlier. All at once before them loomed the ancient St. Mary's Basilica.
"Oh," said Gita. " Can we go in?"
"Of course," Sasha said.
They entered the glorious cathedral. Gita was overcome by the majesty of the Gothic altarpiece of Veit Stoss. The real awe to her was Christ on the cross, surrounded by beautiful intricate stained glass and mosaic artwork. Tears slipped down her cheeks. She and Sasha stood there in humble silence, feeling God's presence and His holiness. The magnitude of the sacrifice Christ made for them by going to the cross so that they could be saved from the judgement of their sins brought them to their knees in quiet prayer. They felt at one with God and their souls knit together in sacred unity. Finally, they rose and walked out of the ancient church, somehow forever changed. They knew in their own private hearts that God had a great plan for them both. But for now, they did not know what it might be or whether it would include some sort of involvement in each other's lives.
"I will never forget this moment," Gita said as they resumed their stroll through Old Town.
"Nor will I," Sasha affirmed.
They made their journey back to the hotel. At the door, Sasha traced her cheek tenderly with his thumb. "There is so much more to tell you, Little Pearl, to explain why I disappeared. Such a long story. Will you be here long?"
"I don't know. I don't think so."
"Well, we'll have to carve out some time before you leave. I know you and your aunt have an appointment with me tomorrow. We can talk about it when we're done with business. God bless you, Gita." He tapped her nose affectionately.
"And you as well Sasha. Thank you for your trust in me. It has been a day I'll not soon forget." Her heart said "I love you," but she kept it silent, it was not yet the time.
© 2017 Lori Colbo