The Pogrom

There was fear in fathers eyes. It was there in the sweat running down his face. And in his frantic shouting to my uncle.

My father, a small thin man with soft eyes and a full head of curly brown hair that was graying at his temples normally spent this time of day on the couch reading the morning paper with a cup of tea in hand, finishing his breakfast and getting ready to go to work as a doctor. I was usually in his lap resting against his chest while trying to read along with him.

“Papa, what’s that word?” was a frequent interruption. One followed by his patient voice helping me sound out the word.

But today was different. There was no tea and no morning paper. There was no calm.

“Kill the jews!” I could hear people shouting outside.

People were screaming, yelling for help. Occasional gun shots ran out.

Inside my home family members raced around to barricade us in. I was too young to help. So I just watched everyone else look for any item in the house that could be used to do so. Within minutes the door to our home was bolted with wooden planks. A piano and kitchen table and dining room chairs set against the boards served as backup. And back up to that were piles of rocks and kitchen utensils. Everyone held something in hand. Just in case we had to fight. The alternative wasn’t an option in our household.

Father paced back and forth, tearing at his finger nails. He was always such a man of ease, but this pushed his nerves to the edge. I sat there much of the time in silence reading a book. Mother would come to me occasionally and stroke my hair, kiss me on my forehead. She was not usually gentle and calm in her ways. Loving and loud, she had a voice that could be easily heard at our neighbors and like a brick wall, she was nearly unmovable when her mind was set. If she wanted, she did. This was her demeanor in life.

A tense few hours passed without anyone breaking in. The commotion outside settled. Everyone in our home was safe, but many in our community died that day. I was only six then. Later in life I’d learn what was happening that day was called a pogrom. Mobs were attacking jews. They could do so because the government allowed it, even encouraged it. And there was no punishment for any of their actions. This was life for us in early 20th century Russia.

Note: this is a work of historical fiction. The story, characters, and incidents are fictitious.