A Glimpse of Normal

Life feels normal. There is warm sunshine on my face. And soft grass under my back. Chaya is at my side.

I roll over and kiss her cheek. And then her lips. I taste milk chocolate and compote. 

We get up and walk the park trails into the neighborhood where she and I and our families used to live. The building looks the same, but now feels cold and distant. Back when life was normal, Chaya and I met outside every morning at 7:30 to walk to school. Most days we’d walk home together as well. Then do our homework together. She was a math savant, I loved literature. We were both pretty horrible at much of the sciences, so our friend Aron helped us there.

Our families hoped we’d marry one day. Our parents were best friends from childhood. But I was shy, nervous to make any moves. Sometimes Chaya held my hand and looked at me with sparkles in her eyes. I wanted to kiss her. I was so scared to do so.

Finally at fifteen I mustered up the courage. It was on a school dance night in our sophomore year. We danced the whole night together. And then as we walked home along the Vistula river bank, I stopped us.

“Chaya, I like you. Not just like you, but I like you like.”

“I like you like you too,” she said, a twinge of a smile, a twinkle in her eyes.

I leaned in and we kissed.

“Finally!” And she playfully punched my arm.

She was my first kiss. A week later I said, “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

At that point we started planning life together. We both wanted to go to college. She had dreams of being an economist. And I a journalist. We wanted to live in London or Paris maybe. Then things changed. In our junior year of high school, the Nazi’s invaded. Soon their flag was everywhere. There had been rumors of life changes. Rumors became reality. A few months after the invasion, they began building the ghetto wall.

It’s been less than a year since then, but how long ago it feels. Now we aren’t walking the main city roads. Carefully, Chaya and I walk the back alleys. If our families knew, they’d be furious. If someone discovered us we’d be taken to the police station. And from there who knows. Torture, death probably.

Sneaking out of the ghetto though was part of life for me now. Being blond and blue eyed made me invaluable to the resistance. I joined before we even moved into the ghetto.

But this is my first time out of the ghetto with Chaya. I had tried saying no. She begged me. “One day without the stench of death is all I want,” she pleaded. “Please make this our anniversary gift.”

“It’s too dangerous,” I told her.

Chaya always got her way. With her it was never if, but when.

We slither past our old home, doing our best to make sure no one sees us. Enjoying a bit more of freedom, we  make our way down to the river bank and settle in a nook near the spot of our first kiss. We eat more chocolate and drink more compote, luxuries I smuggled in to the ghetto for us to enjoy on this day.

As the sun sets we make our way back to the ghetto and to the tunnel. Our withered bodies have no problem sliding through narrow gap under the walled barrier. We walk back to the apartment our families now share. Nine to a room, that’s the average ratio in the ghetto. We’re lucky as the eight of us have two rooms.

“Thank you. Happy anniversary sweetheart.”

“Happy anniversary my love.”

Note: this is a historical fiction piece based on true events. The characters and their interactions are fiction.

Ida Tarbell – A Snapshot Biography

 

“There is no man more dangerous, in a position of power, than he who refuses to accept as a working truth the idea that all a man does should make for rightness and soundness, that even the fixing of a tariff rate must be moral.”

Ida Tarbell didn’t shy away from exposing wrongdoings in society. How people treated others mattered, character mattered. She believed that progress happened from people making moral decisions.

So while an early desire to be a scientist didn’t lead to a career, it birthed her “quest for the truth.” She became a journalist. And it became her way of making the world a better place.  

Ida published many works, but arguably her most famous was an expose chronicling the corrupt practices of John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil, the largest company of the time.

“They had never played fair, and that ruined their greatness for me,” she wrote about the company.

The series was published in full over two years starting in 1905 and helped garner support for passing anti-trust legislation, which was used to break up the company.  

Sources:

  1. Ida M. Tarbell, ca. 1905-1945 – Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Harris & Ewing Collection, https://connecticuthistory.org/ida-tarbell-the-woman-who-took-on-standard-oil/
  2. Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection (Library of Congress), https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ida_Minerva_Tarbell,_1857-1944_LCCN2001704019.jpg
  3. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/people/tarbell-ida-minerva/
  4. The Ida M. Tarbell Collection, Pelletier Library, Allegheny College, Meadville PA, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/ida-tarbell-pioneering-journalist/
  5. Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ida_M._Tarbell_crop.jpg
  6. All in the Day’s Work: An Autobiography by Ida Tarbell

Viola Liuzzo fights for civil rights

Viola Liuzzo.jpg

On March 16th, 1965, Viola Liuzzo “called her husband to tell him she would be traveling to Selma after hearing the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. call for people of all faiths to come and help, saying that the struggle ‘was everybody’s fight.'”

She was 39 at the time, living in Detroit. A housewife, a mother of five kids.

She had already taken part in the fight for civil rights. But her fight had always been in Michigan. Now she was heading to the south.

On Sunday, March 21, 1965 over 3,000 people began the march from Selma to Montgomery. There were blacks and whites, doctors and nurses, wealthy and working class, priests and nuns and rabbis, students and housewives, and there was Viola.

And it was there that four days later, after the march had ended and she was helping shuttle marchers home, that Viola was stopped at a red light. With her in the car a young black protester also helping shuttle marchers.

A car of local KKK members pulled up beside her. And when they saw a white woman and a black man in the car together they followed her. She tried to outrun, but she couldn’t. They caught up to her. They shot her. Twice in the head.

She died instantly.

Sources: http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/08/12/209595935/killed-for-taking-part-in-everybody-s-fight, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viola_Liuzzo