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January 2016 vol 11 no 4

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Alexander Jankiewicz

In the Footsteps of Shadows


I see myself in a dream as a child on a boat. I don't have a name or an age or anything. Still half asleep, I open my eyes and see my TV still on. I remember sinking in my dream, drowning, until someone rescues me. For some reason, there isn't a face for the hand that pulls me out of the water.

tears
held in a stranger's hand –
childhood

I start watching a report about refugees trying to cross into Germany from Austria. I think about the stories my father told me of his youth when he was orphaned during the War and made a forced laborer for an Austrian farmer in the alps. He says he was lucky. He remembers how he and the farmer's family would sit at the kitchen table holding hands while praying before a meal. One day, an Austrian officer comes to visit. He notices my father sitting at the table. The officer asks the farmer who my father is. The farmer tells him. The officer reminds the farmer that my father shouldn't be sitting at the table with the family. The farmer shouts that no one decides who sits at his table in his house but him. The officer listens, then utters how they're friends and that he himself doesn't care. But he warns the farmer to be more careful in case the wrong person were to see. He leaves. My father tells me that this was never spoken of again and that he continued eating at the table until the end of the War.

changing of the guard
a soldier out of step –
silence

My father left for Germany after the War. There was nothing to go back to in Poland. The Russians gave his part of Poland to the Ukraine. Word spread that the Poles who returned there were killed. He became a refugee and crossed into Germany for the protection of the Americans and then ended up working for the US army as a patrol watchman. He met my German mother and they fell in love. Her father threatened that he would disown her if she married a Pole. She did anyway.

hand in hand
a leap forward –
twilight


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