Join us in congratulating our authors!  Stories From The Heart, Vol. 2 just made it onto Amazon.com's bestseller list! And we had an Ice Cream Social to celebrate!
See the festivities -- as the authors read their works onstage:

"The section I most enjoyed was a few punning stories about cats by the late Earl Boretz, which were most amusing. His characters include Count Fe-Line the cat burglar in 'Pussy Footin’ Around'; Sinister, the three-legged pirate cat and Sorrowful, the witch. Overall, an entertaining collection..."
Cecilia Blight, THE NATIONAL ENGLISH LITERARY MUSEUM, Nelm News, Grahamstown, South Africa
 

Have your own story to tell?  Check out....


Excerpts below to savor.

See the authors read

Greetings, tale fans!  For a great anytime gift, order your copy now of our hot-off-the-press book of extraordinarily well-written memoirs!  With the added treat of sketches by world renowned artist Andre Van Zijl and Jane Madeline.

"Stories From the Heart, Volume II" ... From great grape fiascos to wars ... wit and wisdom from India, Hungary, South Africa, Poland and the United States is now available through Amazon.com. 

Inspire your parents to write so that you have the tales of their lives forever.  Give the gift of this captivating anthology to them, and to everyone in your life who loves a good laugh, a poignant moment and a look at times past, in the United States and other spots 'round the globe.  Or write your own.  See below.
 

The stories below -- and 200+ pages filled with more gripping as well as funny tales -- are now available to you in the book that just made Amazon's bestseller list!  Click here to read reviews, and to buy Stories From the Heart. Vol. 2. Also available:  our new How to Write Your Memoirs -- Fun Prompts to Make Writing -- and Reading -- Your Life Stories a Pleasure! 

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MEET ANDRÉ VAN ZIJL

André Van Zijl is a rare talent.  His original muse led him to become an exceptional visual artist, with works in museum collections around the world.  Moved by events around him, André also penned political pieces in his native South Africa, speaking out during turbulent pre- and post-Apartheid times.  Now in Los Angeles, André is writing his first book, the masterful A Country Not Made By Men, based on his life in country; an excerpt from the first chapter is shown below.  We count ourselves very fortunate indeed to have André in our midst.  Check for the video coming soon!
 

A Country Not Made By Men
By Andre van Zijl

Chapter One:  Missa Luba

The silence is all there is. It is the alpha and the omega. It is God’s brooding over the face of the waters; it is the blended note of the ten thousand things, the whine of wings. You take a step in the right direction to pray to this silence, and even address the prayer to the “World.” Distinctions blur. "Quit your tents. Pray without ceasing”; Annie Dillard ‘Teaching a Stone to Speak.’

Dirge-Song

His remains fall from the sky. Gray billowing wings dust the bleating rumps of seven gemsbok, galloping below. John and I lean back as the twin engine Cessna banks left over a sliver of gilded horizon. Sunset flares in the distance with fat summer cumuli emptying their bellies over the Kalahari Desert. We sigh with relief, we have fulfilled our father’s last request: his pagan wish to have his ashes spread over the hunting grounds of his youth. Images of his brick red face and the enveloping calm of his seemingly Titan presence engulfs us as we sit back into the folding night, children again.

Pearlie has finally agreed to relinquish most of his ashes, as if finally admitting to herself that dad wouldn’t spontaneously resurrect before Judgment Day, wouldn’t somehow reconstitute himself, (pour a little holy water and stand back!). However much she wants it, he wouldn’t be walking away from the ‘noisome slings and arrows’ of the Big ‘D’. He wouldn’t be escaping the bedroom closet, the copper urn nestled quietly between his clean socks and folded ‘hankies’. She carefully pours a large part of what remained of my father into a cardboard shoebox. Self-consciously she retains some remnant, (should he finally cheat the inevitable entropy of all flesh). This last possibility not at all a long shot in my mother’s book, since she is of the view that she will not die, but be taken up to the Lord in a fiery chariot, whole and incorrupt.

Attie, my father’s nephew, comes to me at my father’s funeral. He is a tall man, a protea farmer for the international flower market. His puce face is clenched, enduring deep emotion. I am standing in the vestry of a pretty thatched granite church. Rain on roseate Victorian stained glass declaring the victory of the Cross. Clergy are preparing to send off one of their own… Surrounded by the stiff rustling of studied virtue, starched vestments and averted eyes, Attie’s stuttering words become an island upon which we now stand, staring into each other’s eyes. Attie’s bloodshot eyes fill with un-spilled grief. Our feet stand on desert soil, far from here.

"Andre, I have come to tell you something about who your dad was. I lived with him in the same room when I was a youngster after the war, and hell, man, I’ve just got to tell you how I felt about your dad. When I saw him, I said this is the kind of man I want to be when I grow up. If there was someone who could ever be a hero, he was. I’ll never forget his legs. No one ever had legs like him! Hey I know we’ve got to go in to church now, but I’ve got to quickly tell you this one thing... Hell, I’m sorry.

"We were out hunting gemsbok without any bloody permits in the Kalahari. It was late winter. We come over a helluva high dune and surprise thirteen of the buggers. We chased them in the Chevy International, up and down the steepest dunes. The sand there is red, red like your blood. Willie was the shooter.

"He stood in the back of the truck. The herd split. The leader, the biggest male, turned us away from the female and young ones. He led a small group of males balleka-ing like crazy in front. We chased them deep, doerrr-n-gone into the bloody desert. On the edge of a ridge of sand high above us he suddenly stopped, turning to face us. His sides were wet in the sunlight as he turned to stare at us. The rest of them vanished down the shadow of the dune. His eyes bulged yellow as he blew foam and steam out of his mouth like a steam engine. His horns corkscrew straight behind him. He was blerry ready to take us on. Just standing there. We sat in the cab waiting. Waiting for your dad to shoot.

"We began to shout, 'Skit man, skit!' But nothing … The antelope showed us his backside and disappeared. We turned, moaning. Uncle Willie was standing in the back, tears streaming down his face.

"He whispered, 'I couldn’t shoot such a thing of beauty.'

"Can you believe that!? That’s the kind of man your dad was." Attie clung to me and broke down. The first display of emotion in all the years I had known him as a distant aspect of our disheveled clan. Ragged singing brings us back to the church. I find my family one pew from the front. They are a frayed knot of grief. The organ plays "And did Those Feet Step Upon England’s Green and Pleasant Land," and the exquisite pain of boarding school washes over me ... St. Anne’s rector begins the service: "Whilst alive, Reverend Willie deeply offended many in the church, but that is past now. We forgive him. Let us pray."

Incense wafts over our bowed heads … "Holy Smoke" my father called it. Scones, jam and cream with tea are served in the church hall. We endure the inevitable pleasantries from strangers. The self-conscious rituals of well-meaning comfort ring hollow as a dried up well. Tongue cleaves to mouth when life enters the room.

............
©  Andre Van Zijl, posted with the author's permission

 

                                      
                   




Meet Jane madeline

Jane is a continuing surprise.  Her journeys back to a "simpler time" show life really wasn't necessarily simpler at all, but it certainly was filled with adventure, hard knocks, sleigh rides (that in other parts of the country would be called sled rides), ketchup and frogs (coming!) and lots of other interesting stuff.  Readers jump right into Jane's unique verbal paintings.

 

THE GOLF COURSE IN WINTER
By Jane Madeline

I love golf courses. All the kids from our town really loved the driving range on Market Street.  We loved it best in winter.  The range was next to Franklin School and down the street from Kooger Farms. It was on a hill. As you stepped up to the tee to drive the ball, the right side of the course fell away in a steep slope till it became level with the street and swamp of reeds, cattails and frozen water in winter. 

In the summer we all would enjoy the driving range as we became old enough to hit the balls.  And if you were a girl, old enough to flirt with the cute ball boys that didn’t seem to be from our town.  But in the winter, the range was closed down while the owners went to Florida, and we would use the big wonderful hill for sleigh riding! 

And sleigh riding was special to us kids. It wasn’t just, “Lets go down the hill” sleigh riding. THIS WAS MAIL TRAIN/ CRACK THE WHIP sleigh riding!  In mail train we would create a line of sledders, each one holding onto the one in front with our gloved hands and holding onto our own sleds with the crooks of our feet.   The last sled on the train had the mail.  It was the designated target sled.  And the simple rule was DESTROY THE MAIL TRAIN as it careened on down the hill.  The attack sleds took their orders seriously. The excitement of danger was the added elixir to our snow fun.  I do remember being part of the train and feeling the glee of flying fast down the hill being chased by bigger sleds whose riders were determined to catch us.  Most of the time they did.  And we would laugh and roll over in the icy snow or yell and cry out, “Not Fair!” or “You cheated!” 

I remember my friend Roy’s sled. It belonged to his father whose mother came from Norway.  It had wide, wide runners and could fit five people. It was that long -- twice as long as a normal sled.  

We all had sleds of one type or another, and the best part was coming home after a hard day on the slopes -- being exhausted at being caught or chased all day.  We would undo our snow-armor -- shiny galoshes with metal buckles that interlaced with each other and held tight together, mittens, leggings, sweaters, knitted helmets with exposure for eyes and mouths only, and stiff, shiny snow-jackets now wet from ice and snow. Of course while we were away all day we ate the snow for thirst and because it felt clean and cool and crisp and crunchy in your mouth, and made a funny noise in your ears as you chomped on it. But now we were seriously hungry and thirsty, too. Our mother had dinner all ready and we ate well, my brother and I, as the wet clothes steamed in front of the fireplace.  The fireplace actually had no fire in it, its heat came up through the grate from the coal fire that my father kept going in the basement all day during the cold New Jersey winters.  

These were the winters of growing-up time for all of us. Soon it would change to college/going away/getting married/getting older.  How I now cherish the times we had then, the people, the snow, the mystique of a cold winter evening and a warm, happy loving feeling. 

© Jane Madeline, posted with the author's permission
 

                                                               

                                                     



 


MEET KAY ROBERTS

Kay has a lively and entertaining way with the written word that matches her ability to read aloud and capture any audience.   Here is a snippet for you to savor, taken from the book she is working on.  We predict you, too, will find yourself swooped off to another world  ...

See Kay read some of her best stories!

DRIVING TO CALIFORNIA
By Kay Roberts

We were ready to drive to California.  There were enough gas coupons and maps and all that was required for a long journey by car.  As I write this, I realize my mother would never have been up to a trip of this size without help.  I don’t know where she proposed to get it.  Before we could go off, Mother had an accident and the Buick was totaled. The trip was delayed, until all the messy details were handled, like getting paid for the car and satisfying Rose Ziegler, who had been thrown under the wheels of the street­car that hit them. She was not really injured.  I believe that Rose got a new house out of her settlement; my mother got the value of the car. 

One last time back to the whole family on Dayton St. while all the details were worked out. Meanwhile, Joey, Del and l got chickenpox;  newborn Tootie was spared.  Joey and Del had very few spots and were fine in no time.  I was covered and it lasted on and on.  Another delay. 

While we were there, a little girl in the neighborhood was found murdered. The killer was traced to his room down the alley behind us. Many times I had gone down that alley to a little store for candy and ice cream. Tension was high as the man eluded capture for many days. 

Joey developed a form of sundowners. She would run up and down the all the stairs in the house just before bedtime. Winding down.  No one took it to be a problem. They just let her run, then stuck her in her crib, where her thumb and a piece of blanket that she rolled between her fingers would send her off to sleep. She and my sister still slept in cribs. 

When we finally got to the little the beach, my mother had a fit. She thought she was coming to Miami Beach West; she got Venice on a sunless, damp, wispy, foggy day. She had lost the beloved beige Buick to have it replaced by a 1934 Willys coupe, Dutch blue with orange spokes and a rumble seat. Ovie had bought a hot rod from a teenager entering the army. Late 1944 was not a buyers’ market for cars or housing. 

Mother really blew up over the cooler, a little square wooden box on the floor, but she did manage to have the landlord replace it with a big icebox, which we used until we moved from Brooks.  How unhappy she must have been.   She never finished unpacking while we lived there. There were barrels and crates with table cloths over them in the living room and standing uncovered in the bedrooms. 

It was here that her poor health developed, or more accurately, her hypochondria.  She would use it to manipulate the family for the rest of her life. There had been some of this going on when we were on West Daniels, but mostly I remember my little sister Delfina being frail.  Now there was something wrong with Mother most of the time. She was impossible to please.  I was just as happy to come home to an empty house. I learned the trick of putting a newspaper under the door, and jiggling out the key,  pulling the paper back out and letting myself in. 

Actually Mother taught me the trick herself, so I wouldn’t have the responsibility of carrying a key. I could be on my own for untold hours, but go figure.  I couldn’t be trusted with something important like a key. On my own I learned to search the garments in the closet for change as I was also not trusted with money.  Even when I was hired out to a neighbor as a babysitter I had no money.  Mother would collect my pay and dole it out to me as little as possible.  Perhaps we were so poor that she needed my little money, or she was greedy as I sometimes found her to be in later life. 

For our first Christmas tree in California Ovie had an electrician make a string of lights. The bulbs were clear and put together without sockets; they were simply wired together with a wall plug.  Mother complained, of course, but she still had that string of lights when she passed away nearly fifty years later. The next year we colored the bulbs with poster paint.  Maybe ready-made strings were still unavailable. 

Once when my mother was away and I was watching my sister, I baked some cookies. While they were in the oven a fire truck went by. I grabbed Del and took off after it. When we got back the cookies were burned so I tried again. There was no more shortening and it was a rationed item. I made the second batch with bacon fat. They really smelled awful and tasted worse.   

The babysitting job I had was in the building behind us.  Three women lived together in a small apartment.  If anything went wrong, I was only a few feet away, across the yard, from my mother’s help. 

The big deal was I got paid whether they used me or not, but I had to be on call. Several times I was pulled out of the movies to go baby-sit.  One of the women had been very wealthy at one time and told me of the days when her family had an oriental houseboy. The one with the children had a husband away overseas. The third, Chris, told me about her son and daughter that lived in Northern California. A few short years later she turned out to be the only woman to confess to the Black Dahlia murder.  I had not made the connection with the name in the news, but she came to visit when we were on Ocean Front and admitted that, or rather bragged, she was indeed the woman that had confessed.  Of course, she wasn't guilty, just nutty. 

The bright side of the whole thing for me was we lived a block and a half from a beach, easy walking distance to three theaters and two amusement parks.  I was much too young for the four dance halls at first, but we were still there when I was ready.

* * *

© Kay Roberts, posted with the author's permission

                      
                                       
                                                          



MEET SOPHIE CHUDACOFF

Our Soph is a walking miracle.  A dynamo of 93, Soph has been working all her adult life, and though she calls herself retired, a look at her schedule says it just isn't so.  Soph has been a strong and steady influence in fund raising for the very worthwhile City of Hope, helping her chapter raise over $25 million dollars to fund cancer research.  After close to fifty years, she's still at it!  Soph's life started in Budapest, and has not lost its exotic flavor ...

See Soph read this story live, onstage!
 

REMINISCENCES
By Sophie Chudacoff 

It's 1921 - March!  The First World War is over.  My Mother's family, Mother, sister and her family - a brother and his family - and all still living in Budapest.  It's been eight years since she's seen them, so my father suggested she go to visit for a few months.  What a wonderful thing to happen to me - taken out of school and a trip to Europe at age 9! 

I can't remember how we got to N.Y., but I'm sure it must have been by train.  Who flew in those days? 

We boarded the S.S. Paris on its maiden voyage to Cherbourg, France.  There were a couple of other kids onboard, and the crew saw to it that we had fun.  One day we were on deck and suddenly everyone was dashing to the side pointing out to sea.  Lo and behold, we saw a scary sight- there in the distance was a ship completely on fire.  Can you imagine the excitement among the passengers? 

And the crew was laughing, very nonchalant.  Everyone was very indignant until one member of the crew said.  "Don't panic.  It's only the sun setting on an iceberg."  Isn't that a memory to treasure?
______________________

At Cherbourg, we took the Orient Express to Budapest.  En route we had a number of unusual experiences.  When the train made a stop in Basel, Switzerland, passengers were asked to get off and declare to some authorities how much money they were taking to the country of their destination, which in our case was Hungary.  My mother got up and left me on the train sitting by the window so I could see her. 

Suddenly, the train started to move, pulling out of the station.  I was terrified.  "Mother!  Mother!  The train is leaving!" 

My mother is screaming, "Stop!  Stop!  My child is on that train alone!"  And she's running, trying to catch up. 

A uniformed man was running after her.  Finally, catches up and tries to calm her down.  Guess what!  The train was only switching tracks, and they'd made no announcement.
______________________ 

I was an only child for fifteen years!  Two weeks before my birthday, my mother had a baby girl, and I was asked to name her.  Shirley Temple was the darling of the town, so of course I named her Shirley, and added the middle name of Barbara;   I don’t know why. 

I turned out to be a great baby sitter.  Every time my parents wanted to go out, I had a party at home.  And so Baby Shirley was indoctrinated into night life at an early age. 

One morning, it must have been a Saturday or Sunday, I had the baby out in her buggy, walking down the street.  As we strolled, a little Italian lady stopped me and looked lovingly at her.  Then she looked at me with a beatific smile, "Nice baby.   Is she your youngest?"

© Sophie Chudacoff, posted with the author's permission

                          
                                                                                             
                                                                               
                                                                 
 



 

MEET DAVID BROOKS

David came to us for classes in coping with the loss of a spouse, and memoir writing.  His own beloved wife of fifty years had died two years prior to his arrival at our workshops.  They had much in common, including years spent in the same concentration camp during World War II ... 

See David reading selected sections of this story onstage.

MY LIFE STORY
By David Brook

I was born in Demblin-Jrena, Poland.  I was the younger of twins. My twin brother died within the week of our birth.  I was named Yisroel-David, was nicknamed and known as Dudek. 

My mother was Lea, née Sztajngart, and my father Nafiali-Herz Burkowicz. We were four children: Mark (Moses) the oldest, Pola second, Victor third, and I was the youngest. 

Demblin was a small town, put on the map by its geographic/strategic location – situated centrally in the country, on the eastern shore of Poland’s main river, the Vistula.  It was surrounded by a multitude of military and other strategic objectives.  It had the largest military airfield, with centers for training of officers, and pilots. There was a fortress that housed the 5th Infantry Regiment.  The 28th Artillery Division was based across the river, where there were gasoline and munitions dumps, a military hospital complex; passenger and freight railroad hubs, and all sorts of supply warehouses, plus two bridges spanning the Vistula. 

Irena was a smaller core-township established in the center of the town of Demblin, by various artisan-settlers. Farmland and farming were situated in Demblin. 

Due to Demblin’s many different military installations, the military and other government personnel in the area counted in the thousands.  The place experienced a steadily flowing change in its conscripts, and career officers, from all over the country, and due to that it took on a miniature metropolitan character. 

The population grew and prospered. It attracted and supported a great assortment of artisans, and merchants who provided the sought for services. 

My father operated a tailor shop which employed about ten people on a year-round basis, and more in the busy seasons. They manufactured ladies’ outerwear to order, and alongside of it operated a retail store which was selling ready-made garments imported from Warsaw. The businesses brought in a steady flow of cash daily; my father was a capable and successful businessman.  He kept very little cash on hand, and systematically invested in real estate. 

We owned quite a number of rental properties, including the house we lived in. We possessed expensive jewelry; gold coins such as U.S. dollars, German marks, Tsarist Russian rubles, and other valuables. 

Our family was among the more prominent ones in town, socially and economically. Our residence was apart from the business.  It was located on the corner of Warsaw and Pilsudski streets, at 39 Warsaw Street.  It was in a large building, which also housed the homes and businesses of two of my father’s sisters, Aunt Dora and her husband Yidel, and Esther, and Abraham Danowicz, and their families. It also housed a rental retail store. 

This property was an inheritance from my paternal grandfather, and was not owned. It was considered arable land, which Jews could not own. It was under lease for 99 years.  I remember the lease being renewed maybe two years before the outbreak of the war.  My two brothers worked as tailors in the shop. 

My mother was a seamstress but was not practicing her trade.  In essence, she was a housewife. She was working, however, on the floor, selling at will or when it was very busy.  We’d had a steady maid ever since I can remember. 

* * *

I had a good, sheltered childhood. I was going to public school, and to Heder, Jewish school, afterward.  I had many friends, boys and girls, and enjoyed various activities.  I belonged to the Betar Zionist Organization. 

As for my sister, my father had different plans. He wanted her to be university educated, professional maybe, and to marry a doctor, lawyer or other professional, probably in Warsaw. 

It just so happened, that after my sister finished public school, a private secondary school, or gymnasium, opened up in Demblin.  Naturally, she was among the first to be enrolled. She was a brilliant student and graduated number one, “A’s” top to bottom. 

On the side, she was tutoring Latin, French, and other subjects. That earned her a nice income and made her financially independent.  She was pretty, sociable, active socially and had a very refined personality. 

Our home was a meeting place for young people of the town, often to plan and organize all kinds of different social activities like lectures, discussions, dances, dinners, etc., the proceeds of which went to communal and charitable purposes. 

My sister was accepted, and was supposed to begin her studies at the University of Warsaw in September 1939. She was planning to take me with her, and send me to school there. 

Alas, all of our planning never materialized. 

* * * 

On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland.  All Polish government institutions, including the military, were heavily infiltrated by the German fifth column, and shortly before September 1, 1939, all of Demblin’s Air Force-based airplanes, except for a few trainers, were ordered disassembled for overhaul. 

In the late afternoon of September 1 we heard the blare of air raid sirens. Looking up toward the sky, one could see two German reconnaissance planes, flying at very high altitude, above our town's particularly high level of strategic targets.  They just flew over without any incident. 

The following morning the air raid sirens sounded again.  We, my family and I, ran out of the house, and into the bomb shelters we were made to dig just before the war started.  After a short while the first squadron of German bombers arrived.  I saw two Polish airplanes trying to intercept the bombers, but seconds later saw them spiraling down towards the ground.

The bombers kept coming, wave after wave, with short intervals, criss-crossing the sky unhindered.  They began by bombarding the most outlying objectives, closing in towards town.  Looking around, all I could see was smoke, and fires.  We could feel the earth shaking beneath us.  This intense bombardment continued until late in the afternoon.  The town was spared, however.  When it finally ended, my father hired a horse and wagon, loaded up some merchandise, and some personal things, and together with my mother’s brother’s family, we left Demblin to escape the horrors of bombardments. 

That evening the vast majority of the population left Demblin.  Most went to Riki, eight kilometers distant.  We rode all night to a place called Kock, 45 km. away.  My father had some distant family there.  The place was strategically insignificant;  it did not even have a paved road.  We hoped to be safe there. 

But, lo and behold, the following Saturday the German bombers came there.  We ran out into an open field, and huddled against a wall of a barn.  All of a sudden my brother Victor rose up raving, almost berserk, urging us to get away from where we were.  No sooner did we leave than the barn sustained a direct hit.  Figure that out! 

In the evening we packed a few things, and walked to a town called Ciemierniki, again hoping to escape the bombardments.  But they followed us again. 

We learned that nearby, there was a village, Piaski, inhabited by ethnic German colonists.  We decided to go there, fully confident that we would not be bombarded.  Indeed, I had seen the crews of the low-overflying aircraft exchange hand-waves with the locals below. 

It was harvest time, and I helped out by working for our farmer hosts in the field, thus earning my keep.  We stayed there until we heard that the Polish Military was completely destroyed, and the Germans were speedily occupying the land. 

We returned to Kock, with the intention of going back home to Demblin, which was already German-occupied. 

Shortly before the outbreak of the war, Germany and Russia concluded a non-aggression pact, by which the Russians were to occupy the eastern part of Poland, up to the river Bug.  Thus, Poland was being invaded both from the east and the west.  One Polish Army unit retreating from the east decided not to surrender to the Germans, but to fight it out with them. A battle ensued between the two armies.  For two days an intense exchange of artillery raged, with us in between them.  Predictably, the Polish Army was defeated, and the Germans occupied Kock. 

* * * 

It was decided that I should go, on foot, to Demblin, to find out the situation there.  The reason that I was picked was I was the youngest in the family, and maybe stood a better chance of not being bothered by the Germans. 

I found our home to be occupied by German officers, our business broken into, and most of the merchandise missing.  I walked back to Kock, and after a few days our whole family returned to Demblin.  We moved into our place of business. 

* * * 

Germany annexed part of north-western Poland into the Reich, and renamed the rest the General Government, with Hans Frank as governor, headquartered in Krakow. 

From the first moment of their occupation, German soldiers with fixed-bayonet rifles burst into Jewish homes, taking all able-bodied men to perform forced labor, and roughing them up in the process. 

A dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed, for Jews only.  Any Jew caught violating the curfew was shot on the spot. 

My two older brothers decided to escape to the Russians.  They begged my father that the whole family should escape.  My father refused, claiming it would be irresponsible to leave all of our amassed assets and go penniless into a self-imposed exile.  He conceded that we may have to live through some harsh times, including forced labor, be forced to move into a ghetto, lose some freedoms and be subjected to other indignities, but, in the end, the Germans would be defeated, and we would then resume our normal lives. 

Alas, he was terribly wrong and short-sighted! 

My brothers escaped to the Russians by themselves.  At some point later the German officers vacated our place of residence and we move back into it.  Soon thereafter the Gestapo came and confiscated the remainder of our merchandise.  Then they came to our house and removed most of the furniture; demanded our jewelry and other valuables, battering my father badly in the process, claiming he did not surrender all. 

And, there I stood riveted to the floor, trembling cowardly, afraid for my own skin, and scared to intercede for my father. 

Ever since, I suffer from a sense guilt and shame, and often have nightmares involving this incident.

* * *        

My compatriot Polish kids, voluntarily and zealously accompanied the raiding Germans, pointing out Jewish homes. The Germans could not tell a Jew from a non-Jew, unless one wore a beard, peot, or distinctive Hasidic garb, etc. 

Yes, it took our Christian countrymen to point out, and betray the Jew.  I once asked a neighbor kid I grew-up with, went together to school, why he did it. I pointed out to him, that we are neighbors for many years, fellow-citizens for almost a thousand of years; that the Germans were our common enemy, the invaders, occupiers, who wreaked wars and misery upon Poland for many centuries past. His retort was that he hated Jews because we killed Christ. 

Obviously, the Poles hated the Jews more than their mortal enemies. 

I am convinced that the first German word the Pole learned was Jude, Jew.        

* * * 

Forced labor served the Germans, helping them to achieve their pre-calculated purposes.  The most damaging effect it had on the Jews was of a psychological nature. 

They made us perform the most demeaning work, among other things:  clean excrement with our bare hands, pluck the weeds from between the cobblestones on the market plaza, and many other forms of nonsensical chores.  At other times, I was made to do work requiring more than none person. 

All of that was designed to demean us morally and spiritually, to prove us powerless, break our resistance, and reduce our dignity to less than human.  At the same time, they exhausted us physically. 

And they have  succeeded well.   

© David Brooks, posted with the author's permission    

                       
                                          
                                                                
    Author photo not available

MEET MYRA WALD

Myra is a skillful writer who has created personal and fanciful tales, and composed numerous letters to editors protesting what she sees as losses in civility in our modern world.  Here's a zesty example of her writings.  Enjoy.

 

EQUIS
By Myra Wald 

He rode in silence through the night,

The wind rushing swiftly past him

And encircled by his groin and thighs

He felt the splendid power of the beast.

 

He galloped with the rhythm of the form beneath

And thought he was one of God’s archangels

Riding forth to avenge his wrongs.

 

Finally, exhausted and exhilarated he dismounted,

And covered with sweat and panting

He pressed his naked body to the horse

And felt, through the animal’s soft, warm, hairy naked flesh,

The blood throbbing in its veins

While the animal twitched and stomped,

Nerves strung high recuperating from the frenzied ride.

 

Next morning he made his rounds;

Fed his charges and put the bits into their large, wet tender mouths.

Then he stopped to stroke his stallion’s nose,

And lovingly reached up to feel its erect pointed little ears.

 

Then, shivering with inarticulate delight

He fantasized his midnight rendezvous.

But, as he lay upon his pallet cold and bare

Throughout the night,

Could he cradle to his bosom words of love the horse had spoken?

Or carry with him through the day

The knowledge that his horse would help him?

 

Neigh!

© Jane Madeline, posted with the author's permission

                                                                              
                                

                                                                                     


MEET HOWARD WESTLEY

A man of many talents, Howard's prowess extends to being a pilot, musician, and vivid storyteller.  See for yourself with the short piece below, an excerpt of the life story on which he is working currently.  And, as with all our writers on this "page," watch for many more intriguing tales in our second volume of Stories From the Heart.

See Howard read from this story at our live show!

 THE BATTLE OF THE RHINE

By Howard Westley 

After the Battle of the Bulge in early 1945, my outfit, the US Army 34th Troop Carrier Squadron, no longer had to fly supplies from England to our forces behind the battle line.  The "Red-Ball Express" that trucked supplies from the French ports took over that job.  Ambulances from the field hospitals at the front now carried wounded soldiers to the Paris base hospital, so we no longer had to fly the injured to hospitals in England either. 

The 34th was out of a job, so I signed up for a class at Oxford a few miles from my base at Aldermaston (15 mi. west of Reading).  Bad news - the entire squadron was transferred to the air base at Rheims  (southeast of Paris). There we received the CG-4A Glider, and filled out weight and balance forms. 

As we approached our takeoff for the assault landing across the Rhine River, we loaded 12 airborne infantry, 452  pounds of dynamite, and took off as  numbers 121 and 122 in a long train of gliders, two being towed by a C-47 (a DC-3 with wide doors; they could carry a jeep).  

We studied maps of the bend in the Rhine River and the terrain beyond.  We were assigned a certain spot to try to land in, and were warned not to fly over the high anti-aircraft gun site (or ack-ack as we called it then) northwest of Wesel. 

The first glider in the train was led at treetop level, but to stay out of the wake turbulence (prop wash), the craft following inched higher, until we were at about 1500 feet. I watched one C-47 to our left, flying level in the same direction.  One moment later, it abruptly nosed down.  One parachute came out the door before it crashed.  Ack-ack  - they were setting up a barrage - resembled a thick carpet below us, mostly aimed to explode at the lower level of the earliest tow-planes or gliders in the train. 

I never saw the Rhine River. Was it haze, or smoke screen?  But the message came to disconnect our tow rope.

Then, where did our circling descent take us? Directly over the anti-aircraft gun battery we were supposed to avoid on that high ground!  We could see the gunmen's faces and their German helmets clearly, as they swung their guns around, continuing to follow our glider after it passed over them. 

Why we didn’t take any hits I'll never know.  Once on the ground, the drogue parachute on the tail of the glider should have slowed our roll-out.  But as I pulled the "T" handle to release the chute, it broke off in my hand.  Luckily, we had space enough ahead to roll out using our foot brakes.   

Then began the pitched battle....

© Howard Westley, posted with the author's permission

 

                   
                                      

Eliza Crawford, a returning writer, is a resident of Los Angeles who has been attending our Grief Lifters and writing workshops.  Eliza comes from an unusual background. 

She is a British citizen, brought up in India. The stories she writes are of times spent there, with her husband, who was an important official in the British Police, often assigned to supervise security for VIP's. 

Look for more stories by Eliza that are already on our site, and in the first edition of Stories From The Heart. 
 

           
                   
                             

GOD SAVED OUR LIVES - TWICE

By Eliza Crawford 

Most times when my husband investigated things, they were upper levels of crime.  This time he had to investigate two foreign criminals who smuggled gold into the country, and silver out of the country.  One was an American and one was French.  They were very bold. 

My husband had to go where the small plane on which the smugglers arrived had got stuck in the sand, abandoned country near the seashore; the only signs of life were a few dolphins dancing about in the sea. 

My husband was good enough to take me and our daughter, who was 6 or 8, because I hinted strongly that I really wanted to go.  I wanted to see this part of India.  It was near the city of Janjira, where they grow nuts and there was a lot of smuggling going on.  I couldn’t go alone or with our daughter so such places;  we’d have been killed.  

When we got there we had to sleep in the dark bungalow, where wild animals came at night.   I was doing photography so I got up very early to capture the sunrise.  Lo and behold, there were tents up and gypsies were walking about. 

My husband got alarmed for us and sent a constable to us.  He saw to it that we took an early exit from that place.  So we left and we were driving slowly.   My husband would not stop ordinarily, but this time we stopped so I could look at the sunrise.  To do that, we had to turn the car in the opposite direction of where we’d been heading.  I finished taking pictures, and my husband asked the jeep driver to turn back around and resume our journey.   

During the rest of the trip we saw many villagers.  Suddenly we came to a place where many of these people had sticks in their hands and were shouting something and banging.  We all of a sudden realized the ground had shifted and there was a gap.  If we had gone toward it we would have been killed.  As the land shifted, it had created a big landslide.  Thank god we came through alive – in both situations.

I learned later that the smugglers were deported.  When my son was sent to America he was studying to be a doctor.  The American smuggler and another man phoned him and invited him to lunch.  Thank God my son had the brains to refuse.
 

© 2004 Eliza Crawford, posted with the author's permission

                                           
                  

All stories published by permission from the authors. From the edited collection, Stories From The Heart Volume II
©
2004 Ina S. Hillebrandt

We are grateful to Ellen Gaines, Director of the Felicia Mahood Multi-Purpose Center in West Los Angeles for sponsoring our UN-Workshops,™ to Program Director Sherrie Berlin for all her generous time and support, and for the help of the dedicated staff at the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks-owned facility.

 

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