With Christmas just a few days away, I am thinking how lucky my family is compared with so many others. Although we will not all be together, none of us is lacking any of the basics to live: we each have a roof over our head, we never worry about going hungry, my children all have successful careers, and we are healthy. Below is an excerpt from my book, explaining what was happening to my Russian grandparents and aunts Christmas week eighty-five year ago. They were not so fortunate.
How their lives had changed! This time eleven years ago, they had been safe and warm in their New Jersey home preparing for Christmas instead of fighting to survive. Although their holiday celebrations were modest, how they longed for those days again!
The train advanced from station to station much like a turtle in search of a new home. They had now traveled over sixteen hundred miles since leaving Novgorod almost four months ago.
It was just three days before Christmas, and what an awful day it was–a terribly unlucky day! The family became separated from one another. When they boarded the train at the Kuzino Station, they realized Pa was not with them. At the next station, Anna and Helen disembarked to search for him and were left behind when the train departed. They had no choice but to walk, using only the train tracks as their guide.
“Helen, if we get going right away, we should be able to catch them. You know how slowly that train moves. That’s why they call it the Kuibyshev Komet,” Anna sarcastically said to her sister.
They trudged through the blinding snow, the wind howling at their backs as they fought an almost futile battle to follow the disappearing tracks. They walked for about six miles before reaching the train. Although the boxcars were unheated, traveling on the train was still preferable to walking in sub-zero weather with the ground covered with deep snow and slippery ice.
Chilly temperatures and snow were familiar to all of them. They experienced cold winters before, but they never expected the arctic air which dipped to forty degrees below zero and pierced their skin like a dull kitchen knife. It was so frigid they could spit, and the spittle would freeze and roll like a marble when it hit the ground. Their hope of surviving the trip diminished with each passing day.
Miraculously, Helen and Anna found Pa at the next station along with the rest of the family. The next day, Christmas Eve, gave them great joy. Most of the family was together, and they received a wonderful meal at the Sverdlovsk Station: bread, soup, cereal, and bologna. In addition, for the children on the train, there were buns, eggs, white bread, farina, cereal, and soup. Nancy was given this additional food because of her condition.
So what do we have to complain about here? We all watch the news and see the children in Aleppo, and the recent attacks in Berlin. I personally may have my own concerns, but in the big scheme of happenings around the world, they are trite.
I am taking a blog-break until 2017 in order to relax during the holidays. For any interested readers in the U.S., UK, and Ireland, I am doing a Goodreads Giveaway of my book beginning Christmas Eve and continuing until January 8. (The contest will go live during that period, with a link from here, on my Facebook page, and Twitter.)
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a very Happy New Year!