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Silent Is The Vistula

by Irena Orska

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THE STORY OF THE WARSAWSILENT IS THE VISTULACHATTER 1 THE IMPENDING HOURLOCKED THE DOOR of my apartment and hurried down the four flights, past my tobacco shop on the ground floor. I did not want to be late for the Mass at the Holy Cross Church. Not on this day.The August sun was high in the sky even though it was early morning. A soft breeze from the Vistula eased the strain of the unslept night So many things had to be done. I was tired, very toed, but not excited or nervous.People were streaming up Obozna Street. Probably they were going to services, too.The church was filled to overflowing. My old school teacher, Father Missy said the Mass. It was so quiet I could hear the flutter of a little bird that flew into the church. At the clear, insistqpt tolling of the bells people fell on their knees on the bare floor. The faces that morning were solemn, yet free from worry or fear. People were so intent on prayer one could almost hear their thoughtsSomehow, I could not pray. Not the way I should. I looked at the statue of Our Lady and tned to tell her wordlessly what was going to happen that day. I thought of Barbarka. I hoped that she could be kept out of it all. Was it not enough that my two brothers and both my sisters and I were all in the Home Army? Living often in hiding, every day in danger, going through the grind of the Gestapo more than once, seeing death and torture so often that our minds and hearts were poisoned with ft, bearing what all people of Poland had to bear these years: cold, hunger, misery and German persecution. Were we not enough? Must I give up my little girl, too?Father Missy in his red chasuble turned toward tis and opened his arms: Of Frates he called, and human hearts rallied at the call, lifted up in faith, in prayer and in topeThe Mass over, Andrew and Scholar joined me at the door of the church.Well, what are your plans for the day? I asked.Don t you know?Of courser I shrugged my shoulders. I mean, are you coming with me now 111 give you some breakfast Then well go our ways I have a briefing at nine, anyway.Whew Scholar clucked his tongue. Dont you sound importantWe got to Topie Street, and started climbing up. The house Barbarka and I lived in, second from the corner of Obozna Street that ran along the University grounds, had been through the Siege of Warsaw in 1939. It wasnt badly damaged, but the staircase had not been repaired during the past five years. In the lobby downstairs timid grass and bare earth pushed their way in between the marble blocks. At the door of my fourthfloor apartment a cunning alarm had been installed in 1942 that a stranger standing at the door could not fail to set off.I had three rooms, small but well appointed as Scholar used to say.



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