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Michals destiny, p.22
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       Michal's Destiny, p.22

           Roberta Kagan
 
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“I think I should call her parents,” Lev said. “I know they hate me. But they should know.”

  “Can I call them for you?” Michal asked.

  Lev shook his head. “No, they don’t know you. I’m going to have to call them and tell them everything. I’ll be right back.” Lev went to the public phone. He was gone a very short time, but when he returned, it appeared that the blood had drained from his face.

  “They’re coming here,” he said to Michal. “They blame me.” He began pacing. “I wish someone would come out and tell us that we could see her already. I have to see her.”

  A nurse with a crisp white uniform and matching white hat came towards them. “You can go in now. Don’t stay long. She’s very weak and tired. It’s best if she gets some rest.”

  Lev rushed into the room. He put his face next to Lotti’s on the pillow and whispered something that Michal could not hear. Lotti’s eyes flickered open and she tried to smile, but tears began to form and roll down her cheeks. Her voice was a hoarse whisper, “I lost the baby, didn’t I?”

  “There will be other babies,” Lev said. “You’re young. We’ll try again.” He took her hand and squeezed it gently. “I love you. I am grateful to God that you are alive and you are going to be all right. You are my world, Lotti.”

  “Michal? You’re here too? Taavi is watching the children?”

  “Yes,” Michal whispered. “He’s watching the girls so that I can be here with you.”

  “It’s so kind of you to come…”

  “Don’t be silly, Lotti. You’re my best friend.”

  Lotti smiled, then her head slipped to the side and she fell asleep.

  There was only one chair in Lotti’s room. “You sit,” Lev whispered. I’ll stand here by the bed.

  Michal sat. A half hour passed.

  A nurse peeked her head inside the room “You two, it’s time to go. Let her sleep. She needs to regain her strength.”

  Lev and Michal went back into the waiting room just as Lotti’s parents came rushing into the ward.

  “Where’s my daughter?” Lotti’s father, a heavy-set man with a head of wavy golden brown hair and a red weather-beaten face said to Lev.

  “She’s resting.”

  Lotti’s mother didn’t say a word, but Michal watched her as she continually twisted the handle of her handbag.

  “I want to see her. NOW!” Lotti’s father said. “Come with me,” he said to his wife, who followed him. “What room is she in?”

  “Two-thirty-four,” Lev answered.

  Lotti’s parents walked towards the room, but the nurse stopped them. “I’m sorry, the patient in this room is resting. You’ll have to come back later.”

  Lotti’s father was beet red with anger. He walked back to the waiting room with Lotti’s mother following behind him. “I never wanted her to marry you,” he said to Lev. “This miscarriage is a curse from God for her marrying a Jew. Of course you realize this, I’m sure?”

  Lev didn’t answer.

  “You should realize it. If you care at all for Lotti, let her go. Get out of her life.”

  “I’m not going anywhere,” Lev said.

  Lotti’s father pushed Lev. Lev pushed him back. Three chairs in the waiting room were knocked over before two nurses came and threatened to call the police if they didn’t all leave.

  The entire group was escorted out of the hospital. Lotti’s parents went home without saying goodbye to either Lev or Michal. There was nothing to do but go home and wait. So Michal returned to her family with a promise from Lev that he would call her and keep her updated on Lotti’s condition. Lev walked towards the train, giving the impression that he too was going back to his apartment. But once everyone else had gone, Lev slipped back into the hospital and tiptoed into his wife’s room. No one heard him. He sat quietly on the chair beside her bed and waited for her to awaken.

  Lotti spent two weeks in the hospital. During this time, she was given strict orders never to attempt another pregnancy. The doctor said that she was not able to carry full term and if she got pregnant again, it could threaten her life. Lev held her as she wept. Her sadness broke his heart. Lev was powerless; there was nothing that he could do to change the situation. Over and over again, he told her that it didn’t matter to him if they had children or not. He felt so grateful that she had survived. But Lotti had always wanted children and now she knew she would never be able to have her own. Taavi called and told Lev to stay with his wife, and not to worry about coming into work. Michal visited the hospital several times during Lotti’s stay, but even she was not able to lift Lotti out of her depression.

  When Lotti returned home, she spoke very little. Most of the time, she stayed in her room and barely ate. Lev was worried. He discussed the situation with Taavi at work. Taavi insisted that Lotti was young and would recover. But, as the months passed and Lotti grew thinner and more lethargic, Lev began to worry. Michal came at least twice a week to visit. She came in the evening when she was able to leave the girls with Taavi, because she was afraid that they were too active and loud for Lotti to tolerate. One afternoon Michal had baked bread. She made two beautiful braided challahs. She thought maybe if she brought one over, Lotti might be willing to eat a slice of fresh bread. It was late March and, although the weather was still cold, it was a lot warmer than it had been a month earlier. Michal thought that perhaps she would wait until Alina got home from school, then take the girls with her to Lotti’s house, drop off the bread, and then go to the library. They had not gone to the library all winter, mostly because of the cold, but also because Gilde was only three and she didn’t behave well at the library. But Michal knew that Alina loved the shelves of books. She was nine years old and already an avid reader. It was not fair that Alina had to forgo this pleasure. The last time they had gone to the library was the previous fall, when Michal had left Gilde with Taavi and taken Alina alone. She and Michal had spent several hours reading and deciding which books she would borrow. It was a great afternoon. Michal still remembered how close she felt to Alina that day.

  Taavi was working, so Michal would have to take both girls, but she decided that it would be good for them to get out, even if they only stayed at the library for a short time. It had been a long winter. Michal dressed the girls warmly and wrapped the bread in a clean kitchen towel. Then the three walked together to Lotti’s apartment.

  Lotti welcomed them, but Michal could see that Lotti was still melancholy. Immediately, Gilde wanted a slice of the bread.

  “I want a slice with butter,” she said. “Do you have any butter?” Gilde asked Lotti.

  “No, sweetie, that’s a gift for Lotti. We have some at home,” Michal said.

  “But, I want a piece now!”

  “You’re being very rude,” Michal said.

  “It’s all right,” Lotti said, and cut a slice for Gilde. “Here, let me put some butter on this.” After the bread was buttered, she handed it to Gilde, who stuffed it into her mouth.

  “Gilde! Eat like a lady,” Michal said.

  “Would you like a slice too?” Lotti asked Alina.

  Alina shook her head. “No, thank you.”

  “Would you like one, Michal?”

  “No, thanks.”

  Lotti smiled and wrapped the bread in the towel again.

  “How are you feeling?” Michal asked.

  “I’m all right.” Lotti smiled.

  “Aunt Lotti, I’ve missed you coming over and reading to me,” Alina said. The girls had taken to calling Lotti and Lev their aunt and uncle.

  “Yes, well, I haven’t been getting out much this winter,” Lotti said.

  “Will you read to me now?”

  “No, don’t bother Aunt Lotti, Alina. We’re going to the library. I’ll read to you there. Or, better yet, you can practice reading.”

  “Aunt Lotti, I miss you reading to me. Will you? Please?” Alina asked.

  Lotti’s shoulders dropped. “Very well. Let’s put on a pot of water for tea and I’ll r
ead you both a story.”

  And so it was that Alina, with the power that only an innocent child has access to, found a way to lift Lotti from the depths of depression. Instead of going to the library, Lotti spent the afternoon reading to Alina, while Glide sat on the floor in the kitchen arranging all of Lotti’s pots and pans into neat piles.

  Michal watched Lotti coming alive as Alina cuddled up to her, and she knew that this was a special day. What she didn’t yet know was that from this day forward, Alina and Lotti would always have a bond between them that could not easily be broken.

  “Are you sure you don’t mind Gilde playing with all of your kitchen things?” Michal asked.

  “I don’t mind at all,” Lotti said. “I’m glad to have all of you here.”

  Gilde sang softly to herself as she took apart the piles that were layered on each other and then found the tops that fit each pan and arranged them carefully on the floor.

  After that visit, Lotti began to come back to her old self. Her eyes regained their sparkle. Twice a week, every week, Michal made it a point to take the girls to visit Lotti. And, after a few months, Lotti began to meet Alina after school, and with Michal’s permission brought Alina back to her apartment, where they spent the rest of the afternoon baking or cooking. Lotti was an excellent seamstress, and she spent hours teaching Alina to embroider and sew. Alina learned to design and make her own clothes without a pattern. Lotti took her shopping for fabric. When she wasn’t at school, Alina was at Lotti’s house. Sometimes Michal was secretly a little jealous. She felt that the two had bonded and she’d somehow been left out. Still, she was glad that Lotti was no longer miserable. And, Alina could not have chosen a better friend.

  Chapter 55

  Berlin, 1931

  Taavi was having breakfast and reading the morning paper. Although the state of the economy was getting worse in Germany, with Taavi’s connections, he was still able to acquire small amounts of coffee and sugar. When he bought goods through the black market, he didn’t use his rations, so sometimes Taavi gave their rations to an old widow who lived in their building. He would look at his family and his heart would swell with all of his blessings. Then something inside of him would compel him to share. After all, they weren’t reliant on the rations. They had more than most. Although Taavi couldn’t be sure, he thought the widow, Mrs. Marksmann, to be about seventy. She was a Christian woman, with a kind heart, who had always been good to his children. This month, he’d felt compelled to give her the last few lumps of sugar that they had. It would be a few weeks before he would be able to get more and now, drinking his bitter unsweetened coffee, he was mildly regretting his rash decision to be so generous. He smiled to himself, shaking his head, Taavi, he thought, you’re such a soft old fool. At thirty-five, Taavi was hardly an old man; he was even more handsome than he’d been in his twenties. His hair was thick and sprinkled with just a touch of gray. His eyes were more deep, warm, and wise. From his physical work, his body had stayed muscular and strong.

  Michal came into the kitchen and poured a little extra coffee in Taavi’s cup. She glanced down at the newspaper.

  “A new play is opening?” Michal read aloud, “The Three Penny Opera.” She glanced up at Taavi. “I’d love to go and see it. I really like the theater and it’s been years since the last time I saw a play. Let’s ask Lev and Lotti to go with us, what do you think?”

  “Who will babysit if Lev and Lotti are with us?”

  “Maybe Mrs. Marksmann would be willing to watch the girls for a few hours,” Michal said.

  “I read the reviews on it and it’s supposed to be an indecent play, not proper … you understand, right?” Taavi said.

  “Yes, of course I understand. I’ve been exposed to the Berlin art world long enough now to know what to expect.”

  “All right. I’ll mention it to Lev,” he said.

  Taavi smiled at her. Then he went on reading the paper. He would talk to Lev about the theater. But that wasn’t what was on his mind. Trouble was brewing. Taavi could feel it in his bones. There was an entire page devoted to Adolf Hitler’s new bestseller, Mein Kampf. Unbeknownst to Michal, Taavi had read Hitler’s book. He knew that Hitler was a complete anti-Semite and a dangerous one at that. Taavi’d read the book because he wanted to be forewarned and it bothered him greatly that the book had become a bestseller. To Taavi, that meant that many people were interested in what Hitler had to say. Taavi was keeping a close watch on the Nazi party, and he knew that they now had their own headquarters called the Brown house and that their popularity was growing every day. In fact, what had once been a small group of followers who had been viewed as crazy, was now the second largest political party in Germany. None of his Jewish friends were particularly worried. They had discussed the situation and they were all sure that the Nazi threat would pass, but Taavi could not brush it off so lightly. Although he never mentioned anything to Michal, Taavi was uneasy like a wolf before a thunderstorm.

  Lev and Lotti accompanied Michal and Taavi to the theater. This was the first play that either of them had ever been to and they enjoyed it immensely.

  The play was outstanding, if a bit risqué. As Michal had hoped, Mrs. Marksmann was more than happy to watch the girls. After the play, they stopped at a café for a light dinner. Lotti looked like her old self. Her golden curls bobbed as she talked animatedly about the play. After the miscarriage, Lotti never returned to her former job at the factory. Lev didn’t care. He’d lost his first wife to an accident at a manufacturing plant and it was nice not to have to worry about Lotti’s safety every day. They had enough money to live comfortably. Lotti was back to her happy go lucky self, and Lev was glad that everything was going well.

  “I have a surprise for all of you!” Lotti said. “I’m going back to work.”

  Lev cocked his head to one side and his eyes narrowed. “At the factory? I thought you hated it there?”

  “Well, it’s not exactly work. I mean, it’s not paid work. And, no, it’s not at the factory. I want to do volunteer work at an orphanage for Jewish children.”

  Although Lev was happy that Lotti wanted to get out and find things to do with her time, he was afraid that working with children would be a constant reminder to her that she was barren. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

  “Yes, very sure. I was at the butcher shop the other day when I met a lady who told me that the Jewish Orphanage was badly in need of volunteers. You know how much I’ve always loved children.”

  “Yes, I know. But, how did the orphanage come up?” Lev asked. He thought that Lotti might be thinking about adopting a child and he had reservations of his own about the idea. Lev liked children, but he was not eager to raise one that wasn’t his own. If he and Lotti had conceived, it would be a different story. But, as it was, he’d grown used to the ease of their way of life. Although he wouldn’t admit it to Lotti, for Lev a child would be an intrusion.

  “This woman and I were waiting in line for the butcher. You know how busy the kosher butcher is on Friday morning right before Sabbath? Well, it was Friday and I thought I would be there all day; the line was that long. So, anyway, she and I were waiting for our turn. And she had these two beautiful children with her, a boy and girl. I asked her how old they were. She told me they were twins and they were three years old. I said how fortunate she was to have children. Not just one, but two! Then she said that they were adopted. One thing led to another … and she mentioned the orphanage. Now, I know you, Lev; I know you would not want to adopt. You’ve sort of made that clear.”

  “Have I?” He wondered how she knew. Lev couldn’t remember ever mentioning how he felt.

  “Yes, you’ve let me know in several ways. But, I thought … well, if I can’t take a child home, maybe there is something else I can do to be of use. So, the following morning I took the train out to the orphanage and asked if they needed any help. They said they could use volunteers, but were not able to pay employees. I hope it’s all right with you, Lev. I said
I would love to take the position.” A smile spread over Lotti’s face.

  “You’re sure this is what you want?” Lev took her hand and gazed into her eyes.

  “Positive.”

  “If it’s what you want, it’s all right with me,” he answered.

  Chapter 56

  In 1932, a famous and wealthy psychic named Erik Jan Hanussen made a prediction that Hitler would become a very important man. Hanussen was very popular and he performed in cabarets all over Berlin. News of the prediction reached Hitler, who, at the time, was at a political low in his career. Things were looking bleak for him as a future leader. Hitler decided to book private sessions with Hanussen. At one of these visits, Hanussen gave him a magic spell using a root called mandrake. The psychic promised Hitler that if he performed the spell he would take over as the leader of Germany.

  Hitler followed Hanussen’s directions and on the fateful day of January 30th 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany.

  Then slowly, very slowly so that no one would notice, things began to change in Germany. In mid-March, in a small village outside of Munich, Dachau, the first official concentration camp was opened.

  Books written by Jewish authors were being burned in the streets, and then boycotts of Jewish businesses began. Next, Jews could no longer hold jobs at universities or in civil service.

  Later that same year, Hitler discovered that his friend, Hanussen’s real name was Herschmann-Chaim Steinschneider and that Hanussen was born a Jew.

  In March, Hitler sent out a group of his thugs and had Hanussen arrested and murdered.

  Then on April 26th, Herman Goering established an organization that would come to strike terror in the hearts of Jews and German citizens alike, the state police … The Gestapo.

  Children were encouraged by the Nazi party to watch their parents for any signs of disloyalty and to report them immediately. People who’d lived peacefully beside Jews for years now turned their backs on their neighbors out of fear for their own safety and the safety of their loved ones. The Gestapo had eyes around every corner; they were always watching.

 
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