THE MERMAID AND THE MESSERSCHMITT

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THE MERMAID AND THE MESSERSCHMITT — EXCERPTmermaidpaperbackfrontcover-r

 

 

CHAPTER 6
September 1: WAR!

 
Why didn't my red bus come? 

I was standing on the street corner, waiting for the bus to take me to the Bank. It was almost eight o’clock, and if the bus did not come within the next two minutes I would be late at the office. We started work at 8:15. Nervously I glanced up and down the street—no sign of a bus anywhere. A man passed in a droshky; he looked at me and laughed. Why was he laughing at me? Suddenly I realized what was the matter. The buses did not run any longer—they had been commandeered for the army. 

“Probably they will get a regular military uniform,” I mused as I hurried to the nearest streetcar stop, “a coat of khaki-color paint. You could not expect red buses to run back and forth to the front. Too visible. Thank God Warsaw could not be deprived of her streetcars for military purposes. What would we do without them?” Warsaw was a big city. 

I was late to the office. As noiselessly as I could, I sneaked through the hall and tiptoed to my room. It was empty. So were all the adjoining rooms. A strange silence hung over the office. Yet, I could see through a door left ajar that there were people in the boss’s room. Curiosity getting the better of my embarrassment at being late, I walked in. 

All that was left of the Economic Research Department sat there in a wide circle, still and silent. All eyes turned towards me as I entered, but no one smiled. All faces had a solemn, strained look. 

And the head of the department said in a level voice: 

“The German army has crossed our frontiers at almost every point early this morning.” 

So it had come. War was on. I was conscious of a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. Something like a contraction. 

“What is the date, today?” I heard Jan say. “September first? Well September seems to be Hitler’s favorite month. He could not waste a day of it.”

 ###

 

 Excerpt from The Mermaid and the Messerschmitt: War Through a Woman's Eyes, 1939–1940, by Rulka Langer. Published by Aquila Polonica Publishing. Copyright 2009 Aquila Polonica Limited.

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