I was twenty-five years old in the beginning of spring, 1942. I stood at the wooden counter in my mother’s kitchen looking for something to eat. There was a slight chill in the air. I rubbed my arms with my hands. There was no fire burning anywhere in the house. My entire family was in the living room,
along with some guests, huddled together waiting. Once in a while, my father would stand up and look out the window then go back to the sofa beside my mother. It was the middle of the day. Nobody was working. My stomach growled. I was growing hungrier by the moment. What was I looking for in
the cupboard? Anything. There was nothing left. I stood staring at an empty plate, my thoughts drifting far away. It was too quiet. I looked out the window. The street was deserted. I turned around and sat down on a chair and crossed my legs. This kitchen that I helped my father build was, for once, quiet. It wasn’t natural. My little sisters and my mother weren’t baking or cooking. It was a foreign feeling. No pots and pans and baking dishes were clanging. The laughter was gone. The stoves were cold to the touch. It was deathly quiet. Then I heard a boom coming from the living room. What was that? It sounded like a log smashing into the front door. It jolted me. Everyone in the living room had jumped from the shock.
Boom, boom, boom! Fists were pounding on the door and a young, familiar voice was shouting. Demanding. Open this door! Open or I’ll smash it in. I ran to the door. Everyone was wide-eyed. My father stood with his fists clenched at his sides as I opened our front door. In front of me stood my boyhood friend, Stach Lango. His seething expression, his twisted mouth, and sick gaze belonged to somebody else. What happened to him? He pointed a pistol to my face, grabbed me by the collar, and said, “If you fight me, I’ll shoot your mother, your father, and your two sisters right in front of you.”
What was I to do? It was hopeless. Stach pulled me by the shoulder and yanked me out of my house. My family watched helplessly as I was dragged into the empty street and pushed all the way to the police station and into a room with a wooden table in the center and a glowing fireplace by the wall.