Forest and Earth-Arrabida Hills, South of Lisbon, Portugal

Wayne Cook

Joined August 2008

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Chapter 7: Survival!

The wide eyed child,
Refuge,
running,
hiding,
The ragged breaths,
Darting glances,
Searching,
Scattered thoughts
Racing mind
Survival by wit,
Scratching for time
Aging by minutes,
Old soul,
Youthful body
No time to play.
Forest and earth, angels,
Separate the child from the wolves.
Wolves in uniforms,
Bullets that whine
searching the leaves,
Escape, boy!
Just run, run, run!
Survive,,,,,,,

In front of the Greco-Gothic building, the determined boy hesitated only a moment, the sightless forms of pollution stained, plaster gargoyles peering silently down on his slender figure, sighed deeply, and turned away from the coming dawn. It was one o’clock in the morning, the deep coolness the once friendly city he had called home for all of his life, and now, with all of his world but perhaps Mr. Jarogniew, against him, the weight of what he perceived, again threatened to crush the tender and innocent heart of the boy, about to become a man.

All he could concentrate on for this moment, was that he could be out of the city before dawn if he kept a steady pace. He walked briskly through the chill darkness, his steps meeting the pace of the kettle drum pounding of his heart, and for a few seconds, he could hear that overture of Tchaikovsky’s, dashing through his soul, his sadness tearing at him like one of his mother’s kitchen knives, stabbing and stabbing his soul, the great emotional gouges building like a dormant volcano, threatening to engulf him in tears again.

Fear can be a tool, and it can be an impediment. A performing artist almost always fears that first step on stage, the start of the concert, the beginning of the play. It is the fear of failure that drives the artist to pursue and present the music, or the ballet, or the art, that will make, and decide the future. It is fear that drives mankind to create, to move, to function, for to stand still, is the gravest failure and the most instense fear of all.

The night was a good hiding place for the tumble of thoughts that crowded young Filip’s mind, rushing about by noisy faeries squabbling over the whoosh of thoughts, whistling down the wires of his young brain, dealing with subjects most teens would never have entertained. Not by choice, and Filip had no choice. One block after another faded in the silence behind him as he walked past doorway after doorway, wondering if Andros, who loved to run, but enjoyed sitting by the hour listening to the old Mr. Jasinski, who played in the city orchestra, as he often practiced his violin on the steps of the apartment building between their blocks…would Andros miss him? Or Elka, the pretty fourteen year old with her pride of that green velour gown her parents had bought for her last birthday, and her love of lace handkerchiefs that she melodramatically waved like a lady in waiting for a knight, to signal the joust for her honor. And Danik, the ten year old, who seemed to idolize Filip for some reason, all spindly and awkward, that boy. Still, it was nice—had been nice, to have a kid admire you, after all.

Filip quickened his pace, wanting to pass the memories as he passed the gas lamps, sputtering their dismal light in a puddle, largely leaving the neighborhood in semi-darkness. He had perhaps 50 or more kilometers before he reached the village of Bielsko, then another hundred to get into Czechoslovakia. The sun began to shade the eastern sky behind him and the first glimmers of light lifted the gloom.

Suddenly, he heard a motor, not very fast, so it couldn’t be a police car. He kept his ears attuned to the approach of the vehicle, and his eyes purposely ahead, to fool the driver into thinking he was unaware. A small van-truck pulled off the road ahead of him….the driver put an arm out the window and waved. He ran up beside the cab, having recognized the bread vendor’s old van. It was Crystek! Filip was overjoyed. Crystek stopped every couple of days at the corner and sold bread out of his truck to the neighborhood. He never seemed to have enough and Filip was carrying one of the loaves in his bag.

“Filip, if you’re doing what I think you are, you better get in this truck and get out of sight! I just came from my usual morning half liter and the police are swarming your block! Well, come on, boy! Get in!”

Darting around the front of the truck, the boy jumped through the already open door, and into the passenger seat, slamming it as Crystek took off as quickly as he had stopped. He’d never break any speed records, but he was clever. “Look, boy, I’m going to get you as close to the Czech border as I can, and you go like the priest was chasin’ you, you understand?”

Filip nodded mutely, and slid down a bit in the seat. Crystek took a hard left at the next intersection, raising dust as he headed the small van south. After one turn after another, he got back on the two lane road, and they made better time. They arrived an hour later in Lubien, and Crystek stopped to fill the tank with petrol. Filip wondered why the young businessman had any interest in his escape, but kept quiet for another hour, as they reentered the poor road, and motored ever closer to line dividing Poland with Slovakia.

Focusing on a goal, however esoteric, however distant, one must choose to either sacrifice to reach it, or delay the obvious joy of achieving the conquest of the pursuit. Whether that goal is a sprint for a hundred meters, or a marathon, the goal is only of value, when we decide that it is worthy of arriving. For the race is not of winning, but of finishing.

“I don’t know how you are going to get to wherever it is you are going. You don’t have any travel papers do you?” A sidelong glance at Filip told Crystek exactly what he needed to know. “There’s a farm house ten miles from the border into Czech country and the farmer is an old friend of mine. He’s got a scar on the right side of his face and will put you up for a few days, while he gets papers made. Oh, yeah…he’s got a daughter ‘bout two years younger than you.” Filip nodded, but the mention of the girl made no impression on his frightened mind, focused on escape and what to do next.

They continued south for several hours, and Crystek filled up one more time in Czarny Dunajec. Filip wondered if his cash was from his bread sales, and how he was going to survive, following helping the young Pawlek to escape. The vendor seemed to be enjoying this dangerous trip immensely, whistling as he cranked the ancient pump to fill the truck’s tank one more time.

“Hey, boy, it’s just a few miles to Sucha’ and we turn west there. There’s a side road that gets us away from the border guards, and I’ll get you to the right place on the fence where you can’t be seen crossing.” Crystek’s manner made it apparent that he had done this several times before, and Filip, beginning to tire from the long day, fell asleep, as the truck ground back to the bumpy track, one last time.

“Filip! Wake up, boy! We’re almost there!” Filip struggled to get his bearings as the vehicle turned of the secondary road onto a simple path through a field…little more than a cattle track. They lurched along the knee high grass, and into a stand of tall evergreens, passing between the silent giants, until they arrived, half an hour later, alongside a tall fence. “We wait here.” Cryptically, Crystek shut off the engine. The silence was deafening, as they sat for an hour, and Filip drifted off again, exhausted from his terrorized departure from Krakow, so early in the morning.

His life was changing, and he had little choice but to do whatever it took, to survive. He must get to his aunt and her family. Whatever happened beyond that, only God could know. In fact, only God could know what would happen to him tonight. His adventure was only beginning.

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