Preview Chapter

This chapter is from Dorit Whiteman's book for children, "Lonek's Journey: The True Story of a Boy's Escape to Freedom"

 Chapter 2:


September 1st, 1939, as soon as war started, many of the town's people began to flee. They loaded up their carts and wagons, piled as many family members as fit into them and headed in the direction away from Germany. Some of the neighbors who were left behind came to visit Lonek and his mother, sharing the latest frightening rumors with his mother:

 "The German Air Force is bombing the whole countryside. Hundreds of villages have been destroyed."

"The German Army is rounding up people and taking them away."

"Our soldiers are fighting on horseback and the Germans are fighting with planes and tanks. We can never win!"

Then finally:

"The war is over. We have lost."  

The rumors were all true. In a matter of days, the Polish Army had been destroyed. Lonek's school had closed the day the Germans invaded Poland, leaving Lonek wandering aimlessly around the house, each hour dragging on. Where was his father? Could he have been killed? No, no, he did not want to think about that. He did not want to ask his mother what she thought about his father's whereabouts because his question might raise his mother's fears even higher. What would the family do without him?  

Soon the citizens of Jaroslaw began to feel the arrival of the Germans. First, the sky darkened with German paratroopers dropping from the sky. They settled in the town square and marched around to show off their might to the local population. Shortly after, other German soldiers roared into town on motorcycles and trucks with their shining bayonets threateningly displayed. Worst of all, SS men appeared. Lonek knew that the SS was known as the Nazi party's most ruthless and cruel unit that had absolute power over civilians. They were known killers who showed no mercy to anyone, including children. They despised anyone Polish. Most of all they hated Jews and killed them wherever they found them. When they appeared in their black uniforms, high black boots and army caps with an emblem on it that looked like lightning, everyone trembled with fear. Alarm and dismay quickly spread among the population, but particularly among the Jews who were the most endangered. Lonek was told to stay home and avoid the German soldiers at all cost. 

Two weeks after the war had started, his father walked through the front door.  He looked tired and tense but he was alive. Lonek was beside himself with happiness. At the same time, Lonek also knew that his father's return meant that the Poles had lost the war. Now no one was fighting for Poland. The country was at the total mercy of the Germans.  

"Papa, what happened?"  

            "Loneki, it was terrible. The Germans had an air force and we had no planes and no defense against them. We were fighting on horseback and the horses just became terrified and ran. Their soldiers outnumbered ours and we were helpless. Their tanks just rolled over us. "  

Signs throughout the town ordered all returning soldiers to report to the town square, where the German headquarter was located.  Lonek's mother was frightened by that order and begged her husband not to go.  

"Don't go. Don't report. Maybe they will kill all the Polish soldiers! Why don't you run away?"

But Lonek's father replied:  

"I have no choice. If I don't report and they find me, they will shoot me on sight."

Lonek noted that his father, who was usually so firm in his decisions, hesitated before he left for the German headquarter. Lonek ran after him and pleaded: "Papa, I want to go with you."

His father replied:

           "No, no. You better stay away from the Germans."

But Lonek would not let go of his father's hand. Being with his father reassured Lonek somewhat. They walked towards the town square which was usually filled with people. Now it was silent and empty of all but German soldiers. From a distance, they saw that a large table had been placed in the middle of the square across from the soccer field. A number of German officers wearing high boots and thick leather belts were positioned near the table and ordinary soldiers were scattered around them. One soldier sat behind the table, with an officer standing behind him. The seated German soldier was in charge of questioning the Polish soldiers waiting in line. The expression on their faces was hard and cruel. When it was Lonek's father's turn, he stood at attention, saluted and in response to the soldier's question, gave his name. At this moment the standing officer turned to Lonek's father and roared:

        You Polish pig! Take off your hat when you speak to a German officer."

        And with that, he took a whip he was holding and snapped it across 

Lonek's father's head.

Lonek and his father stood motionless side by side and said nothing. They knew that if they uttered even one word, they would be shot. Lonek bit his lower lip in order not to let a sound escape and, like his father, stared straight ahead. He could almost hear the German officer's gun go off in the direction of his father head. His father's army cap had fallen off his head.   Neither father nor son made a move to pick it up. Bending over might give the Germans an excuse to shoot them. A few seconds passed as if everything was frozen in time.

Lonek's world was suddenly turned upside down. He did not know that from now on his life was changed forever. He was unaware that a long journey was about to begin for him - a journey that would bring fear, hunger and want and would only end many years later.