A Love Story About Love Letters

    

     Deep in the forests of the Siberian wastelands, in a little enclave, I found my companion for life. In the darkest days of exile, I was fortunate to meet a girl named Anna with whom I fell madly in love. It wasn't an easy task to break through the barrier that divided the two of us in order to became one entity.

     I was a refugee from Poland, born in a small Hasidic shtetl and Anna, an evacuee from Kiev, was a product of Communist upbringing, constantly being told that everything Western is rotten and corrupt. Anna believed what she was told until she later found out that it was exactly the other way around.

     Nevertheless, love is stronger than any ideology. Our friendship turned into courtship and love followed. Anna and I became inseparable, hoping never to be asunder; at least I thought so.

     When Kiev was liberated by the heroic Red Army, Anna was overcome with home sickness and insisted upon returning home, a home that in reality did not exist anymore. I wasn't strong enough to stop her.

     Being mobilized in the railroad industry, I couldn't join her, and was forced to succumb to a long-distance love affair with the hope that our separation would not last forever.

     And that's how our correspondence begun. The shortage of paper and a proper writing tool like a simple pen and ink or a pencil for that matter, couldn't prevent us from writing each other love letters at least once a week. Every letter that I received increased the spark of hope that we would soon be reunited, but in the meantime, a distance of at least five thousand kilometers separated the two lovebirds.

     I cherished every letter I received from Anna and read it several times. I saved them like a dear treasure. Unknowingly, my beloved did the same. My only solace during our separation was receiving letters from Anna.

     When the horrible war was about to end, good news reached the refugees: As soon as Poland was freed we would be repatriated back to our homeland. To be eligible for repatriation, Anna had to be married to a Polish citizen. I had managed to marry her by proxy by bribing a clerk, but to be repatriated, Anna had to physically be with me.

     In summary, Anna had no choice but pack up, leave Kiev, and return to Siberia. Among her meager belongings was a bundle of my love letters tied with a pink ribbon. Soon after her arrival, we decided to get married in a traditional way and in our treasure chest there was a pile of love letters, his and hers.

     Our modern-day Exodus arrived, and one nice April day in 1946, which coincided with the first day of Passover, our train packed with refugees left on its journey to our so-called "Homeland Poland."

     Our itinerary called for traveling across Russian wastelands; first north through the Ural Mountains past Moscow, and then the transport would turn westwards towards the Polish border. While leaving the Soviet Union, we were forbidden to take currency, jewelry, diamonds, and handwritten material. Soviet currency was not worth anything in the West.

     As to jewelry and diamonds - we had nothing to worry about, the only problem remaining was how to get the handwritten love letters out of the country. We were determined not to relinquish our cherished treasure.

     When we approached the Soviet-Polish border, two problems were tormenting my mind: The first and main worry was whether Anna would encounter any problems at the border. From our past experience we knew that in the Soviet Union the rulers have always the last word, by saying "Da," or "Nyet," which means yes or no.

     Sometimes the fate of a person depended on the disposition of the border guard. There were plenty of stories of people who were taken off the train and never heard from again. The second worry: Though it might seem frivolous now, then it was for us newlyweds, a very important problem‹how to get these letters out. I always imagined that in later years, in case of a lover's squabble, I would pull out one of the letters and confront Anna, showing her how she swore love and devotion in her own handwriting.

     When we reached the last Soviet border town we had to change trains and then cross the border. Taking advantage of the transfer commotion, I took the package of letters wrapped in a piece of cloth and hid it in the underbelly of our car on the axle between the wheels. I relied on my Guardian Angel that they would pass unnoticed.

     Luckily, both problems had a positive outcome. Anna had no trouble with the border guard and neither did the letters. However, the odyssey of our love letters was not complete. Poland was not our country anymore, the Nazis were beaten, but the hostility to the returning refugees continued. We were not safe, and were soon forced to take our wander staff in our hands and head west.

     With the help of an underground organization, we were smuggled to a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany via Czechoslovakia and Austria. Crossing the border under the darkness of the night, we were not permitted to have any personal identification-no heavy luggage, nothing except one knapsack. In case we were apprehended, we were told to claim that we were Greek refugees returning home from slave labor camps.

     Before leaving Poland, I packed the letters and pictures and a few important documents in several packages and mailed them to my uncle in Israel, then Palestine. The pictures and the documents were lost in the mail but the Guardian Angel took care of the love letters: They arrived safely to their destination.

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