Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Refugee from Paradise--You and me both #2


Refugee from Paradise—You and me both #2

 

Refugee from Paradise by Dalma Tak√°cs is available from www.amazon.com.

Kindle edition, $3.99; Paperback, $16.80
 

This story is about leaving behind our past  and surviving the present. About learning to treasure the pains and the joys that make us who we are.   Penny Kiss is a Hungarian refugee girl who was forced to leave her home and friends in Hungary after the Communist takeover and start a new life in England in 1948. 

 

1948


They Have Spies Everywhere



Monday, September 6th, 1948

            I’ve received a letter from Aunt Felicia. “You are a lucky girl to be going to school in London,” she writes. I know she is right, even though I am lying in bed at home with the chickenpox on the first day of school, and I am worrying about missing two weeks of school work with my English so poor. At least I can practice by writing in my journal.
            I know Aunt Felicia is right, even though Uncle Ed hasn’t found a job yet, and we have to live on what Mami earns by making hand-embroidered blouses for Mrs. Pavel.
            I know I’m lucky, even though food in England is scarce and rationed. Most weeks our ration books allow us to buy only a quarter pound of butter, half a pound of bacon, and one or two eggs per person. We buy meat not by the pound, but by the “book.”
I must remember next time to use the right word in the butcher’s shop. Even now, as I sit here scratching, the memory of my humiliation stings. I walked up to the counter and said in what I thought was perfect English, “Please give me some flesh for one ration book.” The butcher said, “Blimy!”, the customers laughed, and I fled the shop, flaming red in the face. In Hungarian meat is flesh and flesh is meat. The same word serves for both.
            I know I’m lucky because we don’t have to pay for medicine or doctor visits, because school and school supplies are all free, because we have a roof over our heads and no Russian soldiers in the street.
I know I’m lucky, but I don’t feel lucky at all.
            I spend the day trying to forget the itch and wondering what my face will look like when the blisters are gone. I wasn’t much of a beauty to begin with, and I doubt that craters on my cheeks will improve my appearance. I take aspirin for the fever, and I lie awake most of the night; at fifteen, chickenpox is no longer a child’s disease. I try to pass the time by writing letters home—home to Hungary, the country I’ve had to leave and will never see again. I have written to Daddy telling him about all the sights of London: the mummies in the British Museum, the Rembrandts in the National Gallery, the Crown Jewels in the Tower. Before I seal the letter, I must show it to Mami and Uncle Ed. They have to make sure there is nothing “political” in it that could hurt Daddy at home. The Communist government is looking to arrest anyone who criticizes the system.
            Daddy is not very careful with his letters to me. He writes about things he loves—Hungarian literature, history, folk music and art. But he also includes remarks about the government in what we call “flower language,” using innocent words to fool the censor. Of course, by now I’m sure the censor knows perfectly well that “illness” and “hospital” are flower language for arrest and imprisonment, but Daddy doesn’t care. “Our neighbor Peter was suddenly taken ill last night,” he writes. “He will spend the next ten years in the hospital. Doctors are quite ruthless these days."

Do you hear an echo in your own experience? Were you ever young in a strange land? Do you have memories that sting and caress?