Eva Undergroundby Dandi Daley Mackall
The year 1978 has been a pretty good one for Eva Lott. She has a terrific best friend, she's dating the best-looking guy in school, and she just made the varsity swim team. So when her widowed dad says it's time for them to move, she's not exactly thrilled. And when he tells her that he intends to move to Communist Poland to help with a radical underground
The year 1978 has been a pretty good one for Eva Lott. She has a terrific best friend, she's dating the best-looking guy in school, and she just made the varsity swim team. So when her widowed dad says it's time for them to move, she's not exactly thrilled. And when he tells her that he intends to move to Communist Poland to help with a radical underground movement . . . Well, it's all downhill from there.
Soon Eva has been transplanted from her comfortable Chicago suburb to a land that doesn't even have meat in its stores, let alone Peter Frampton records. And everywhere she goes, the government is watching. But Eva begins to warm to her new life. Sometime between eating lard on bread and dodging the militia, she makes a handsome new friend, Tomek. And soon she is wondering if maybe she's found home in the most unlikely of places.
Read an Excerpt
Eva Lott popped her seat belt and strained to see past the line of cars stretched in front of her. The stench of exhaust fumes added to her growing nausea. She and her father had driven in sunshine through eastern Austria until they hit this gravel road a hundred yards from the Czech border crossing. Now gray bottom-heavy clouds pressed down on them as if sky and earth conspired to hold the pitiful row of cars in a vise.
"Better fasten your safety belt, Eva," her dad said, his fists white-knuckled at ten and two o'clock on the steering wheel. Sweat beaded on his forehead in spite of the raw cold inside the tiny Renault.
Eva pulled her long black hair into a ponytail and buckled her seat belt. But she didn't feel safer. She tried to tell herself that nothing could really happen to them. It was 1978, and they were Americans. But visions of Communist prison camps and cold Siberian winters crowded her thoughts.
She wanted the line of cars to move, to get on with it. But every time they jerked forward a slot or two, some black car, the windows tinted and secret, pulled up and cut in front. Eva hated her ridiculous urge to hurry the line, especially since the last place she wanted to be was where she was going-the other side of that border, Communist Eastern Europe. It was the same urge she'd felt almost two years ago, when the stalled line had been heading to the Chicago cemetery to bury her mother. Eva had tried not to stare at the hearse in front of them, with its cream-colored pleated curtains drawn over tinted windows. Her mom hated curtains. "Curtains ruin sunlight, Eva," she'd said more than once. "They make us miss what's going on in our own neighborhoods."
The Renault jerked forward. Eva tried to crank her window open, but it wouldn't budge.
"Are you all right, Eva?" her dad asked, his gaze darting to the rows of barbed wire running alongside the gravel road.
"Uh-huh." What could she say?
Of course she wasn't all right. Instead of starting her senior year in Chicago with her boyfriend, Matt, she was headed toward the Iron Curtain. She'd half expected an actual curtain made of iron. But the barbed wire, separating the free world from Communism, seemed even more threatening.
She sat back and rubbed her arms to get the circulation going. Beyond the barbed wire, a small field ended in more barbed wire. The clouds slipped apart, and light tried to break through the bank of dismal gray. In that second, Eva glimpsed tall wooden towers, spaced a few yards apart like telephone poles. In each tower stood uniformed guards.
Eva squinted, trying to make out the face of the nearest Communist soldier. She wanted him to look familiar, like people she'd known in Chicago.
Light glinted off something in the guard's hand.
"Dad!" Eva shouted, the realization sinking in. "He's got a machine gun!" She wheeled in the seat to check behind them. "Let's go back. It's not too late!"
"Take it easy, Eva," Dad said, his clipped words telling her that he wasn't. "It's okay. The guards aren't concerned about us. They're more worried about their own people escaping to freedom."
In a minute, he'd be giving her statistics on border crossings, names and dates of escapes, the entire history of the Soviet occupation of Poland and Czechoslovakia.
"Just act normal," he instructed.
They were only seven or eight cars away from the border now. The gravel road had deteriorated into a frozen mud path.
Ahead, Eva could see the guardhouse, a shack with a window in front and sawhorse barriers all around it. One car at a time was motioned up to the gate's arm. Machine-gun-toting soldiers strutted everywhere-at the gate, down the row, leaning into car windows.
A battered gray car was pulled out of line and directed to the curb beside the guardhouse. Eva watched as three guards in steel-gray uniforms and tall brown boots surrounded the car. Two of the soldiers lifted their weapons and aimed at the driver as he got out. The third soldier, the only one with a furry hat instead of a little military lid, shouted something at the man.
"What are they going to do?" Eva asked. She expected them to shoot, the sound to explode at any moment.
Dad didn't answer. The line of cars didn't advance.
The furry-hat soldier used the butt of his gun to shove the driver toward the guardhouse. The man stumbled. One of the soldiers laughed, then took the man's arm and dragged him inside.
"He's Czech, not American," Eva's dad muttered.
Eva could see into the guardhouse through the filthy glass window. The man's head bobbed between soldiers. She heard a cry. Then the man doubled over and disappeared. More cries pierced the cold air. Then they stopped.
The line inched forward.
"Dad-," Eva cried.
"It'll be all right," he said, cutting her off.
Eva glanced through the back window at the cars lined up behind them, hemming them in. She tried to convince herself that her dad was right. The Czech man was all right. And the soldiers wouldn't mess with American citizens. After all, they hadn't done anything, hadn't even made it into Poland yet.
But she couldn't stop trembling.
The inspection went on for the next thirty minutes, one car at a time. It wasn't like they searched the cars or the passengers. A guard asked each driver questions, took passports and visas, disappeared inside the guardhouse, then came back out, returned the papers, and motioned the car on. Dad turned off the engine between moves to conserve fuel, which had cost close to three dollars a gallon at the last stop in Austria.
Eva needed to stretch her legs, but nobody had gotten out of a car since the poor Czech man had. His car still stood crooked against the curb, where he'd left it.
Three cars and it would be their turn. A short guard, his machine gun slung over one shoulder, frowned down the row of vehicles. His gaze seemed to take in the whole line, which was longer than when Eva and her dad had joined it. His head moved slowly, as if he were examining each car with his X-ray vision. When he got to the Renault, his head froze. Even from where she sat, Eva could see the man's scarred cheek, his eyes slits in leather. She willed him to go on, to look at the next car and the next. But he didn't.
"He's coming to us!" she cried, clutching her dad's elbow.
The soldier raised his machine gun and marched straight to their car. He tapped on the driver's window with the tip of his gun and nodded for her dad to roll down the window.
Eva felt dizzy, like she might puke.
Her dad fumbled with the window, but then got it down halfway. "Hello, sir."
"The passports," Eva whispered.
Dad, who was the most organized person Eva knew, felt in three pockets before coming up with the papers and handing them out the window.
The guard slung his gun back across his shoulder and took their passports. Page by page, he examined each document, studying their faces when he got to the photos. "Ú?cel va?sí cesty?"
"Uh-h-huh," Dad stammered.
Eva knew he hadn't understood. She and her dad had taken the same crash Polish Berlitz course, but Dad hadn't caught on. He could quote Paradise Lost or Hamlet without missing a word. He could conjugate Polish verbs and ace written vocab tests. But after weeks of intensive language classes, all he could say in Polish was "I am a tourist. I eat my peas on a knife."
Eva was the opposite. She'd picked up Polish without studying. She couldn't have spelled a single word right, but she was a born mimic, and languages stuck. She'd barely made it through chemistry and algebra, but she'd aced three years of French without cracking a book.
Eva leaned in front of her dad. "Przepraszam. Mówimy po angielsku." Sorry. We speak English. Their Berlitz instructor had told them that Czechs understood Polish, and Poles understood Czechoslovakian.
The guard's lips tightened. He repeated his demand- in Czechoslovakian: "Ú?cel va?sí cesty?"
Eva understood enough. "He asked why we're visiting."
Her dad smiled at the soldier. "Turysta!" It was the word for tourist, but Eva wasn't sure Scarface had understood.
The guard did an about-face and jogged back to the guardhouse. Eva could see him talking to two other guards, the three of them hurling dagger glances at the Amerykanie.
Dad stared straight ahead and started the engine. Gas fumes sneaked into the car, mixing with the old metallic smells.
Scarface burst out of the guardhouse with three guards on his tail. The man's gaze locked onto Eva. She couldn't look away. She watched as he pulled a whistle from around his neck, lifted it to his mouth, and without blinking, blew.
The shrill cry of the whistle traveled through her blood, as four Czechoslovakian border guards ran toward them, their machine guns raised and aimed.
Copyright © 2006 by Dandi Daley Mackall
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
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Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.
Meet the Author
DANDI DALEY MACKALL is the author of more than three hundred books for adults and children, including the Winnie the Horse Gentler series. She lives with her family in Ohio.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Until I read this book, I knew next to nothing about the modern-day Communist occupation of Poland. Mackall's book takes place the year I was born and it follows a young woman named Eva who leaves her home and friends in Chicago to follow her father to Poland where he joins the underground movement. Sharing a tiny room with her father in a house full of rebels, Eva learns that sometimes life takes you by the throat and hurls you bodily into the middle of a war zone. She learns there are things in that war zone worth fighting for, that her life can be bigger than it was, that the seed of a plum can hold the spirit of a nation. A wonderful read about a harrowing and fascinating period in history.
This book was so different from what I expected it to be like. I had seen it at the bookstore another time, but I didn't get it because I was a bit wary of it. But it is an incredibly well written book, with great character's. Eva was a little bit shallow at the beginning, but you couldn't really blame her, but it did get better in the middle.
this book is not done right by its cover. I picked it up just to have something to read but i couldnt put it down. i learned so much about poland and i was tuned in with the characters. i was suprised there were no other ratings. well let me be the first to say that it is worth reading. it has romace, courage, warmth and a storyline that could be better but none the less it was detailed. i would recommend it to others who likes history and is open minded.give it a chance.