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If anything could be considered timeless amid the passing of life’s fleeting hours, surely it was the land.
There were spiritual considerations, of course, that possessed deeper claims to immortality. She knew that.
But on the physical plane, the earth and the fruit it brought forth out of the ground—according to the ancient parable recorded by the gospelist Saint Mark—possessed, like no other aspect of the created universe, links to eternity.
The armies of six millennia of Nebuchadnezzars and Caesars and Alexanders and Napoleons and Hitlers tramped across it, changing its borders, subduing its nations, and slaughtering its inhabitants. But never had they altered by so much as a speck its miraculous power to produce, to recreate, to regenerate itself in the midst of what chaos the men above it wrought upon one another.
Generations came and went. Tribes, clans, families, and races all rose and fell. Life passed into life, as men and women, the great as well as the obscure, returned to the earth as they came.
Yet the land abided, an enduring reality under the gaze of the heavens. Over it the inexorable march of history passed, father to son, mother to daughter, one conquering dynasty giving way to the next—while the earth remained, surviving them all.
Karin Duftblatt let her eyes wander across the countryside out the windows in every direction.
Expansive fields of slowly ripening grain, extending right and left from her gaze, were beginning now to lose the green of their youth in preparation for the deep golden brown of their old age, which would arrive with the harvest later in the year.
It was a tranquil scene, broken here and there by green pastureland or trees, and now and then an uncultivated hillside. How could it now be so peaceful where bombs and blood had such a few short years ago filled the air and covered the ground? How could the land bear such abundant fruit where so much death had once been?
Didn’t the land know what holocausts, what crimes against God’s creation, it had witnessed?
Oh, but she loved this land! She could not help it, though there were places farther to the north she avoided. Some memories were too painful, even after all this time.
It may not have been the most beautiful of the world’s landscapes. But she would always love it, mostly for what the black soil was capable of producing from out of the God-imbued riches of its subterranean depths.
Love the land and its growing things she did, though neither did she begrudge the present focus of her activities in the city. As much as she enjoyed an occasional drive into the countryside like this, she doubted she could live here again. The city may have tended to make its inhabitants cynical and callous, but it also helped her forget the past. Her work was there as well, and because of its importance, she needed to remain in the city.
She glanced about again as she drove, breathing in deeply and then exhaling a melancholy sigh.
Conquering dictators had indeed fought over this particular segment of Eastern Europe’s geography. The Huns and Franks and Magyars and Mongols had all tried to subdue it. Napoleon had stretched the reach of his domination this far early in the last century, as had their own mustached Teutonic madman in this. By many names had it been known, this Prussian, Pomeranian plain between the two great and ancient powers of Germany and Russia.
Never, however, had this land been fully its own.
Now it possessed borders and a name that hinted at the racial individuality of its people. No one in the world was deceived, however, into thinking that the territory to which had been affixed the name Poland was anything but a subject of the new power that had arisen to the east, in the same autocratic tradition of the worst of the world’s ancient conquering empires.
Out of the rubble of fascism’s defeat had arisen the spectre called communism, whose shadow now, sixteen years later, blanketed half of two continents. Its persecution was not so visible. No less lethal, however, were the results.
If a handful of brave souls could not by themselves prevent the silent and insidious carnage, they might at least be able to make it known to the rest of the world.
Such was the mission to which she and the man she was on her way to meet had given themselves.
Ordinarily she would have sent another of her people. It was a long drive from her home in East Berlin, halfway across Poland. But word had come that this delivery was unlike any before it, and it must be managed by as few hands as possible.
Thus she had decided to make the pickup herself and return personally to the city with the evidence they had so long sought.