Shadow Of The Wall

Shadow Of The Wall

by Christa Laird


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688152918
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 04/28/1997
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 4.18(w) x 6.91(h) x 0.42(d)

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Chapter One

When Misha First Heard the sound of marching, he was still some distance from the orphanage. He imagined the boots: black bully boots. He pressed himself into the dark shadow of the wall and waited, holding his breath as if afraid that the verybricks might betray his presence. When he did dare to turn his head and look up Zelazna Street, he could see for at least ninety meters,despite the failing light. There indeed were the men in boots: fourSS men in two pairs, followed closely, by two members of the blue-clad Polish police. A harsh and abrupt call rang out; the marchingcame to an equally abrupt stop. The two blue policemen at the rearfell out of the formation and walked up some steps to a front door.Misha narrowed his eyes in a frenzy of concentration. Who lived atthat house? Who was it? As if to help him remember, a quicksuccession of shouts rang out; the two blue policemen disappearedinto the house and reappeared almost immediately with two of itsoccupants. Misha squeezed his eyes tight closed, trying to shut outthe identity of those two people until, seconds later, some devilcuriosity made him open them again.

The man who was being torn from his home within Misha's full and helpless view was Honek Bergson, the baker, together with his elder son, Marek. Misha knew them both, not well, but he had good reason to remember them kindly. Nearly eighteen months ago, at the end of October 1940, when Misha and his family were preparing to leave for the ghetto -- or "Jewish quarter," as the Nazis called it -- they had been unable to cram all the belongings they needed into theirtwo handcarts. Honek, who was a widower, and his two sons had passed just as Rachel's dollhouse was about to be jettisoned, and they managed to find a corner for it in one of their own carts. Rachel, delighted, had almost skipped into the ghetto.

But now father and son were Pushed across the street and made to stand, hands above their heads, facing the outer ghetto wall; they were frisked by the Polish policemen who then, under barked orders, stood aside. The SS men turned ninety degrees in the street like some black four-headed monster and then, quite literally before Misha realized what was happening, the baker and the eighteen-year-old boy slumped simultaneously to the ground as a volley of shots punctured the murky ghetto dusk.

Misha clenched his fists so hard that they began to hurt. He barely noticed the black monster turn through another ninety degrees and beat its rhythmic retreat. In the last two and a half years, since the old familiar Warsaw had begun to tumble down around him, Misha had been through most human feelings. There had been sheer physical panic at the man-made thunder and lightning that, unlike God's, seemed to leave no comforting space for counting in-between; there had been hunger, the sort that made the fining of your stomach bum at the sight of someone else's loaf of bread; the strange feelings when baby Elena was born, which no public labels seemed to fit and so ought perhaps to, be disowned; piercing sadness when his father died from typhus fever last September; and the gnawing, nameless "thing" at his very center that stirred in its shallow sleep when his emaciated mother had a coughing spasm.

Could there be much more for a boy not yet fourteen to endure? It wasn't that Misha was given to self-pity; that was something that neither his character nor those around him would allow. It was simply that he doubted his own strength to cope, with much more, and that strength had at all costs to be maintained: Three other people besides himself counted on it.

Then, without warning, Misha did feel something entirely new. As he stared up the street at the tittle heap the men in boots had left behind, his blood ran suddenly black with wrath. It was an oddly exhilarating sensation, and Misha knew without doubt that it came from God. In that moment of glorious omnipotent rage, the gentle baker and his son were transformed for Misha into archangels. He vowed in silent fervor to avenge their murders, and, in so doing, to avenge all the other pitiless things that had spread their stain across his childhood.

A few moments later, with a strange new calm in his heart, Misha continued his journey back to the orphanage. When their father had fallen ill the previous summer, their mother, already very weak and fearful for her children's survival, had begged Doctor Korczak to consider taking. them into the Orphans' Home, though they were not actually orphans. "They're bad times," Misha remembered her saying sadly, "when a mother puts her children into an institution out of love."

Doctor Korczak, who had brought up Misha's own father after he had been orphaned, welcomed these three "grandchildren," as he called them, with his shy, gentle warmth, and so the big arcaded building between Sliska and Sienna streets, the orphanage's second address since being moved to the ghetto, had become their home in October, shortly after their father's death.

Heavy steps came quickly, and the door was answered without delay. The big, much-lined face that appeared on the other side expressed both relief and irritation.

"Michal, the curfew began thirty minutes ago. If this goes on, you will not be allowed out on your own -- it is an abuse of privilege."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Stefa. Misha leaned back against the heavy door, which Mrs. Stefa had shut quickly behind him. She began putting up the security chains, then stopped and looked at him intently.

"Michal, child, whatever has happened?"


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Shadow Of The Wall 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Shadow of the Wall is a good book about courage and family. Misha, the main character must risk his life by sneaking out of the getto. His mother very sick, Misha must trade belongings for food in order for her to survive. But she dies. That's not the only thing the book is about though. Since Misha and his sisters live in an orphan home Christa Laird, the author,explains what they face and go through in the home. The home owner/manager asks Misha to smuggle his little sister out of the getto. A dangerous mission. The book also talks about what happens to Misha after his mother dies. I though Shadow of the Wall was a good book. It was one that you could never guess how it would turn out. One complaint was that the ending came too soon and ended suddenly. All in all I would recommend it.