It is impossible to describe every event that occurred during their odyssey, but the story tries to tell of the conditions that they lived in and their resolve to live or to die, and maybe, just maybe return home, God willing.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.44(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Trail of PebblesNo Time to Cry
By Ingrid Kvaal
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 Ingrid Kvaal
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBerlin 1945
It was an early Wednesday morning; the sun had not yet come up. The first streaks of light from the east started filtering through the thickness of the city air. It was very quiet, with only an occasional clatter of noise from the debris-filled street. Many people who had lost their homes or apartments during the atrocious war had no permanent place to stay. They drifted around, digging through rubble and other remnants to find something that would help them stay alive.
Gisela raised herself up. She had been sleeping on the floor on an army blanket that she and her husband had found while walking around the city. It was a welcome find. She often thought about the person who had left the blanket on the ground, maybe a soldier killed in action. She and her husband had no belongings, like many others, they had to do without. Grateful patients brought them occasionally some needed item, which they were more then grateful for..
Her body ached from lying on the hard floor. She knew it was time to get ready before daylight. Neighbors had heard about Itze, resulting that many patients walked to the little apartment and asked him for medical advice. They had diseases and illnesses related to chronic starvation or infections inflicted upon them throughout the many ugly years of warfare.
Gisela and her husband, Itze, were both physicians and had known each other for a long time before they married. Before the war broke out, Itze had a flourishing practice. They worked together; he did all the evaluations, and Gisela assisted him. They made a good team. The war compelled them to move from one place to another to avoid the constant assaults of air raids and ground strikes, though they always stayed in the vicinity of Berlin. When the war was over and the country had capitulated, they had no place to go to find a roof over their heads. They were, just like most, homeless.
A dear friend, however, whom they had met during their studies at the university, was a chemical research scientist living in Berlin,, had invited them to stay in his little apartment while he left to look for his mother and father, whom he had not heard from in over two years.
People were displaced all over the continent. There was no communication. The mail system had collapsed long ago, and there were no working telephones. It became a dreadful job to find a family member in such chaos.
Most of the time the search involved talking to people who might have known the individual—former neighbors, close or distant friends—but the results were often futile. Many families were separated for years before they received news about a loved one being alive. Even then, they could not reconnect because of the Iron Curtain, the border that separated Eastern Europe from Western Europe.
The small apartment they were lucky to stay in had two chairs and one little table. Everything else was gone. Others who had needed firewood or anything else to survive the dark days had taken it. The stove in the kitchen did not work, and there was neither electricity nor running water because the wires and the water pipes in the streets had been destroyed over the years by constant bombing.
The city was severely demolished in some sections, making it difficult for the many homeless to find a place at night. Those who were lucky and had a roof over their heads often shared their places with the less fortunate.
A mass movement of millions of displaced people from across Europe was beginning. Many of them wanted to get back to their homes and find the family members from whom they had been separated by force, violence, captivity, or hard labor. Estimates suggest that over 120 million people became causalities in the war, creating the deadliest conflict in human history.
The sadness having lost a loved one inevitably touched everyone who lived through that period. Pain and anguish hovered over the myriad of lonely survivors.
The ruthless egocentric Nazi control over millions of people inspired sadistic and disappointed persons to follow the Nazi regime's evil behavior. Others did denounce the behavior and actions of the Nazis, but they were arrested and sent to concentration camps The German government turned its antagonism and aggression towards all the countries around them and created the biggest and deadliest criminal war in history.
Itze believed that, in the fabric of human consciousness from the earliest beginning of mankind, people on this earth who acted in cruel and horrific ways toward each other were expressing their innate limitations and inability to coexist. Fundamental unity between all people requires an absolute understanding of respect for each other throughout..
Gisela kept a little tin bowl outside the shattered windowsill of the kitchen to collect raindrops, if there were any, so that she could use the water when the patients needed their wounds cleaned. No sanitary solutions were available, so the two relied on homeopathic practices.
Thankful patients occasionally brought some food or whatever they could share. There was no monetary exchange—everyone relied on the barter system. One day a patient brought a bag of old bones: they were boiled for a long time, until they turn into gray, glossy dough. The ugly mush was then rolled into tennis-ball-sized spheres and placed on old papers until they hardened. The outcome made great soap, a recipe that had been used by many for generations.
Gisela's legs were weak and thin, just like the rest of her body. She had beautiful big blue eyes, chiseled features, and a stunning face, but the many years of food deprivation during the war had affected her body. Her fingernails did not grow anymore, her hair had become thin, her reproductive organs had shriveled up, and there was a yellow hue to her skin. At a time when most young people would be enjoying their most fulfilling years, she saw herself as an old person. She was only thirty-eight years old.
Born into a family of military and social leaders, she'd had high expectations placed on her. Her older brothers were sent to military academies, and she was send to private schools in Europe. She was a young child during the First World War. It exposed her to the raw reality that countries were fighting each other, though there seemed no logical reason for the killing. She had to accept the traumatic separation when her father, a lieutenant general in the cavalry, left for the Russian front, bringing his personal horse along—standard procedure at that time. She feared for his life, but as a young child, she kept it to herself. Each time a messenger brought news to the family from the Russian front, they all waited for a while before reading the letter, their hands shaking and hearts beating.
One day, officers came to the door and asked politely for her mother. They told her that her husband was seriously injured in battle, and his horse had been killed during an attack in the field. He would be coming home the moment transportation could be arranged. Gisela's grandmother and mother waited nervously for his arrival. One floor of the family's huge four-level home was converted into a care facility. Finally her father came back, bandages around his chest and head, smiling at his family, thanking them for their unconditional love.
He was barely well when Gisela had to endure another painful parting. This time, he was assigned to the western front, having to supervise the war activities in Belgium. She learned early that life and death were connected, and people must endure these experiences no matter what.
Throughout all that time, she believed that in the future, the war would come to an end and life would return to normal. She hoped for peace and stability. For twenty years, the country did not engage in active war, but the dark clouds of a cataclysmic decision resulted in World War II. Between the two wars, the nation could not recuperate. Tensions, political theories, and erratic leadership drove the population into hysterical behavior that would eventually lead to the destruction of millions of lives.
Gisela looked out the window with the light shining in, she saw some stragglers on the other side of the street digging through rubble. The air was thick and smelled bad. There had not been a clear day in years. Millions of particles from crushed concrete, collapsed buildings, burnt wood, and melted steel mixed with sulfur from bombs sat heavily over the city. Sunshine could barely peek through such pollution.
Itze started moving about when he heard his wife was up. He knew it was time to prepare for his patients, who would be arriving soon. He had planned a task for himself before they arrived. His eyes were dark and sad as he looked at Gisela. He had nothing to offer her and no way of making the day, the moment and time, any better.
He hesitated to tell her that he had decided to use the last wood piece they had, a broom, to make a fire so that they could boil water. This was necessary to sterilize the patients' wounds, which was done by boiling water and salt. Itze rubbed his brows; he did not know how to share this with her. He had tried once before, and she had said no. She begged him to keep the broom, the only cleaning utensil they had.
Gisela knew what he had on his mind. They had known each other long enough and been through trying times. They did not have to say much to each other. Each understood very well what the other was thinking.
A can of sardines, given to them by a patient, was all they had that morning for food. It was one of the few items easily available, because the fish was in a sealed can and therefore did not spoil. Such cans were only available on the black market, which had a healthy presence in the streets of the city. Most of the canned items came from Russia.
Both of them knew how important it was to curtail fatty, heavy foods and only eat light things that the digestive system could easily break down. After years of living on small rations, the metabolism changes the body's needs and adjusts to very little food.
Itze, a man of few words but strong in character and will, put his hand on his wife's shoulder and said, "Everything will be all right. I think I'll try to get into the western section of Berlin today to see if I can buy some medicine, bandages, and aspirin for our friends and patients. Maybe there will be other items that I can pick up."
She did not like that idea. The Russian sector in which they resided did not allow anyone to go to the American, French, or English occupied parts without a special permit. The Russians barricaded their sector within the city and guarded it heavily.
It was already the beginning of the Cold War between the superpowers of Russia and the United States. This fierce rivalry, which developed immediately after the end of World War II in 1945, would last nearly fifty years. The mistrust between the two powers led to the largest modern arms race known to mankind.
The countries conquered by the Russians were placed under the Soviet Communist regime using severe domination, demanding adherence to the Russian system. Any objection led to persecution and death for those who did not embrace such political structure. Many people were kidnapped or "disappeared" under the Communist regime. The French, English, and Americans formed a joint plan to assist Germany with crucial first aid and emergency food and rations to stabilize those people found after the war ended under appalling conditions.
Gisela knew that her husband would depart and cross the border, and that it could have serious repercussions. He might be arrested and never return. She understood him and was silent. Looking at him broke her heart.
He quickly got ready so that he would not miss the morning appointments with his patients. He planned to be back within a couple of hours, which would give him enough time before the first patient arrived at the apartment. He saw frail and ill patients in need of desperate help. Some had broken bones, others suffered from severe malnutrition, or some had forms of intestinal disease. In some innovative way, he tried to alleviate pain and discomfort—but without any drugs or other medicine, it was hard.
Without further discussion, he took the broom and, with the help of an iron rod, broke it into pieces to start the fire. Since he had no newspaper for kindling, the broom hair, which was made from horsetails, would have to do, even though it smelled terrible.
He insisted that Gisela take a few drops of the boiled water to avoid dehydration. He opened the last can of sardines, and each of them shared a fish with a small spoonful of oil—an unpleasant, greasy breakfast.
After reassuring his wife, Itze opened the creaky door and descended the three flights down to the dilapidated street. With a brisk stride, he walked toward the Brandenburg Gate, which represented the border between East and West Berlin. The masterfully designed gate was once connected to Berlin's old city walls that surrounded the city. The gate stood about two hundred feet tall and was built around 1790 as a symbol for peace.
On the way, Itze passed lonesome and fatigued-looking drifters, former soldiers limping along wearing their old military uniforms. They showed no emotions in their faces, and appeared more dead than alive. In between, Russian soldiers marched along, checking everyone who appeared suspicious. The Soviet soldiers were equipped with machine guns and acted very hostile toward the people in the country they had been at war with for so long. The citizens lived with horrible fears worrying about being punished.
Itze arrived near the gate. He noticed soldiers with heavy artillery and tanks guarding the whole area. Barricades were set up all over. He knew that to cross into the western sector would be nearly impossible. He vacillated about telling the guards that he was a doctor in desperate need of medical supplies. That might improve his chance of being permitted to cross the border. He wavered back and forth, and then continued his walk so as not to be noticed while deciding whether to take the risk.
There were so many tanks lined up, the Russian patrols would not even let him near. He turned into a side street and thought there might be a vacant opening that was not controlled, but too many guards kept patrol. There was absolutely no way he could sneak by them unless he subjected himself to arrest.
While he was walking, Russian soldiers noticed him and kept a keen eye on him; his dark complexion and facial features created suspicion. They guardedly started to follow him while he continued his even-paced walk. He never looked back, pretending that nothing was out of the ordinary. When they caught up with him, one soldier shouted out that he should stop, pointing a rifle at him. Itze knew then that his chance of getting away was very slim. Deportation or incarceration at hard-labor camp was next. His thoughts went miles per second. Should he run? That prospect was foolish and dismal.
He thought upon the fact that this cruel war had just ended—the worst in history, involving so many countries from the continent-and already dark clouds were appearing over the horizon. Newer and stronger forces were emerging, using the same methods of aggression, only with better improved weapons. He could not comprehend why humans were in constant deadly conflict with each other. The violence and control of people over people begged the question, "Is the quest of mental and social control over one another intrinsic to humans?"
A sudden blast of gunfire from an unknown source startled the soldiers, who frantically took cover. This changed Itze's situation. He detoured quickly to a side street that led back to the direction where he lived. Each minute meant more safety, while he cautiously checked out each street corner and looked to see if someone was following him.
Many years ago, the streets Itze now walked through had handsome buildings, nice sidewalks, and rows of beautiful linden trees. It was incomprehensible that only piles of concrete and twisted steel were visible as far as one could see. He turned the last corner before getting to his apartment, making sure he was not being followed. In the distance, he could see a couple of his patients pacing back and forth in front of the apartment building waiting for him. Gisela had told them he was late this morning.
Excerpted from Trail of Pebbles by Ingrid Kvaal Copyright © 2010 by Ingrid Kvaal. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Beginning of Captivity....................13
The Long Train Ride....................35
The Ural Mountains....................65
The Mission Hospital....................73
The Siberian Winter....................85
The Roaming Tribes....................133
Living with the Tribes....................139
Uncertain Path to Freedom....................145
Major Floods and Deadly Deserts....................149
The Big Yangtze River....................157
Toward the Land of the Rising Sun—Japan....................163