"THE BABY" by ALEXANDER KIMEL 1500 Palisade Avenue Fort Lee, NJ 07024 Tel 201-461-0777 firstname.lastname@example.org
THE BABY ZY-DJ-FN-JP ACT SYNOPSIS Rachel, a barren woman, suddenly discovers that she is pregnant. In the Ghetto a baby is a kiss of death. Rachel, categorically refuses to have an abortion, declaring: "I would rather die with the baby than live without it." She carries the pregnancy hidden in an underground bunker. The spread of typhoid in the Ghetto complicates her pregnancy and causes the death of her sister in law. Despite the danger and the hardships Rachel gives birth to a baby girl, in a bunker. The baby is given away to an Ukrainian Madam, who saves the girl claiming that she is a German bastard. Thanks to the baby the parents survive and are reunited with their daughter after the liberation. CAST OF CHARACTERS Meir About 36 years old, intelligent, hard working, and risk taker. A born leader. Rachel Sweet, devoted wife and mother, sure of herself. About 30 years old. Rachel About 25 years old, attractive girl devoted to her family. Fryda A young widow, about 40 years old. George A young man, about 20 years old, Very dependent and honest. Henry A prosperous businessman about 50 years old.
I-2. Helene About 35` years old, very sure of herself. Dr. Hudish An elderly doctor, about 55 years old. Approachable and honest. Gittel About 55 years old midwife, engulfed in her profession. Ksenia A simple but warm hearted woman about 60 years old. SCENE 1 INTRODUCTION NARRATOR The action takes place in a small shtetl, in Eastern Poland. The town was taken over by the Russians in 1939, and consequently they were dislodged by the Germans in 1941. The same year,the Germans created the Ghetto, imposing a whole set of restrictions on the Jewish population. A Jew could not leave the ghetto, has to carry at all times a white armband with the Star of David. All supplies of food, fuel and other necessities of life, to the ghetto, where restricted. The Jews were required to turn in all the radios, furs, jewelry, etc. Soon the Germans started a series of killings, called "actions". The killings, and constant humiliation coupled with hunger, demoralized the Jewish population and destroyed the fabric of the society. In April of 1943, Warsaw Ghetto Uprising gave the Jews an impetus to look for ways for saving themselves. SETTING: The kitchen of the Lehrer's residence. On the right to the front window stands a wood burning stove. Opposite the kitchen stands a table with three chairs. On the left side, there is a door leading toward the bedroom. Adjacent to the kitchen stands a cupboard. TIME: March 1943.
I-3. AT RISE: Rachel stands at the stove trying to kindle the fire. The wood is damp and it doesn't burn, it just smokes. The door opens and Meir walks in. With his shirt tucked over his protruding stomach, he looks very heavy. MEIR Good Afternoon Rachel. What are you doing? Rachel turns around, watches Meir's protruding belly. RACHEL Meir, what happened to your stomach? It looks funny. Were you beaten? MEIR No, Rachel. I am just like a camel carrying food for the family. Look. Meir pulls up his shirt, unties the knot holding up an improvised sack, full of wheat. MEIR This is a supply of food, good for a month. It is wheat. Wholesome wheat. RACHEL Meir, where did you get the wheat? MEIR I bartered it for pair of pants. PAUSE When I went to work this morning, I put on two pairs of pants. One pair I exchanged for wheat. RACHEL Meir, you are so reckless. The Germans could have killed you for smuggling. MEIR They could have, but our choices are very limited. Either you smuggle or die from starvation. As a matter of fact they almost caught me. When I was passing the gates of the Ghetto, one German looked at me and said to the other German: "Look at this fat Jewish devil. Where does he get his food to be that fat?" RACHEL Meir. I am so worried when you work outside the Ghetto. MEIR There is nothing to fear. A hundred Jew work daily outside the ghetto and most of smuggle food. Only one was killed. There is nothing to fear. (Pause) I will take the wheat to Bloch's mill and convert it to grit. Delicious grit.
I-4. RACHEL Bloch's mill. What are you talking about? MEIR Didn't you hear that Bloch found an ancient millstone and open an illegal mill. Supposedly he does good business. RACHEL I heard that he is skinning poor people alive. He charges 20% in addition to the tremendous spillage losses of the grit. It is good wheat, I think that I can manage myself. Lea takes the sack of wheat from Meir, pulls a pot from the shelf and pours in some wheat, after tasting it. MEIR I am going out to find some wood for the stove. Meir exits. Lea approaches the cupboard and takes out a mortar with a thistle and starts grinding the wheat. After a while she stops the grinding saying to herself: RACHEL It is going very slow. Maybe I should try the coffee mill. She approaches the cupboard and takes out a coffee mill. RACHEL (talking to herself) It is hard work, but I am preparing a delicious dinner for our family. Meir will appreciate this dinner. The door opens and Fryda and Helen walk in. FRYDA Good Morning Rachel. It is such a gorgeous day. What are you doing? RACHEL I am preparing supper for the family. HELENE Supper for the family? On a coffee mill? It is so strange. RACHEL. I am preparing a really delicious meal. I am grinding the wheat into kasha. You take the grit, pour a little hot water, add a drop of oil and a delicious meal is ready. FRYDA It must be dull and frustrating work. Where do you take the strength to do all this work?
I-5. RACHEL. Necessity is the mother of all inventions but also of strength. We have to eat, and I must find the necessary strength. FRYDA But how did you get the wheat? RACHEL. Meir got it. PAUSE. (turning to do ladies) Ladies, would you like to taste my superb cooking? FRYDA Yes. I would. I never refuse food offers. They are so rare. RACHEL. Okay. I will prepare the dish. Please sit down at the table. They sit down at the table. Rachel takes a few spoonfuls or kasha, pours hot water and adds a few drops of oil. She serves the dishes. HELENE. (After tasting the kasha) Hm. It tastes delicious. Rachel you'll are a real "balabuste" , an excellent homemaker. RACHEL. (After they finish eating) Would you like a glass of tea? FRYDA. With pleasure? But Rachel, where did you get the tea. There is no tea in the ghetto. RACHEL. It is not the real tea. I burn a spoonful of sugar. Burned sugar dissolves in hot water you gives it a tea coloring. It looks like tea. HELENE. Rachel. This is fantastic. We surely can learn quite a lot from you. FRYDA. That is right. HELENE. I must confess that for a long time I could not stand you, Rachel. I was going out with your Meir, long before you came into the picture. We were on the brink of being engaged. You spoiled this. Because of you I have a loveless marriage. FRYDA. (Looking at Helene with amazement) Helene, don't blame Rachel. Your engagement fell apart because of the dowry. Blame your father. He refused to deliver the promised dowry.
I-6. HELEN. That is not what I told. Meir refused the dowry. FRYDA Refused the dowry? That is not true. I know very well the details. Your father, either did not have the money, or could not part with it. That is the truth. (PAUSE) At that time. Meir was an inexperienced young man, running a miniature store, with two sisters, and a mother to support. I suspect that your father did not trust him with a substantial dowry. HELENE. This is not what my father told me. I was heartbroken then, and later consented to my marriage to Henry, and here we are. PAUSE. Further, Meir was always a successful young merchant. FRYDA. No Helene. His success came later. I know the details because Norma, Meir's sister, was my best friend. Meir's supposedly said to her: "Interesting, Helen's father trust me with his daughter but not with his money." RACHEL. I am sorry Helene, that I caused such an upheaval in your life. But I had no part in it. HELEN. I have to admit that for years, I looked down upon you, a barren woman. Look, I said to myself Meir got himself a nice princess. A woman that doesn't want or can't have children. Good for him. PAUSE An now Rachel, I envy you most is the fact that you don't have children. You don't have to worry. You don't know, what a pain it is to lose an only child. It is indeed a piercing pain felt every minute of my wretched life. You are lucky. So lucky indeed. RACHEL I do not know about that. You know Helene that for a long long time, I was dreaming about having a baby. Unfortunately, after my abortion, I just could not have children. How I envied them mothers walking with children or pushing carriages. HELENE. Rachel, you had an abortion? I never knew about it. How come? What was the reason for the the abortion? RACHEL. When I was pregnant, I got the measles. Because of the health of the baby, the doctor recommended an abortion. This sealed my fate. Afterwards I could not get pregnant again. HELEN. I am sorry to hear this, Rachel. I always believed that you didn't want to have children. You wanted to be free.
I-7. RACHEL. In life you never know. Let's not argue about old stories. They are like water under the bridge. But talking to about children, how is your husband doing? HELEN. Not so good. After Walter's death he became very depressed. He is angry at the whole world: God, people, Gentiles, Jews, neighbors, everybody. You can't talk to him without causing a stream of violent anger. (Pause) He is angry, and depressed. His moods alternate aimlessly. FRYDA He must be angry at himself. From the stories that I heard he must be feeling guilty. Very guilty. HELEN. Nonsense. What stories did you hear? FRYDA. I don't want to upset you. Forget it. HELENE. I insist that you tell me. Don't you think that knowing that will help me to face the reality of my married life? FRYDA. I don't know if I should tell you? I don't know if the stories are true. People have a tendency to talk. Talk is cheap, but it might hurt deeply. HELEN. I must know the truth. Please, tell me. FRYDA I heard that when the killing started, Henry ran with Walter and the boy got lost. Henry was so scared that he did not respond to the boys cries for help. Henry left the boy behind and hid in a storage shed. PAUSE Sorry Helene. Remember the story is not proven. HELEN. It is not proven, but it explains Henry's actions. Anger at everyone. Maybe he is trying to justify his deeds? RACHEL. Helen, please don't judge them harshly. My father used to quote Rabbi Hillel saying "Don't judge your fellow men until you find yourself in his shoes". Please, don't judge him. HELEN Do I judge him? We live in crazy times. It is hard to be normal in abnormal times. RACHEL. Helene, your husband needs understanding and support. The man goes through stressful times. He is full of pain. You have to support to him and understand him.
I-8. HELEN. Rachel. Unfortunately, I am not a saint like yourself. I have problems taking it. I always ask myself, why did it happen to me? Why me? FRYDA Helen, you are not alone in this position. I lost my husband and a child. There is not a family in the Ghetto that is not in mourning. Count your blessings. HELEN Count your blessings? Pain, acute pain is not a blessing. FRYDA You could also be alone, and a lonely pain is a tremendous burden. HELEN You are right Fryda. I never looked at this from your point of view. (pause) I will have to go soon. Let's discuss the cooking arrangements, before I leave. RACHEL. As you know, the Germans cut off the food supplies, but also cut off to wood supplies necessary for cooking. They're trying to starve us to death. Even when we have the food to cook, we are missing wood for the stoves. HELEN You are right. Yesterday, Henry brought an old wooden wardrobe, took it apart and we used for cooking. The wood didn't burn well and smelt horribly. FRYDA. So let's combine our resources, and cook on one stove. It could be done, if we limit or cooking to two pots per family. RACHEL You know friends, something bothers me. All the kitchens in the alley are located at the entrance doors, and are visible from the street. There are many starving families in the alley and the sight of 6 pots with cooking meals could be very disturbing and shall I say ...cruel. HELEN We will have to cook behind closed doors. This is not a problem. But how are we coordinate the time? RACHEL. We start every day at noon time. Two pots per family. HELEN Agreed. Tomorrow at noon time at my house. Helen exits and Fryda is also preparing to leave. RACHEL. Could you wait while I prepare a bowl of kasha for the orphan.
I-9. FRYDA Which all orphan are you talking about. There are many orphans in the ghetto. RACHEL. It is Shlomo, the son of Mottle the Taylor. He is homeless, laid up with typhoid, and laying on the bare ground, in the alley. Imagine a kid with high fever laying on the ground. I feel so sorry for him. (pause) In the Ghetto everybody is wrapped up in his own pain, his own fears and his own problems. There is nom place for compassion for the less fortunate. FRYDA You are so right. I feel guilty of this. Of course I will take the grit. You are so kind Rachel. I guess that without your help, that poor kid would have died a long time ago. RACHEL. God helps people that help others. I strongly believe in that. I learned that from my father. Rachel gets up. Takes of wooden bowl, pours kasha and pours hot-water on top of it. She gives the bowl to Fryda. Helene exits, while Fryda lingers on and turns to Rachel. FRYDA Rachel, what is the matter, with you? I sense some tension. Did you have a fight with Meir? Looks on her with puzzlement. Thinks for a while, and speaks softly. RACHEL. No Fryda. I did not have a fight with Meir. We seldom fight, but.... don't tell it to anybody... I afraid that I am pregnant. FRYDA. Pregnant? Oh my God! This is impossible. You can't be pregnant. This might be a disaster. RACHEL. It could be a disaster. After 10 years of trying to have a baby. In vain, yes in vain. Pregnancy now, is a kiss of death. Yes, I know it, but I am pregnant and I can't help it. FRYDA Rachel. How have you determined that you are pregnant? RACHEL. I missed periods for three months in a row. In addition, I feel changes in my body. I am pretty sure of this. PAUSE Worst of all, there is no doctor in the ghetto. All were killed by the Germans or were taken to the forest by the Partisans. I really do not know what to do. Whom to talk to? Where can I get help? FRYDA. Wait a minute. I think that I have good news for you.
I-10. PAUSE I heard that there is a new doctor in town, Dr. Hudish. As the story goes, he jumped the death train from Kolomyja, when the train was passing through our town. He settled in the ghetto and started his practice. I can find out where he lives. RACHEL. Please, do so. FRYDA. But shouldn't you tell Meir about that? RACHEL I am not going to tell him now. FRYDA Why not? He should know about it. Shouldn't he? RACHEL In due time he will know. Now, he will pressure me for an abortion. I will tell him later when it will be to late for an abortion. FRYDA Ain't you taking big responsibilities? It is not fair for Meir. RACHEL For years I was trying to get pregnant. No results. I was a barren woman longing to fulfill my purpose of life, to have a baby. (pause) Every time I saw a woman with small children or a young woman pushing a baby carriage, I felt humiliated, rejected, worthless. Day and night I was dreaming about a baby. Each time my period approached I was dying a thousands deaths. Fryda, you cannot understand my sufferings. FRYDA How do you feel now? RACHEL I am scared but elated, fearful but determined. Yes, I am determined to take my chances and keep going to the end. (pause) Bedsides, Meir is all wrapped up with his deals and scheming business. FRYDA. What kind of business? RACHEL. He is trying to organize a resistance group. He wants to escape to the forest, and so forth. FRYDA I did not know this . I will find out Dr. Hudish's address. I will be back. Fryda exists, and Rachel returns to her grinding job. END OF SCENE
I-11. ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////// SCENE 2 - ORGANIZING RESISTANCE SETTING: Same setting of the Rachel's kitchen. The number of table chairs increased to five. TIME: A few days later. AT RISE: Rachel's Kitchen. David and Eva sit at the table when Meir walks in. MEIR. Good evening. Where is Rachel? EVA She went out with Fryda. She will be back soon. PAUSE What's the matter Meir? You look very tense. MEIR I had a hard day. You know it is spring time. I was watching how nature awaken from the winter slumber, bursting with life. The grass is pushing through the snow, trees are blooming. Only we Jews are preparing for death. This is so tragic. (Pause) I feel like 4000 years of Jewish history is coming to an end and we are fiddling helplessly. We are like marionettes dancing to the German tunes. EVA Whatever else can we do? Meir meet my friend David. I told him about you organizing a resistance group and he is very interested to join. DAVID My name is David Stein and I am very glad to meet you, especially that you are the brother of Rachel. MEIR David Stein. Are you the famous Jewish Fascist? DAVID Yes, I am the Jewish Italian fascist. EVA I never heard about it. Please tell me. DAVID It is a long story. Do you have time for it?
I-12. MEIR Yes, please tell us. I never heard the details. DAVID I wanted to study medicine and as a Jew I could not do it in Poland, so I vent to Italy. I studied medicine in the University of Bolognia. In Italy, at that time, if you belonged to the Fascist party you paid less tuition and received 50% discounts on train tickets. Having nothing to loose I joined the party and received a Fascist Party Member Card. MEIR The Italians accepted Jews into the Fascist Party? DAVID The Italians are easy going people, not like the Germans. (Pause) During the March action, when 40% of the Jews were killed, I was caught together with my parents. I showed the German officer my Fascist Card and he let me go. Unfortunately he did not let my parents go. They perished. EVA Very interesting story. Do you still have the card? DAVID No. The card expired and I sent it to the Italian embassy in Warsaw for validation and never got it back. I am not a Fascist right now. (pause) Meir, returning to your statement what do you suggest we do? MEIR. All our energies are expended on finding food. We are forgetting that the Germans are preparing the liquidation of the ghetto, and we do nothing to save ourselves. We have to do something. We have to save ourselves. At this moment a group of men enter the scene. Meir is very excited and greets them all. MEIR Welcome neighbors, welcome. I am glad with this turnover. Very happy indeed. Suddenly the door opens and Arnold runs in. He is very excited. ARNOLD. Did you hear the latest news? It's is fantastic! MEIR. What is the news? The war ended? Germany surrendered? ARNOLD. No. The news is not that good. The Jews rose up and fighting the Germans in the Warsaw ghetto. I heard it on the German radio. The Jewish fighters are controlling the ghetto. Isn't this fantastic news? (more)
I-13. ARNOLD. (CONTINUED) (pause) The spell is broken. The Germans are not 10 feet tall, but people of flesh and blood, like we. They could be killed. This is a big event, and event of historical proportions. DAVID Meir. Here, is an answer to your problems. I think that we should follow their example and prepare to fight the Germans here, in the ghetto. Let's put this Shtetl on the historical map. We won't survive but we will be remembered by the future generations. MEIR David, I think you are dreaming. They are about 2000 Jews left in the ghetto, and about 200 men in the arms bearing age. We have no organization, no support, and no weapons. Are we going to fight the Germans with broomsticks? We will be overwhelmed and wiped out in a few minutes. Is this what we want? DAVID. I believe that in a surprise attack, one fighter with a rifle can kill five Germans, the Germans will run away, and all their plans will be disrupted. It could be done. MEIR. It is not that the easy to surprise the Germans. You have to be a seasoned and experienced fighter to do it. You need weapons and lots of ammunition. EVA David. You once had the opportunity to kill a SS-man, and you did not do it. Remember. ARNOLD. David tells us the story. Please, tell your story. DAVID. It happened about two months ago. As you know Radzynski, the Volksdeutcher, initiated a new procedure. The Germans rope off, one block at the time, and cart away all the belongings of the Jews. They claim that they cannot wait for the belongings to be soiled with blood when the Jews will be killed. (pause) I had a revolver hidden in the kitchen stove, and when the German blocked off the adjacent block, I jumped out trough the window, with the gun in my pocket. I jumped out and . ... landed in front of the SS man, conducting the operation. (pause) In his magnificent black uniform, with his hat with blazing insignia the SS man looked like an Angel of Death. PAUSE Looking at him I said to myself, I never used a gun, but I can surprise him and kill him. But, in danger one thinks very fast, and I thought - I will surprise the German and kill him and the next day the Germans will kill 2000 Jews. PAUSE OK I thought - The Jews will be killed anyhow. What is the difference?
I-14. PAUSE. But, then I thought life in the ghetto is very precious. A day in the ghetto is like a month in normal times. A month in the ghetto is like lifetime. I'd will be shortening the life of 2000 jews. They will go to their graves cursing my name. Do I want this? No. I did not shoot. I told him that I am working for a German company and I have to go back to work. I turned around and left. PAUSE Meir. You might be right. Fighting is not that easy, so what is the solution? ARNOLD Fighting is not easy but it can save lives. MEIR How do you see it? Explain it to us. ARNOLD Fighting is not easy, but it can cross the German's plan and motivate people to run away to hide in the forest. MEIR Why couldn't they do it now, before the actions? ARNOLD You know it Meir, that it is very difficult to give up the "comfort" of the Ghetto, to face the constant dangers on the outside. Under fire you run for your life. Those are facts of life. MEIR Maybe if we have a supply of weapons this could be a solution. Without weapons it is a waste of time. It is like daydreaming. But where could we get weapons? HENRY We have to buy them. MEIR From whom? HENRY This is the question. EVA To change the subject. Did you hear about Sevastopol? MEIR. The one in Crimea? RACHEL. No. That one in the ghetto. PAUSE I heard today that a group of Jews are building an extensive underground bunker for about eighty people. They call it Sevastopol. They tapped into electrical cables and will have electricity. They also have sewer connections, and provided with food to last about one year.
I-15. ARNOLD. It sounds interesting. How long are they working on it? EVA For about one year. The work goes on, day and night. ARNOLD Could we start such a project? It could be located under the alley MEIR I doubt it. It is not feasible. EVA Why is it not feasible? MEIR First of all, we don't have enough time. Secondly, where we will take water? EVA We can store it in barrels. MEIR. Do you know, the quantities a water that we need? For about 20 people, using half a liter of water per day, for consumption only. We will need about 1500 gallons of water to store. Enormous quantities of water. In addition you need water for cooking, disposal of refuse, etc. I don't think that this is feasible. EVA Why can you build a temporary bunker supplied with the necessities of life for only one- month? After one months we could run. We could run to hide in the forest. HENRY. How is it going to help us? Do you expect to war to finish in one month? EVA No. I don't expect a war to finish in one month. I believe that the coming action will last, at most one week. Later, the Germans will withdraw. PAUSE. After they are gone, it will be easy to escape. MEIR. Maybe it is a good idea. But it is to late for this. We don't have the time, and we don't have the space to hide the dugout dirt. The Germans will discover us in no time. Such digging requires months of preparations. We don't have the time. PAUSE It cannot be done. Period. We should built a bunker in the forest and not in the ghetto. HENRY. I believe that the best way to survive is to find a peasant willing to hide us. I am always on the lookout for good peasant, willing to take the chances.
I-16. MEIR Maybe this is a solution for you. You have the money. Nevertheless, finding a reliable peasant is not so easy. How do you know, that he will not kill you and take the money? You are so helpless. You are at his mercy. Nevertheless, I wish you good luck. DAVID. I am trying to convince Rachel to escape the ghetto and hide on Aryan papers. I know, a priest, who is willing to supply us with Christian birth certificates. Unfortunately, she is afraid. ARNOLD I believe that a Christian birth certificate is not enough. Nowadays, you had to have a Kennkarte issued by the Gestapo. A Kennkarte is a personal identification certificate with a picture. Without it you are dead. It is impossible to get it. MEIR. It could be a solution for David and Rachel if they have the guts. Maybe. For for the majority of people all those "maybe" ideas are of no use. I have a concrete plan. I know a Jewish horse trader, who has many friends in the surrounding villages. He spent his life in those villages. PAUSE He told me that the son of his friend, Anton, works as a forest ranger. He collected a big arsenal of weapons abandoned by the Poles and Russians. He is willing to sell us those weapons, at the right price, of course. He will help us build bunkers, so supply us with food. But we need money. DAVID. How much money? MEIR. About $300. DAVID. Three hundred dollars? This is a fortune, a great fortune. Where are we going to take the money? MEIR We don't need all the money at once. For the first stage $100 will do. I believe that we have to start organizing a group of young people. Each member or the group will have to contribute a certain amount of money. PAUSE Later we will approach a few people with means, promising them acceptance to the group, subject to the contribution of funds. We will get the money. Where there is a will there is a way. HENRY I am trying to find a peasant willing to hide us. DAVID You don't have to join us. Also you can joins us and if you find a peasant you can leave. There are no strings attached. You might also loose the opportunities to be saved in the forest by waiting for the right peasant. Think about it.
I-17. DAVID. I propose that Meir be selected as a leader. It is his plan, his connections, and besides, he is one of the few Jews who served in the Army and has military training. HENRY. Meir, I believe the your ideas are ridiculous. Look, the whole civilized world is fighting the Germans and have difficulties. Here comes Meir, with his 10 fighters. PAUSE Meir you don't have a chance! You will be killed in no time. You are wasting your time and worst of all losing opportunities. ARNOLD What opportunities are you losing? Do you have any better plans? Please tell us. MEIR (Heatedly) Henry is right. We might be killed in the forest. In the ghetto we will be killed for sure. (pause) Maybe we will die fighting. But we will create symbols of resistance for future generations. Those symbols will be needed for the renewal of Jewish life after the catastrophe. HENRY. Symbols of resistance. This is sheer nonsense. Asking people to die to create symbols of resistance. This is a symbol of nonsense. It is for the birds. MEIR Not exactly. It is connected with Jewish history. In Antiquity, the Jews were ferocious fighters. Little Judea was a big headache for the Roman Empire. It shook the foundations of the Empire. In Partan wars the Jews were the best mercenary soldiers. Imagine, Jews as mercenary soldiers. They had this unbelievable fighting spirit. HENRY What happened to this Jewish fighting spirit? MEIR After the Romans destroyed Judea, they dispersed the Jewish people and started the diaspora. In the diaspora, the Jews could not fight. So, they used symbolism and passive resistance to survive. HENRY. How does this relate to our present situation? MEIR. It relates, because the Jews gave up militancy and became masters of survival. Through submission to persecutions they became very strong people. A mighty oak tree breaks during a hurricane while the flexible reef bends only down. HENRY So what happened now? How come this strength disappeared now? MEIR. With Hitler's methods of total destruction this submission to persecution does not work. It is time to change. It is time to fight back.
I-18. HENRY. Do you think that you fighting back will work? Tell me how? MEIR. It is a drastic change of symbolism. It is a wake-up call for us and for the future Jewish generations. A call for the abandoning of the passivity, sticking to old notions and old symbols and return to active fight for survival, as practiced by other people. HENRY Meir, it is too late to change horses midstream. If you tell me that you are going to organize a survival group, I will understand. But organizing a resistance group, doesn't make any sense. The Russians lost a million of people in one failed offensive. The proud England s taking daily punishment from the German Air Force, and can't help it. Here comes Meir to the rescue, without weapons, people and an organization. Excuse me, this is sheer nonsense. MEIR Despite Henry's objections, I am going to organize a group, the resistance group. We might it call a Survival group. It is only a matter of name. Whoever wants can join me. It is a free choice. ARNOLD. It sounds good. I lost all my family during this passive symbolic stage. I will gladly die fighting. MEIR Let everybody who wants to join raise his hand. (Everybody except Henry raise their hands. (pause) It looks like that the majority is joining. Congratulations. The resistance group is born. (Turning to David) David bring out the bottle and a few glasses. We have to drink L'Haim. To life! To life! HENRY Everybody is joining. I think that I will join too. And as an wealthy individual I pledge to contribute 100 dollars to the cause. DAVID. Lets drink to Henry. He deserves a toast. END OF SCENE ----------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 3 - PREGNANCY SETTING: The kitchen of the Lehrer residence. TIME: Three weeks later.
I-19. AT RISE: Rachel is washing dishes. Meir enters. MEIR. Good morning Rachel. It is early morning and you are already at work. Rachel, what are you doing? RACHEL. I am trying to figure out the menu for dinner. Do you think that it is easy to cook when there is nothing to cook with? MEIR I believe that you will find a way out. You are such a fantastic homemaker. By the way our group passed the first hurdles. I hope that we will succeed. We got already some money pledged and established contact with Anton, the Ranger. Things are looking up. We should survive and God's willing we will survive. RACHEL. Meir, you are very much optimistic. Survival is along shot away. Meir, I am afraid to tell you the other news. You will be shocked. MEIR. (Worried and taken aback) Are you all right Rachel? Are you sick? What is it? RACHEL. I am not sick,.. but.. I am pregnant. MEIR (surprised) Pregnant! It is impossible! It can not be true. RACHEL. (Sadly) Everything is possible. You know the old Jewish saying: If God wants, you can shoot with a broom. PAUSE After all those barren years, I'm unexpectedly pregnant. I feel like Sarah, that had Isaac in an advanced age. God played a joke on me, and now everybody will have a cheap laugh. MEIR. Are you sure of this? You must be mistaken! How can it be? We tried for years and years, and suddenly poof. You are pregnant. Are you sure of it? I can't believe it. RACHEL. I am sure. Yes, yesterday I went to see a doctor, Dr. Hudish. He confirmed my suspicions. It's a fact we have to face. A situation we have to adjust. MEIR. Rachel, do you realize what the baby could do to us now?.
I-20. RACHEL. I know. A baby in the ghetto is the kiss of death. MEIR Rachel, you have to interrupt the pregnancy. It is insane to think otherwise. RACHEL. (emphatically) Meir. I am not going to have an abortion. PAUSE A baby is a kiss of death. An abortion in the ghetto is sure death. I have no choices. MEIR. Couldn't Dr. Hudish perform an abortion? RACHEL No. He told me that he doesn't have neither the experience nor the instrumentation. PAUSE "You can go to a midwife," he told me, "but that would be very dangerous. We don't have even aspirins." Meir, we have to proceed with the pregnancy. PAUSE. You know Meir, my mother used to say that each baby brings a different type of happiness to their parents. PAUSE And what happiness can the baby bring to us?. The gift of life. Meir I feel it in my bones that the baby will redeem us. It will help us to survive. MEIR. You are dreaming. Rachel! I gift of life? Even without the baby our chances of survival are very low. With a baby they are none. Rachel you have to get an abortion. I insist that you get an a abortion. RACHEL. (moving closer to him) For 10 years I was dreaming about having a baby, and it's now that I would rather die with the baby than to survive without it. MEIR. Rachel. What shall I say to my friends from the group? They elected me their leader to save them from the inevitable death in the ghetto. Sorry boys. My wife is going to have a baby. We have to wait with the resistance. Sorry. RACHEL. Meir. I can proceed with the pregnancy alone. Your sister Eva will help me. You can dedicate yourself to the resistance, to the group. You can go on collecting money, buying weapons, building bunkers. Go for it! If you succeed -I will join you. If you, God forbids, fail -- you will join me. I think it's a fair proposition. MEIR Rachel, you are stubborn. I am really dumbfounded. I don't know what to tell you.
I-21. RACHEL Meir I believe "bashert" the predestination by God's will. MEIR Rachel, stoop fooling yourself. God's will? (pause) Last March i said Kaddish, the prayer for the death, at the mass grave, where 3400 Jews were brutally murdered. When I saw this enormous pit full of bodies, some still alive, I asked myself, why is God allowing such atrocities? Why doesn't the Almighty intervene? (pause) I realized at this moment that either God doesn't have the power to stop it, or He doesn't care. Rachel, stop kidding yourself about God's will and have an abortion. RACHEL Meir, you and your ideas. For thousand of years we survived because of our faith. The faith kept us alive. Wasn't it God's will, otherwise how can you explain this miracle? MEIR It was not a miracle, just a delusion. Delusions kept are a live through the waves of persecutions and sufferings. Now, it is time to stop those delusions and get back to reality. (pause) Your continuation with the pregnancy endangers the lives of our family and the lives of our neighbors. It is time to stop the nonsense and concentrate on survival. RACHEL Meir, stop kidding yourself. It was under your influence that I had an abortion years ago. You know how I desired a baby. I am not going to interrupt this pregnancy. (pause) You can go ahead with your dreams about resistance. I will manage the pregnancy alone. (pause) I believe that your dreams about resistance are just dreams. We have two contradicting dreams. My dream based on 2000 years of tradition, proven by our survival and your dream based on wishful thinking. At this moment the door opens and Henry and Helene walk in. HELEN. What is the noise? We heard high voices. Is is something wrong? MEIR A lot is wrong. Can you imagine that Rachel is pregnant, and refuses to have an abortion. HENRY AND HELEN. (In unison) Pregnant. Oh my God! RACHEL. I also know all your arguments: baby, kiss of death. Leave me alone. I believe in "Bashert" - Destiny. It is God's will, and it's my destiny. I accepted it.
I-22. HENRY (Coming closer) Rachel, think about the baby. What a life do you expect for the baby? Hunger, sufferings, death. Isn't it better to cut it now? Gittel, the Midwife helped many women in your situation. Why don't you try her? MEIR. She is stubborn. She you will not listen to good advice. RACHEL. Gittel killed quite a few women. I will not be one of them. Listen people. I prefer to die with the baby, than to live without it. You don't understand the feelings, the quest for love and life of a barren woman. Things that I dreamed of for years, are happening right now, and I accept them with gladness. Yes, with al the gladness of my heart. EVA (Approaches and embraces Rachel.) I understand you. I accept your decision. May God bless you. HELEN You are selfish Rachel! You are very selfish woman. Did you hear what happened with the Bloch's baby during the last action? The baby started to cry, when the Germans were above the bunker. PAUSE. Trying to silence the crying baby, the mother inadvertently choked it to death. RACHEL (Defiantly) Life is full of surprises. What happened to the Bloch family will not happen to me. I do have a strong faith and I believe that the baby will bring us luck and that we all will survive. HENRY. Rachel, you are quite stubborn. What the about us? You are endangering the lives of all of us. We do share the bunker. Don't we? And this fateful bunker saved the lives of 20 people. Twice. Here this bunker. He points his finger to to the cupboard, where the entrance to bunker your is located. EVA Henry, nobody is forcing you to use our bunker. You can build yourself another. HENRY. Maybe we will. Helene let's go. This is a no-win situation. EVA Henry, wait a minute. Your arguments are faulty. There is no need for another bunker. The situation in the ghetto has changed. PAUSE. Previously, the Germans made sporadic actions, killed or have taking away a few thousand Jews. And later to life returned to normal. We were allowed to live to the next action. (more)
I-23. PAUSE. (CONTINUED) Now, this is over. Next action will be "Judenrein". The killing will proceed until all Jews are gone. The bunker will not save any lives. It can only extend your life for a day or two. MEIR Rachel is right. Henry, if you want to live, run to the woods. This is exactly what we are going to do HENRY I don't agree with you. If you survive the first blows of the action you have a chance to run away and hide in the forest. Without a bunker you have no chances of survival. You are dead. END OF SCENE --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 4- PREPARATION FOR THE FOREST SETTING: The it Kitchen of the Lehrer's family. TIME: A month later. AT RISE: At the opening about four people are milling around the kitchen. Meir enters. MEIR. Good evening everybody. I see that you all are here. The news is good. Our group increased by about 10 people, and many more volunteers are waiting in the wings. But we also have some problems. The whole ghetto is talking about the group. Our success is exaggerated. As the story goes. We are fully armed, with machine guns, hand grenades, etc. PAUSE There is a danger that there Germans will be alerted and will go after us. So let's keep a low profile. No bragging, no comments. Lets keep a low profile. HAIM We also have to be careful with our purchases. I was looking to buy a backpack, and this guy asks me if I belong to the group. PAUSE. I dropped the search for a backpack, and used a sack with strings attached, like the peasants do. MEIR Let's get to our business. Are you ready to go to the forest? (All answer in unison.)
I-24. Yes, Meir. We are ready. MEIR. Looks, at the assembled in silence. So we have all the necessary stuff. Shovels for digging, food for two weeks, camouflaging garb, sleeping blankets. Everything looks OK. PAUSE You look good. At night you look like Ukrainian Partisans. Now we will divide into two groups, and under cover of darkness we will leave the ghetto. By the way try to communicate in Ukrainian. Get used to the language. DAVID. Where do you think is the best place to leave the ghetto? MEIR. At the brook behind Budzynski's house, at the milk market. This place where the peasant sell the milk. There, it is easy to jump over brook and the surrounding bushes provide some security. (Pause) I suggest that David, Leo and Arnold go first, and after thirty minutes the rest will follow. Now, lets us discuss the marching route and the meeting place. ARNOLD Let's make sure that tomorrow morning we all meet at the right place. MEIR (Reading from notes.) After jumping the brook we proceed to the railroad crossing that is not far from the railroad station. PAUSE After the crossing we proceed the main road for about 3 kilometers, to the first fork in the road. We take the left road bypassing the village of Zarwanica. The village has an active Ukrainian freedom movement and is heavily armed. We have to avoid them and bypass the village. PAUSE Next we follow the bypass route, a dirt road, for about 1.5 kilometers to the point where it meets the main road. We turn left into the main road. ARNOLD I have a question, Meir. How do we measure the distances in kilometers? Can you give us some landmark signs? MEIR I am afraid not. The distances are taken from old military maps. There are no landmarks indicated on those old maps. You have to use your judgment.
I-25. PAUSE At the main road you make a left turn and follow the winding road to the forest. Before reaching the forest the road divides into a few trails. Take the most traveled trail that will lead you to the Ranger's house. DAVID The directions are very simple. We should be able to find the Ranger's house without problems. MEIR (Checking the time on his watch.) It is time to go. Good luck. See you tomorrow in the forest. Be careful. The first group picks up their backpacks and slowly leaves the scene. MEIR (Interrupting the silence.) In about twenty minutes we will leave. Anybody wants a glass of tea? It will fortify us for the journey. He gets up, approaches the cupboard, takes out glasses and pours hot tea from the tea kettle. They start to drink when a few loud shots are heard, followed by orders barked in German. MEIR Oh my God. They caught them. The German bastards caught them. This is the end! The group sits in silence, each man engulfed in his thoughts, when suddenly the door opens and David walks in, followed by the rest of the group. MEIR Thanks God you are alive. What happened? Did they see you? DAVID Meir, they did not shoot at us. They did not see us. As we approached the brook, we heard a series of shots. We immediately took cover. A few minutes later we saw that the Germans killed a Jewish smuggler. From a distance we could not identify him. MEIR Let's hide the gear in the bedroom. If the police comes to check we will pretend that we did got together to pray. It will take about 30 minutes for the situation to return to normal. Then we will leave, as planned. END OF SCENE ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I-26. SCENE 5 - IN THE FOREST SETTING: A clearing in the forest, surrounded by tall trees and dense vegetation. TIME: Next day in the morning. AT RISE: In the opening three people sit on logs in a forest clearing. MEIR. What happened to David's group? Are they still alive? It is so hard to wait, wait, wait. HENRY Nothing happened to them. Probably, they got lost. MEIR. It is almost 10 o'clock. By now you should have found their way here. What are we going to do? HAIM Couldn't we start building the bunkers ourselves? Why waste time? MEIR We cannot start the building the bunker before we settle things with Anton, the Ranger. HENRY Meir, let's take a chance and pay him the money. MEIR. We can't. Leo has the money. HENRY That is not good. By the way do you trust Anton? I have a leery feeling about him. MEIR. What do you mean by a leery a feeling? HENRY He never looks you straight in the eyes. From my experience, such people are not trustworthy. MEIR. He was highly recommended by Shlomo, the Horse Trader. He knows well his father. He is quite a gentleman. HENRY But how does this reflect on his son? Even a father cannot vouch for his son. Can he?
I-27. MEIR. There is no certainty in anything we are doing nowadays. But what choices do we have? None. We have to trust him. PAUSE After this beautiful breakfasts at Anton's, I feel like in Paradise. The sun is shining so bright, the birds are singing so loud, the air is so refreshing, and most importantly, I have no fear. I walk here like a free man, without the nagging fear, the constant companion in the ghetto. HAIM I'm glad to be here, but I feel no exhilaration. I always remember, my family that vanished like dissolved in the air. I miss them so much. MEIR. Haim, let's think about the future and not the painful past. We are here to prepare a refuge for our families . Don't you forget this! Voices are heard in the distance. Hello. Hello. We are here. MEIR. This is David's voice. They are here! They are here. (loudly.) Hello. Hello. And a few minutes later the group appears at the clearing. They all carry backpacks, only Leo is without one. MEIR. Leo, what happened to your backpack? What happened to you? Did you get lost? DAVID. One thing at a time. Before I start our tale, I had to have a drink of water. I'm dying from thirst. Meir gives them a water bottle. They all drink, thirstily. Afterwards, David sits down on a log and starts speaking. DAVID. After we jumped the ghetto border at the brook, we proceeded quietly to the railroad crossing. We found the crossing closed, because a German troop transport train has broken down or was sabotaged. People gathered at the crossing, talking with the Germans. PAUSE We could not stay there, without creating a suspicion, so we moved into a side street walking around the stalled train. When we reached a place where the tracks were clear, we crossed the tracks, and in the darkness of the night, we got lost. Before long, we found ourselves walking through a village.
I-28. PAUSE. Imagine, three of us of us walking through a sleepy village, when the dogs started to bark, bark, bark. The whole village was awakened and started to chase us. Suddenly the small windows of the peasants hut started to light up and heavy set men with thick clubs appeared on the road and started to chase us. PAUSE. Zydy! Zydy! Zydy! Jews. Jews. Jews. (they yelled) Let's get them. We ran as fast as we could. Suddenly, we saw fiery flash followed by a thunder of a shot. They where shooting at us. We ran fast like deer. Leo could not keep up with us, so he dropped his backpack. At the of the village, we reached the main road and turned left, instead of turning right. And we got lost, lost completely. LEO We wondered a whole night, trying to reach the forest. Without success. Finally, in the morning, we saw a group of peasants riding to the marketplace. We told them that we are Ukrainian Partisans lost in the forest. They gave us a ride, and took us to the Rangers house. And here we are. MEIR. What a tale! I am glad that you are here. I am glad that we are all together. PAUSE You must be hungry. We have food to share. Meir pulls up the backpack, pulls out a loaf of bread, and gives it to do group. Then he turns to Henry. MEIR. Leo, do you have the money? LEO Of course I have the money. I did not keep it in the backpack. MEIR. Finish eating, and let's go to see Anton. (Turning to the group.) You in the meantime can clean out the place and start digging the bunker. The the entrance to the bunker will be located behind this big bush. Just over there. HAIM Meir, don't forget to ask for two pails. We need them to carry the dug out dirt. Don't forget. MEIR. Okay. We will be back in a cinch. In the meantime, you clean up this place and start digging. Meir and Leo exit the stage. The group starts the cleanup and later we see them digging behind the bush. After a one-hour Meir and Leo come back, loaded with two pails and a Italian rifle. Meir sits down and yells to the diggers.
I-29. MEIR. Hey boys, come here. Look what we have here. Isn't this a beauty? It is a treasure. DAVID. We are coming right away. They emerge from the bushes, and Meir shows of the gleaning riffle. MEIR. We have two pails and a gun. a brand new Italian rifle, never used before. Isn't this a beauty? It is a treasure. They started cautiously examine the gun. Curling it like a baby. HAIM I never held a gun in my hand. I never liked guns, but this one is like a baby to me. Beautiful! MEIR Okay boys. We have to work to do. You'll return to the digging, and I have a few things to discuss with David. We will join you shortly. The group returns to digging, while David's and Meir stay behind. MEIR What are we going to do with the gun? We can't take it back to the ghetto, and he cannot leave it with Anton. DAVID. Why? MEIR. Because I don't trust him. DAVID. How can you do business with a guy, you can not trust? MEIR We don't have many choices. Who wants to do business the Jews, nowadays. We are cursed people. Anton is an exception. DAVID. We can do bury the gun in the bunker. Who will find it there? MEIR Maybe this is a solution. Suddenly, Leo appears from behind the bushes.
I-30. LEO This forests has sandy soil, compressed sandy soil. We will never built a bunker here. You take out a pail of sand, and immediately the hole is filled with decompressed sand. I never saw something like this in my life. PAUSE We are working already for hours and there is no trace of our work. Not a dent is made in the soil. MEIR. David, let's go and check it out. Meir and David exit and return back after a minute. MEIR. It is true. It is impossible to build a bunker here. It's shifty sandy soil. DAVID Let's try another place. LEO No, David. All the soil around here is sandy. It is sand all over. There's no use of trying. PAUSE In addition, this place is too close to the main road. A the Germans will be here quite often. We need to place in the middle of a heavy forest. A place so forbidden that the Germans will be afraid to enter. MEIR. It looks like that we have to return to the ghetto, to do our homework, to find the right forest and the right connections. DAVID. Before we go, let's try out the rifle. I volunteer to fire the first shot. MEIR. Okay. Here is the rifle. David's takes the rifle, loads the cartridge and aims at an old tree. He pulls the trigger.... and nothing happens. PAUSE We must have a faulty cartridge. He tries to remove the cartridge, without success. The rifle is jammed. A closely examines the rifle mechanism and and as starts to curse. This rifle is jammed and useless. Anton did a a job on us. He gave us an Italian rifle, and Russian cartridges. He took us for a ride.
I-31. ARNOLD. I never trusted this bastard. He has such a shifted its eyes. I'm afraid that for the moment on, resistance is dead. We have to return to the ghetto and start all over. END OF SCENE ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
32. ACT 2 SCENE 1 RETURN FROM THE FOREST SETTING: The action takes place in the Lehrer's kitchen. TIME: Two days later. AT RISE: At the rise Rachel sits and talks with Eva when Meir and David come in. RACHEL. I wonder what the boys are doing now? Did they get to the forest safely? How did Anton behave? Did he deliver? My thoughts and prayers always with them. EVA So our mine. I love David dearly and hope to marry him soon. Rachel looks around and sees Meir and David entering the scene. RACHEL Here they are! Meir, I am so glad to see you back. I am so happy. She runs towards Meir and embraces him. Eva kisses David. RACHEL How did it go? You are back earlier than expected. MEIR No problems. We just finished our job and came back. RACHEL. You finished your job. That's fantastic. How is the bunker? MEIR Fine, but not finished. RACHEL How about Anton? Did he come through? Did you buy the weapons? MEIR. Okay. David looks at him in amazement.
II-33. RACHEL. Meir, what went wrong? MEIR. Just things did not work out. We have to try another place. PAUSE. Let me tell you Rachel! When I was in the forest. I felt like a newly born baby. Free from fear, enjoying the closeness to nature. The songs of the birds, the fresh air of the forest, the sun shining brightly through the foliage. What a feeling of freedom, and serenity. RACHEL. Meir, I know you too well. What went wrong? MEIR. We selected the wrong location, sandy soil not suitable for bunkers. This was wrong. RACHEL. What about the weapons? MEIR We got an Italian rifle, and Russian cartridges. A bad combination. PAUSE. I feel like a fish out of the water, gasping for air. I am very tired, and feel dejected. I failed badly. This is my fault. DAVID. (Putting down his backpack.) Meir, stop whining. It wasn't your fault. It were the circumstances that caused our failure. The cards were stacked against us. Nothing we could do. RACHEL. Tell us what happened? Let's hear the details. As they say, the Devil is a in the details. DAVID. When we started digging, it turned out that the soil is very sandy, not suitable for building a bunker. MEIR Then the rifle, that we bought from Anton was from the Italian Army while the cartridges where Russian. We jammed to rifle and Anton would not give us a replacement. We had no choice but to abandon the rifle. Imagine the pain I felt afterwards. I failed miserably. PAUSE What do I do now? RACHEL First of all you have to realize that Shlomo the Horse Trader was a bad contact. He operated in a bad neighborhood and associated with bad people. You have to find better contacts. PAUSE Secondly, you have to realize that your priorities were wrong.
II-34. MEIR What do you mean by, wrong priorities? RACHEL You were occupied with organizing resistance, resistance to the Germans. You have to concentrate on survival. Survival of yourself and your family. MEIR Rachel, I love you very much but you are totally inconsistent. On one hand you passively accept Gods judgment, the Bashert, and on the other hand you are actively rejecting resistance and now suddenly you are looking toward me for your salvation. How can it be? PAUSE One thing for sure. You actively reject any solution I propose. RACHEL What do you mean by this? MEIR You rejected an abortion. Are you ready to give the baby away, after it is born? Are you ready for this? RACHEL I leave it in the hands of God. It is the faith in God that keeps me alive, and gives me hope for the future. MEIR You are not the only one. The whole Ghetto is praying. Everybody is praying. Everybody is saying Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. They are so engulfed in the prayers that they have no time to think how to save themselves. They think about the dead more than they think about the living. They are so much connected to the past, they can't think about the future. RACHEL It is the faith of our fathers kept us alive for generations. This is the only thing we know. Sticking to our faith. MEIR It is a fallacy that we keep the faith of our fathers. The Jewish faith changed through generations. The Talmud was one of the vehicles of changes. For example the Laws of the Torah require adultery to be punished by death through stoning. Is this practiced today? No. The Torah accept polygamy. Ancient Israel was a polygamist society. Is this practiced today? No, RACHEL Meir, I am not versed in the religious theology. For me the faith of my fathers is the faith of my father, grandfather and great grandfather. I don't reach a thousand years back. DAVID. Let's change the subject. Let's talk about our plans for resistnce. My father used to be a "jajecznik a Egg Man - a guy that goes out to the villages to buy fresh eggs from the peasants. The eggs were later exported to England. He used to tell us about the foreboding, dense forests in the area of Lopushna. I believe that we should explore this area first.
II-35. MEIR. (Enlivened.) Do you know anybody from this area? DAVID. I knew a family that had a Inn in Lopushna. They were later resettled to the ghetto, and I believe that they all perished in the last action. I can check if any of them survived. MEIR. Please do it. Let's look around. I also believe that Lopushna is a Polish village. They have their troubles with the Ukrainians and may be inclined to work with us. DAVID. I am going home to wash up and immediately afterwards I will start my search. Goodbye Eva. He embraces the Eva and kisses her. She reciprocates. EVA Bye David. I missed you tremendously. Did you miss me? DAVID. Yes. I wished you were there, to experience the flashes of freedom and the joyous exhilaration. Goodbye. I thought about you constantly and missed you painfully. David exits. Rachel (turning to Meir) Meir you still dreaming about resistance. Meir Lehrer and his Group against Hitler and his armies. Tit for tat. Wake up and start striving for survival. MEIR Can't we have both? RACHEL (calmly) No. We have limited time, limited resources, we have to make the right choices. (pause) The sandy soil was a warning from destiny. The resistant is not bashert, predestined. Be realistic. MEIR Realistically. What can I do? RACHEL You could do lots of things, such as looking for a hiding place, trying to get Aryan papers. As long as you are preoccupied with resistance, nothing could be done. Suddenly David comes back.
II-36. DAVID What a coincidence. On the way out I met the guy connected with Lopushna, He just came back from there. He claims that the situation is not that rosy. His name is George. MEIR Who is George and how reliable are his information? DAVID I find him reliable and smart. He is a survivor and a hustler. MEIR What do you mean by a survivor and a hustler? DAVID During the March action he and his family were caught and brought to the mass grave. All his family members were shot, but when his turn came he jumped into the grave before the SS man had a chance to shoot him. He stayed in the mass grave, covered with bodies until the killers departed. At night he left the place covered with blood but unscathed. MEIR What is he doing now? DAVID He deals with everything and nothing. He has extended connections in the Polish circles and they are his base. His father was a rich manufacturer and he is very honest and depended. I vouch for him. MEIR When can I talk with him? DAVID He will be any minute. David walks out and in minute he comes with George. MEIR David told me about you, in details. You have a very impressive personal history. Tell me what are the problems in Lopushna? GEORGE The forbidden forest is infiltrated by Ukrainian Partisans of different political shades. The are all there: The Banderovcy, the Petlurovcy, the UPA. They all are fighting each other. Unless you are heavily armed you stand no chance. MEIR Did you meet any interesting farmers? DAVID Yes I touched base with Mr. Koenigsberg. Despite his German name he is a Polish patriot and quite a gentleman.
II-37. PAUSE The problem is that he is a rich man. He has a big farm and in the middle of the farm there is an oil press. People come from all over the area to press oil from seeds. The place is full of people, all the time. This makes it impossible to hide Jews. It is too dangerous place. MEIR. Maybe a place the looks dangerous could be made safe. George, do you think that there is a place to build a bunker on this farm? GEORGE I believe that a good bunker could be built at the far end of the barn. It is a gigantic barn. MEIR Here is $20 for your George. Please return to Koenigsberg and convince him that we could hide in a bunker and nobody would suspect that somebody is hiding in such a busy place. Please try to make a deal with him. A busy place is the safest place. And money is no object. We will reward him generously. PAUSE Ask him also if you could shelter a woman with a baby on Aryan papers? They have Christian birth certificates. Can he recommend somebody else? George takes the money . GEORGE Thanks Meir. I need the money. I will be back as soon as possible. Goodbye. RACHEL George, wait a minute. I believe that the situation offers many opportunities and Meir should go with you. He will establish the contact and make decisions on the spot. We don't have the time to play around. MEIR What about organizing resistance? I am not ready to give it up. RACHEL Go to Lopushna and check out the situation. But be realistic, and look for good hiding places first. Resistance comes second. MEIR Rachel might be right. George, when are you leaving? GEORGE Tomorrow morning at dawn. MEIR I will go with you. Pick me up. END OF SCENE ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
II-38. SCENE 2 - LOPUSHNA SETTING: Kitchen of the Lehrer's family. TIME: Two days later. AT RISE: Rachel, David and Eva sit at the table when Meir walks in. He looks around. MEIR I am back. What an experience. RACHEL How was it? Did you made any arrangements. MEIR I had a hard time. First George took me to an old widow living at the end of the village. She is extremely poor. She agrees to everything. The problem is that she is extremely poor and she buys with our money a new dress, the villagers will suspect that she is hiding Jews. RACHEL Do we have any other choice? MEIR. Yes. Later George took me to Koenigsberg an I made a deal with him. He is ready to built two bunkers on his property. One will be a hole in the straw filling the barn. It will be above ground, with daylight. The other will be a winter bunker, below ground, also located in the barn. (pause) He accepted my reasoning that the oil press drawing constantly people to his place is a plus. Nobody will suspect that you could be hiding Jews under such conditions. He is considered very rich and flashing new money won't arise suspicions. RACHEL That is fantastic news. Meir thinks a minute. MEIR Not exactly. I tried to convince him to take Rachel with the baby. They will have Christian Birth Certificates. He is afraid do it, unless they have real German Kennkarte issued by the Gestapo. And here is the problem. (pause) What do we do with the baby or where do we get Kennkartes. DAVID How about an abortion?
II-39. RACHEL (indignantly) This is out of the question. Don't even mention it. We have to find a way to get the German Kennkarte or to find people willing to take in the baby. It is simple like that. DAVID I met a Polish guy who claims that for 100 dollars he can provide an authentic Kennkarte issued by the Gestapo. The problem is that I can't vouch for him. MEIR How well do you know him? DAVID I just met him. I don't know him well. The man the introduced him is a good reliable friend of mine. MEIR David, please get in touch with him. Let's start the ball rolling. DAVID I will do it right away. (pause) One other thing I have to tell you. The situation in the Ghetto is worsening by the hour. The epidemic of typhoid is spreading rapidly. I heard that the "Chevra Kedisha" the Burial Society issued a call for volunteers. MEIR I know it, I volunteered a few days ago and got accepted. DAVID Are you crazy. It is a very dangerous job. Why did you do it? RACHEL (Anxiously) You volunteered for the Burial Society. I am distressed and abhorred. MEIR Don't worry. I have my plans. This job will help us survive. You will see. DAVID When are you starting? MEIR Tomorrow morning. RACHEL Meir, you will be going out frequently to the Jewish Cemetery. I have a very good friend Ksenia, living near by. We were neighbors and she loved me tremendously. Please visit her, and tell her that I am pregnant and need her help. She will take the baby. MEIR In a day or two, after I wet my feet in my new profession , I will do it.
II-40. DAVID There is something else I wanted to tell you. It looks like that the German are planning to eradicate the typhoid. They ordered the Jewish Council to evacuate the largest building in the ghetto. It will be converted into Hospital. PAUSE I am afraid that the German healing method will be connected to shooting. At this moment Fryda walks in, she seemed very agitated. FRYDA I am bringing explosive news. The Germans ordered the Police to bring all the typhoid sick people to the newly organized hospital. Any typhoid patient found at home will be shot on the spot. PAUSE I am afraid that Rachel cannot stay home. The pregnancy is quite advanced and it is showing. She might be killed by the Germans. There is no time to waste. RACHEL (Looking at her belly and thinking for a moment.) I think I will have to hide in the bunker. For the time being this is the safest place. MEIR Rachel, will you be able to stay there permanently? Without light, without ventilation, this dump place is not good for a pregnant woman. RACHEL I will make all the necessary improvements. I will make it livable. I have to do it. There is no other solution. Eva will take over the cooking and she will take care of me, when I am buried in this hole. Will you Eva? EVA Of course I will. What a question? MEIR Rachel, are you sure that you want to to go ahead with the pregnancy. There still is time to interrupt the pregnancy. RACHEL Meir, Don't even mention this to me. Only by killing me can you interrupt this pregnancy. Never mention to me this again. Rachel goes to the bedroom to change and comes out dressed in a bathroom gown. She descents into the bunker and Meir follows her. END OF SCENE. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
II-41. SCENE 3 - KSENIA SETTING: The Lehrer's Kitchen TIME: Two months later. AT RISE: Eva is cooking dinner. The door opens and Meir walks in. MEIR. I have some news for Rachel. I visited her old friend Ksenia and it possible that we will find a place for the baby. EVA How did you find it? MEIR. After finishing my job at the cemetery, I walked over to the house of an old client of Rachel. She loves Rachel and wants to help us. Her name is Ksenia. PAUSE Rachel's family helped her out when she was in the dumps. She never forgot it. EVA How did you reach her? MEIR I took a chance, I took off my armband with the Star of David and walked over to her house. She was very happy to see me. She asked about Rachel, about you and she loaded me up with food, to take home. PAUSE I told her about our problems with the pregnancy, the baby, and the unfortunate circumstances. To my amazement, she told me that she will find a place for the baby, a girl or uncircumcised boy. I am going to share the news with Rachel. Meir approaches the cupboard and at the same time Rachel's voice is heard from behind. RACHEL I heard the your voice, Meir. I am coming up. RACHEL Meir did you see Ksenia? MEIR She was excited seeing me. She remembers you kindly. She told me that your father helped her out in the most crucial time of her life and she will never forget this.
II-42. RACHEL (excited) Is she taking the baby? Those are fantastic news. MEIR She is not taking the baby. She said she will find a place for the baby. RACHEL What does this mean? MEIR It means that she will place the baby with some family. RACHEL No. It means that she will find a place for the baby in her house. MEIR In her cat house? RACHEL Yes, in her house. MEIR Forget it. Over my dead body you will give away the baby to a Madam. I don't want the baby to become a illiterate, cheap prostitute. I will never agree to it! RACHEL I know Ksenia to be a warmhearted, decent human being. I fully trust her, and besides what other chances of survival do we have? We leave the baby with Ksenia and go hiding in Lopushna. MEIR You might be right, but the thought that my baby will be raised in a bordello, abhors me. I can't help it. RACHEL So what do you intend to do? Wait for the Messiah? MEIR No, I will wait for the Kennkarte. RACHEL Waiting for the miraculous Kennkarte, until you are killed in the Ghetto. MEIR To change the subject time, when we were out how did you spent your time? RACHEL. Quietly. My belly is growing, as you can see. The baby is growing quietly. The managed to get adequate food. The only problem I had with Eva. She cut down on her food, claiming that she has no appetite. She wanted to save the food for the baby. MEIR. Sorry to hear that. I am back now and I hope to be able to improve our food supply.
II-43. RACHEL. No Meir. I don't want you to start smuggling again. It is too dangerous. MEIR. Don't worry Rachel. I will manage as always. RACHEL Meir, I am worried about the epidemic of typhoid. Typhoid is raging in the Ghetto. Please, be careful. I am afraid if I catch it ...it will be the end. MEIR Don't worry we keep a clean house. Typhoid will not touch us. Meir approaches the cardboard and helps Rachel to descent into the bunker. SCENE 4 - SETTLING DOWN SETTING: Lehrer's kitchen TIME: A month later. AT RISE: Eva is cooking diner. She cooks a pot full of chicken. A delicious smell permeates h the kitchen. The door opens and Fryda walks in. FRYDA Eva , what are you cooking? It smells deliciously. EVA I am cooking chicken broth for Rachel. Poor soul is buried underground. She needs strength and good food, for herself and the baby. FRYDA. How does she feel? EVA Considering the circumstances, not bad. A few nights a week, I go down to sleep with her and keep her company. We became very close now. FRYDA I don't want to be nosy. But how do you get fresh chicken in the ghetto? It baffles me tremendously.
II-44. EVA It is as secret. I promise Meir to keep it secret, but I will tell you. Meir gets it outside the ghetto and smuggles it in. FRYDA How does he smuggle in live chicken? It is impossible. EVA They are freshly killed but not alive. Meir discovered that the Burial Society uses reusable coffins for the burials. After the burial the coffins are returned to the ghetto. Meir stuffs the coffin with food and produce. The Germans are afraid of typhoid, and would not touch the coffin with a 10 foot pole. With the typhoid and the prevailing hunger, Meir is very busy. FRYDA. This is a fantastic idea. Meir is so inventive. But isn't he afraid? EVA He is, but he loves Rachel, dearly and will do anything to help her. FRYDA. Does Rachel know about it? EVA We never discuss those matters. She is afraid to ask. You know living there in this underground hole, without daylight, without fresh air, is no picnic. The other day she asked me to keep the trap door open. So she can see daylight. This is heartbreaking, this situation is heartbreaking. FRYDA. Next week, I can spend a night with her. Let me know what day is convenient for you. Suddenly a strange noise is heard behind the cupboard. The door of the cupboard opens and Meir walks into the scene. EVA (Looks at Meir disturbed.) Meir, for God's sake, you look dejected. What happened? MEIR. (Turning to Fryda) Hi Fryda. Imagine that Rachel found the place for the baby. A gentile woman who wants to take the baby. The problem is that the woman is Ksenia the Madam. What will become of the baby? A cheap prostitute? Never. (pause) The thought that my baby will grow up in a bordello is painful to me. EVA Meir, wash up, eat something. Tomorrow Rachel will change her mind. You will see. Tomorrow will be a better day.
II-45. MEIR (Turning to Fryda) You know what she told me? I lay here in the darkness, all alone with the baby. I talk to the baby, and it understands me. PAUSE I should have stayed in the forest. At this moment, Henry and Helene enter the scene. HENRY. Hi everybody. We are back in the ghetto. FRYDA. I did not see you for over a month. Where have you been? HENRY. George, the man from Lopushna, arranged for us a place to hide. He got us an Ukrainian driver with a horse and buggy, and took us to Lopushna. We stayed there for a month. MEIR, What happened that you returned? HENRY We stayed with a poor farmer, living at the edge of the forest. His name is Matusiak. HELEN. A whole day, we stayed in the forest, at night he slept in a barn. It was a hard life, especially during the rainy days. But it was an acceptable solution. FRYDA What happened? HENRY. We paid Matusiak 20 gold dollars a month. It is a lot of money. PAUSE Matusiak is a very poor man. When he got the money, he spent it immediately on clothing for the whole family. This created suspicion, and a day later and neighbor told him that the village suspects that he is hiding Jews, and became very rich. We have to leave immediately. MEIR. It looks like that survival is more difficult than we have imagined. HENRY. We brought also some good news. The Germans attacked the Partisans in the forest and killed half of them. They wiped out all the forest Partisans. The battle raged for days. The Germans passed about 50 feet from our hideout in the forest. We had lots of luck of not being detected. MEIR Do you think we could build bunkers in the forest now?
II-46. HENRY A small, inconspicuous group could definitely hide in the forest. The Ukrainian Partisans openly challenged the German authorities, and this brought their downfall. We stayed over a month on the outskirts of the forest, close to the village, without being detected. HELEN George knows the area very well, he also knows the people. He could give you the right information and advice. MEIR. Henry, what are you your intentions? Are you going back? HENRY. If I find a good place to hide, I definitely will go back. Staying alive in the Ghetto is getting more difficult with every passing day. MEIR Henry, do you think that we could survive in the forest with the baby? HENRY Meir, you are out of your mind just by rising such a question. The baby will freeze to death at the first snowfall of the winter. MEIR Henry, do you think that organizing a resistance group in Lopushna makes sense? HELEN Whom are you going to resist in the forest? There are no Germans there. SOMTHING SI MISSING. END OF SCENE ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 4 - TYPHOID SETTING: The scene takes place in the bedroom of the Lehrer's residence. Two single beds stand across the room and in at the wall stands stands an old wardrobe and some night tables. Two windows are overlooking an alley. At the right there is a door leading toward the kitchen. The kitchen and the bedroom are seen.
II-47. TIME: 2 weeks later? AT RISE: Eva lays sick in one of the beds, and David talks with Meir in the the kitchen. DAVID. Helene came to catch me. She told me that Eva felt sick, and has high fever. I immediately came running here. I tried to find some aspirins, but could not find any. What are we going to do? It is a no win situation. MEIR. We do have a big problem on our hands. We can't take Eva to the so called hospital, because the Germans will kill her. We can't take her down to the bunker because of Rachel and the baby, might get infected. DAVID. I think you have to keep Eva here. I will take care of her. MEIR. Unfortunately, I can be of little help. You know, maybe I can hire somebody to help out. Money is no object. As a matter of fact, I do have enough money to look for a hiding place outside the ghetto. A place for everybody. For you David, too. DAVID. Thanks. Surviving the typhoid, is the largest challenge now. MEIR. David, do you know, how to cook? DAVID. I had been a single bachelor for a long time. To survive, I had to learn how to cook. MEIR. Please cook something for dinner. I will take food down to Rachel, to the bunker. DAVID As a matter of fact, it looks like that Eva started already to cook dinner, before she fell sick. Suddenly, Fryda appears at the end of the corridor. Looking bewildered. FRYDA. What happened? Are you sick, David? MEIR. David is okay. It is Eva that is sick. FRYDA. Eva is sick? Oh my God! Can I be of any help?
II-48. MEIR. Maybe. Let's see how things develop. Yes, you could do me a favor. Could you go to Dr. Hudish and bring him to see Eva? FRYDA. Of course, I can do it. But please, cover the windows of the bedroom, so nobody can see that Eva is sick. We` don't want any troubles. After Fryda leaves, Meir takes blankets and covers the windows, partially to leave some light in the room. David goes to the kitchen. After awhile, David calls Meir. DAVID. Meir, you can take the dinner down to Rachel, to the bunker. I will try to feed Eva. David approaches Eva with a tray with food and tries to feed her. DAVID. Eat Eva. Eat. You have to have the strength to to return to health. Eat. Please eat, it is good food. Very nourishing. Eva looks at him, sighs deeply, and turns around in bed, without saying a word. While Meir is still arranging his tray , George appears. MEIR David, do me MEIR Rachel! For God's sake, what are you doing here? Please return. It is very dangerous for you being here. RACHEL. Meir, it's my fault that Eva became sick. It this my fault and I can not stay and hide in the bunker. I have to take care of Eva. This is a fair proposition. MEIR. David and I will take care of Rachel. You can not do it. As matter of fact Dr. Hudish is on his way here. Maybe, this is not typhoid. It could be a virus. RACHEL. Meir, do not kid yourself. This is typhoid. I believe that pregnancy provides and immunity from typhoid. My care is needed. MEIR a favor. Take this down to Rachel. David approaches the cupboard but before he could open the door Rachel appears.
II-49. RACHEL Meir, I overheard your conversation with David. I came to take care of Eva. It is because of me she got sick. I have to take care of her. My pregnancy provides me with immunity against typhoid. MEIR Rachel, you are out of your mind. You expose yourself and the baby to mortal danger. Please go down immediately. RACHEL (turning to Meir) I don't think you can leave Eva here, in the Bed Room. The Germans will find her in no time. It's too dangerous. MEIR There is no other solution. We cannot take her to the hospital. We have no other choice. RACHEL At least we should find a way to mask the entrance door. If you mask the door nobody will suspect that there is a room behind the door. DAVID It is an excellent idea. Maybe we should take the old wardrobe from the bed room and use it for covering the entrance door. Meir lets try it. Meir and David push the wardrobe and place at the door. MEIR It fits perfectly, but how will we get into the room? RACHEL Take out the shelves and cut the back panel of the wardrobe. This will make it easy to use the door. RACHEL At this moment doctor Hudish arrived, trailed by Fryda. The doctor carries his briefcase with his instruments. DR. HUDISH. Where is the patient? (Seeing Rachel, he recognizes her.) Hello, Mrs. Lehrer. How are you doing? I must say that you are looking good. How do you feel? RACHEL I feel good. But the situation reversed itself. Now I have to take care of Eva. DR. HUDISH. Let me examine Eva first. Later, I will take a look at you, and see how they baby is doing.
II-50. MEIR. Good idea doctor. Meir leads Dr. Hudish through the door into the bedroom. Doctor Hudish examines Rachel, and then checks out Rachel. Afterwards he has a conference, in the corner of corridor. DR. HUDISH. It looks like to me that Eva is infected with typhoid. All the symptoms are here. She is young and in good shape, but I have detected a murmur in her heart. I hope that this will not create any problems. PAUSE Unfortunately, we don't have any medication available in the ghetto. I suggest you give her aspirins, four times a day. This is the best we can do. Turning to Rachel. You Mrs. Lehrer are in good condition. Considering the circumstances, you are amazing. I think that you are due in about 8 weeks. This is the way it looks to me. PAUSE I believe that you are sleeping in the bunker. That is right. Please check the trap door leading to the bunker. There is a danger that in a week or two, you will not be able to pass the trap door, leading the bunker. You will not be able to get the bunker during emergencies. PAUSE I suggest that you get into the bunker and stay through the delivery. You went so far, you'll have to go that extra mile. RACHEL But it is not healthy. Is it, Doctor? Meir took the doctor aside to pay him for the visit. Afterwards he turned to Rachel. MEIR Rachel darling, you have to get down immediately. Tomorrow might be too late. Now Fryda approaches Eva. FRYDA Eva, I volunteer to help out. I am all alone, and I will be very happy to help in time of need. This will be good for me too. END OF SCENE ----------------------------------------------------------
II-51. SCENE 5 - DEATH AND BIRTH The Kitchen of the Lehrer's residence. TIME: A month later. AT RISE: All people are assembled in the kitchen. It is after the funeral. Everybody talks about Eva. FRYDA She was such a wonderful, giving person. Never thought about herself. Always caring about others. HELEN. She looked so healthy and succumbed so fast to the typhoid. This is unbelievable. HENRY What is David going to do now? He was so in love with her. ARNOLD. Meir looks so worried. Things don't go well, here. Meir walks in from the bedroom, he is carrying a diary notebook. He approaches David. MEIR David, look what I found, a diary written by Eva. She writes about Rachel. Please read it aloud. Please, read it. David takes the diary, looks it over and starts reading. DAVID. Eva writes: Rachel's state of mind is very depressing. I am afraid that she is not going to make it. All those sacrifices, will be in vain. I am going to quote her verbatim. DAVID. May 14, 1943 I am buried in a live tomb. How am I going to survive here, without light, without air, with all the dampness. Sometimes I wish to be dead now. May 16, 1943. I discovered that I am not alone. I am with the baby. I started to talk to her, and the baby listens. This makes my life a bit easier.
II-52. (CONTINUED) May 18, 1943. Tonight, I woke up, all perspired. I had a vision that I am talking to God. I asked him, why does it happen to us. I did not get an answer. May 22, 1943 Tonight, I woke up in the middle of that night. I did not know where I am. I called Meir but he did answer me. May 24, 1943. I am getting scared, that something will happen upstairs and I will be left alone in this tomb, alone, to die. Can the baby live if I die? May 25, 1943. I woke up at tonight and heard the baby talking to me. Hallucinations? When will this end? David was still reading the diary, when one heard loud screaming from the bunker. Help! Help! I am giving birth. Meir was first to react. MEIR. Please leave us now, go to the next room. We have an emergency on our hands. Please leave. The assembled left the kitchen swiftly. Afterwards Meir approached the cupboard, preparing to go down, when Fryda pushed him aside. FRYDA. Meir. She is giving birth. You don't belong there. Let me go down. I am an and woman, and I have experience. Meir steps aside. MEIR. Okay Fryda. You go. Fryda descends into the bunker, and a few minutes later, she yells.
II-53. FRYDA Meir. Give me a flashlight. It is dark here. I can't see anything. Meir picks up a flashlight and throws it down to the bunker. MEIR. Fryda pick up the flashlight. It's down there. FRYDA She is giving birth. Please bring the midwife. Hurry up! The baby is on its way. Meir runs out in the hurry, yelling to David. MEIR. David, I am running for Gittel, the midwife. You stay here. Fryda yelling from the bunker. David, are you there? Please prepare a basin with hot water. We will need lots of hot water to clean up the baby and to mess around here. DAVID. Okay. I do it right away. David looks for a basin, then puts a few pots with water on the stove and starts the fire. Meir arrives with the midwife. Meir turning to Gittel. MEIR. Gittel, here is the entrance to the bunker. Rachel is there with Fryda. Gittel descends into the bunker. DAVID. Meir, we need a basin with hot water. Please help me to start up the fire. They both work hard to kindle the fire, when Gittel calls up. GITTEL Mazal Tov! Mazal Tov! It's a baby girl! it's a baby girl! A beautiful baby. Now we need water. We need hot-water. Please throw down the baby clothes that were prepared, and a clean blankets too. Meir goes to the bedroom and brings out in a bundle of clothing. He throws the bundle down into the bunker. A few minutes later, Fryda, appears. Her clothing is stained with blood. She picks up the baby handed over by Gittel.
II-54. Meir, looks at the baby, afraid to take it in his arms. Turning to Fryda. MEIR Let's put a baby in our bed. We don't have a crib. (Turning to David.) David, it is a pity that the Eva did not live to see the baby. It's such a pity. At this minute George enters. He looks around not knowing what is going on. GEORGE (apologetic) Meir, I am sorry but I could not make it to the funeral.I was arranging the Kennkarte. MEIR. You missed the funeral, but luckily you came after the birth. It is a girl. GEORGE Congratulations. Mazal Tov! Meir can I talk to you privately? MEIR Of course. But no too long. I am very busy. GEORGE David asked me to arrange the obtaining of a Kennkarte for you. I met with the guy that provides the Kennkarte. His name is Budzynski. It turned out that he is a Volksdeutsche, a German Collaborator. He also works for the Polish Underground, I gave him the money. Here is the deal. (Pulls out a document and turns it over to Meir.) This is a real birth certificate of Genia Kwasniewska. She is about 30 years old and was sent to Siberia by the Russians. This is good because nobody can trace her down. MEIR What papers does he require form us? GEORGE No papers but two passport pictures. MEIR Passport pictures? This can be a problem. How do we get the pictures when there is no Photographer in the Ghetto? GEORGE Couldn't Rachel sneak out from the ghetto and have her pictures taken by a local photographer? I could arrange it. MEIR It is to dangerous. Rachel just gave birth and will be feeding the baby. She will hardly stand on her feet. Let me talk to her. Meir descents into the bunker.
II-55. GEORGE David, I am sorry to hear about your loss. She was such an outstanding woman. So devoted so courageous. DAVID. I am still in the denial stage. It is hard to face it, although it is said in the Talmud that disasters affecting whole communities are easier to bear by an individual. It takes off the individual responsibility. GEORGE Interesting thought. I myself went through it when al my family was obliterated, in one day. At this moment, there was a noise at the cupboard and Meir emerges. MEIR Rachel found a solution. She s a smart cookie. Instead of leaving the ghetto it is easier to bring a camera into the ghetto. GEORGE It is a fantastic idea. I will try to buy or borrow a camera. It is a done deal. END OF SCENE -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 6 - THE ESCAPE SETTING: The kitchen of the Lehrer's residence. TIME: Two weeks later. AT RISE: Rachel and Meir are sitting at the table in the kitchen. MEIR. The a baby sleeps so peacefully. I wonder what will happen to her, what will happen to us? RACHEL. It is all in God's hands. MEIR. But God helps people that help themselves. Helen and Henry walk in. HELEN. We came to say goodbye. We leaving now.
II-56. PAUSE We are going to the forest of Lopushna. Matusiak prepared a dug-out, deep in the forest, and promised to be less conspicuous with his spending of our money. HENRY I hope that things will work out well for you both. You deserve it. Goodbye. What are your plans? Are you leaving? RACHEL I wish we could. It is Meir's gullibility. She still waits for the Kennkarte. I would do things differently. HELEN. How would you do things differently? What would you do? RACHEL We found an elderly prostitute , a very gentle and reliable woman She is ready to take the baby, but Meir refuses to consent. MEIR I don't want my baby to grow up to be an illiterate prostitute. I prefer waiting for the Aryan papers. They have to come, sooner or later. RACHEL The guy is taking us for a ride. He will never deliver the papers. Without the baby, we have a chance to survive. It is too late to wait for the papers. At this moment, David and George walk in. DAVID We came to say goodbye. We are leaving tonight. GEORGE I spoke to Budzynski again. He claims that the papers are coming every minutes now. He gave me thousands excuses, the German guy is sick, the German guy is on vacation, etc. I am sorry, but I don't trust him. He took the money, and now he gives excuses. RACHEL Meir, do you hear this? We are playing with fire. It is time to move. Meir looks at Rachel without answering. DAVID. We came to say goodbye. We are leaving tonight. MEIR Where are you going? GEORGE We are going to hide in the forests of Lopushna. We had to give it a try. We have nothing to lose. HELEN. We are going there too. Hope to see you there.
II-57. David's steps forward embraces Rachel and shakes hands with Meir. DAVID. It is time to go. We have to pack. We have to carry all our belongings on our backs. Goodbye and good luck. HELEN Helen, we have to say goodbye too. Good luck David, George, Henry and Helen exit. RACHEL Rachel, it is high time to make a decision. Let's bundle up the baby and take it Ksenia. MEIR Meir, I am sorry. I can't do it. For the sake of the baby I can't do it. RACHEL For the sake of the baby? How come? MEIR Ksenia is an old woman. As soon as she appears on the street for the baby. everybody will know that this is a Jewish child. Don't you see the danger? RACHEL Meir you are just looking for excuses. You're very obstinate and self-centered. I had it. If you want to stay -- you stay. I will take the baby and run. At this moment Fryda walks in. She is very disturbed. FRYDA. I came to warn you. There are rumors in the ghetto that the killings will start today. Judenrein, the Shtetl will be free from Jews. PAUSE Supposedly, they saw trucks with the SS approaching the ghetto. Escape! What are you waiting for? RACHEL. We have no place to run, especially with the baby. At this moment, shooting and yelling starts. FRYDA. I am running to hide in the bunker. Save yourself. Rachel grabs her coat and picks up the baby, wraps it up in the blanket. Puts the baby away and disappears for a moment. When he comes back he shows the money to Meir and then picks up the baby. RACHEL Meir, I have the money, and I'm taking the baby to Ksenia. You can stay if you wish.
II-58. Rachel runs out, and Meir follows her. END OF SCENE. --------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 7 - AT KSENIA'S HOUSE SETTING: Scene takes place at Ksenia's house. At left there is a door, above the door there is a window. The focal point of the kitchen is a big round table with chairs. At the right stands a stove, a sink and a cupboard. TIME: Two hours later. AT RISE: At the rise Rachel and Meir, standing outside, are knocking gently on the window. Ksenia sits at the table, and knits a sweater. Hearing the knocking she turns around and opens the door. KSENIA At last you came. Thank God that you are here. Did somebody see you coming? Please put the baby on the table. RACHEL Nobody saw us. We were very careful. KSENIA. Takes the baby and looks at her with a smile. The baby opens her eyes and smiles. It is a beautiful girl. I love her already. It looks like they already have bonded. Ksenia, turning to Rachel. I own your father quite a few favors. At that time that I was sick and penniless, he extended me a huge credit. He saved my life. Yes, he saved my life. I will never forget it. I will do my best to save the baby for you. MEIR. That means that you are taking the baby. KSENIA. Yes, I love her already. MEIR. The baby needs many things, a carriage, a crib, clothing. Let me leave you money. You will need it.
II-59. KSENIA. Don't worry about money. I will manage. Afterwards, you will return me the money. MEIR. No. I insist that you would take the money. He pushes her a bundle of banknotes. RACHEL. Ksenia. I have strong fears. Really strong fears. PAUSE I fear that once the neighbors see you with a baby, they will suspect that it is Jewish. KSENIA. (laughing) You don't know Ksenia. I am an old fox at camouflaging. I already told my neighbors, that one of my girls was in impregnated by a high a high German official. On his request, I will be taking care of the baby. In this neighborhood, nobody fools around the German officials. Your baby will be safe in my hands. Don't worry about it. RACHEL Thanks. I feel so relieved. Thank you. Thank you very much. (pause) Ksenia, how long can we stay here? KSENIA. I wish I could hide you. But this is an open house. I really can't do it. You can stay overnight. You will sleep in my room, but at dawn, you have to leave. PAUSE Where are you going? MEIR We are heading towards Lopushna, which is about 10 km from here. KSENIA I have an idea. My neighbor Danillo, can take you there. He has a horse and buggy. I am going to talk to him, right now. Wait here. Sit down and make yourself comfortable. Ksenia exits. MEIR Do you trust her? Maybe she went to call the Germans? RACHEL I trust her like my mother. She is a very smart woman who pulled herself up from the gutter. She is sensible and sensitive. They sit down at the table and Rachel takes the bundled up baby and starts talking to her.
II-60. RACHEL. Goodbye Aviva. We called you Aviva which me Spring time in Hebrew. You brought us much hope, into our lives. You are like a spring awakening to a new life. PAUSE Please remember me, your mother and Meir your father, whenever you are. You are the source of our miraculous renewal. We love you so much. PAUSE. Always remember your roots. You are Jewish, and hopefully you will remain Jewish. I wish to see you five years from now. You will be a blooming young lady. I hope that I will live to see you, then. At this moment Ksenia came back. KSENIA. I arranged everything with Danillo. Tomorrow at four o'clock in the morning, he will be here. He will bring an Ukrainian attire for Rachel, and an old Russian soldiers coat for Meir. Rachel will look like a braids maids going to a wedding and Meir will look like an old homeless tramp. Nobody will bother you. PAUSE He will take you, by side roads, to Lopushna. Okay Rachel. The most important things are settled. We have to sit down and talk. I guess I will do most of the talking. PAUSE. After you came here last time, I decided to go to my priest, father Gavrillo, and ask him if a Christian like myself, is allowed to save a Jewish child. This is a simple question, but it needs to be answered, not so for myself, as for my neighbors. PAUSE Father Gavrillo, after listening to me said that in the eyes of God every child is innocent. God loves all the children, and he died for their salvation and for all mankind. Nevertheless, for the sake of myself and for the sake of the child, the child should be baptized. RACHEL Do we have to do it? KSENIA Yes. I have to have a clear conscience. It will determine my relationship with the baby. In my eyes, I am saving a Christian baby. I will love it much more. MEIR. Rachel, it does not make a difference. We are not martyrs for the faith. Rachel wanted to say something, but Meir, cut her of. MEIR. Okay. What else do we have to discuss? KSENIA The name. You call the baby Aviva. This has to change. The name has to blend with the neighborhood. I think that Marina would he a nice name.
II-61. RACHEL Okay. You can call it Marina. It is close to Mary, Miriam. My mother's name was Miriam. MEIR. OK. Agreed. KSENIA When the baby is Christened it also has to be registered. I had a girl named Lesia Petruk. I will register the baby as the daughter of Lesia Petruk, father unknown. RACHEL From now on, Aviva Lehrer is becoming Marina Petruk, a German bastard. In crazy times, it sounds good. MEIR There is another thing I would like to do. I left you some money, but I also want to give you a deed to my property. The Germans are losing the war, and sooner or later, times will return to normal He pulls out from his pocket a folded paper, and gives it to Ksenia. This is very deed to our property. It is yours and Marina's. It is just a formality. Ksenia takes the paper. KSENIA Thanks Meir. I have a feeling that you will survive, and all this will be unnecessary. Now it is time to go to sleep. You have to be rested. You have a difficult day in front of you tomorrow. At this moment, there was a knock at the door. KSENIA Go upstairs. Fast. Somebody is at the door. Meir and Rachel exit fast, while Ksenia opens the door. Barbara, her neighbor comes in. BARBARA. Did you hear the latest news? They are killing the Jews in the ghetto. It is horrible. The Germans warned people from hiding Jews, under the penalty of death. The Germans mean it. She looks around and cease the baby on the table. She cautiously approaches to table and looks at the baby. BARBARA. Ksenia, is this a Jewish child? Tell me.
II-62. KSENIA Are you crazy. I would take in a Jewish baby? You remember Lesia, the shy girl, that worked for me? Nice looking, but shy. She got pregnant by a high German official, and I agree to take care of her baby. As a matter of fact, the baby to be Christened on Thursday morning, in our church. I am inviting you for the ceremony, that will be performed by father Gavrillo. Please come. PAUSE. And now I have a splitting headache, and I have to say goodnight. See you in Church on Thursday. Now let's go to sleep. We have to be rested for tomorrow. END OF SCENE ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 8 - THE BUNKER SETTING: The bunker under the Koenisberg's barn. A small area about 10 feet long and 8 feet wide. At the right upper corner there is a masked trap door, leading toward the bunker. At the front, at the left and right there are two bundles of straw, used for sleeping. The bunker is lit by a small oil lamp, with a flickering flame, giving the area an unearthly appearance. At the upper left there is the end of the ventilation pipe, serving also as the listening post. At the right middle of the wall, stands a small shelve with water and bread supplies. The oil lamp stands on the shelf. TIME: March of 1944. AT RISE: Rachel and Meir are resting on their straw bundles and talking. MEIR We are here almost ten months. Imagine ten months without seeing the daylight. Ten months without stretching the legs. We became underground moles.
II-63. RACHEL I spent additionally four months in a bunker in the ghetto during my pregnancy. But those were the easy months. I wonder if we will survive. Are we ever see our baby? MEIR At night I heard artillery rumbling in the distance. The Russian are near and we are going to make it. RACHEL We went through so many exciting moments, like the fall of Stalingrad, the liberation of Italy, the opening of the second front in France, so much exciting moments followed by disappointments. Now, I am afraid to hope. MEIR Where there is hope there is life and there is no life without hope. There is knock at the door trap. Meir moves quickly and opens the door. Koenisberg voice is heard clearly although his face is not visible. KOENISBERG The Russians are very near, about 10 miles form here. They should be here within 4-5 days. Unfortunately, I can't wait for them. I am considered a rich man, an enemy of the people. I am afraid for my life and I am running away with the Germans. I brought you 4 loafs of bread and 5 gallons of water. This should be enough for at least 4 weeks. MEIR Mr. Koenisberg, would it be advisable for us to move to the forest and wait there for the Russians? KOENISBERG No. I don't think so. At the beginning of the year there were about 350 Jews in the forest. Now, there are only 50. You don't want to take unnecessary chances. MEIR Do you have by chance a trusted man that could help us? We will pay him well. KOENISBERG It is rather difficult. It is hard to find an honest and reliable man, today. Everybody runs for the fast buck. MEIR I am concerned that if something goes wrong we will perish in this hole. It is like being buried alive. KOENISBERG I do have a decent field hand, but he is not too smart. Let me think about it. Here is the bread and the water. You are going to make it. Good luck. I have to go packing. He turns the bread and the water to Meir.
II-64. MEIR Thanks Mr. Koenigsberg. If you run into troubles with the Russian, you can count on our help. Good Bye and thanks. You are a real gentlemen and we are lucky that we run into you. Thanks. Meir closes the door trap. RACHEL Are you worried, Meir? MEIR I feel helpless and concerned. If the situation changes, we are up the creek. Nothing will help us. RACHEL Don't imagine the worst and respond to your imagination. I am full of hope. MEIR Rachel, you are a perennial optimist. I am a realist. RACHEL Now we are left alone, we have to keep watch at the ventilation pipe to listen in what happened above ground. When we hear Russian songs we will know that the danger is over. MEIR We also should start rationing the bread and the water, to make sure that we have enough for at least 2 months. You never know. END OF THE SCENE. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- SCENE 9 - THE END IS NEAR SETTING: The underground bunker. TIME: Three months later. AT RISE: Rachel is crouching near the ventilation pipe, listening to the voices above. RACHEL Meir, what are those Germans doing here? You never told that the Germans are living in the house. What is going on?
II-65. MEIR I tried to shelter you from the bad news. RACHEL What is the bad news? MEIR It looks like the Germans stopped the Russian advance and took back a major city - Tarnopol. The Germans tuned the house into a Military Police Station. We are isolated and our jail is sealed. RACHEL What should we do? MEIR Stay quiet and keep our rations down. RACHEL Apiece of bread a a glass of water a day, you call rations. MEIR Rachel, I know that it is hard on you. It is worse for me. I cannot take it anymore. At night I can't sleep because of my skin and bones body. The skin hurts and all the night I am dreaming about water. I am worried what will happen if one of us dies. Where will one bury him? How will the survivor dig the grave? With a table spoon I suppose. I am giving up. RACHEL Meir you cannot do it to me. For the sake of the baby we have to live. We are so close to liberation. We have to hold on to life. MEIR. So close and so far. I am not going to make it. My strength is waning from hunger and thirst. Rachel, I have been a good husband to you but I can not take it. Good Bye Rachel. I am quitting. (He moves closer to the trap door) RACHEL (With unbelievable agility she jumps out from bundle of straw and gets to the exit trap, blocking the exit) Meir Lehrer, over my dead body you will leave the bunker. You will have to kill me first. Do you have the strength to do it? Take another piece of bread. Meir resigning, backs off the door and lies down on his bundle of straw. MEIR Rachel, you won again. I wonder what keeps you going. It must be the strength of the weaker sex.
II-66. RACHEL No Meir, it's something that you can't understand. It is the love of a mother, the responsibility for the future of the baby. It is something that is penetrating every fiber of my body. MEIR You are amazing. Maybe it is my age but but I don't have the stamina and perseverance. You won for now. At this moment there was a perking roaring of a aircraft engine, resembling the sound of a lawnmower. RACHEL What is the noise? MEIR This is the noise of the "kukurudzynik".' RACHEL What is this? MEIR This is a small Russian biplane, made out of a aluminum frame covered with canvas. It flies very low and is very hard to shoot down, because the bullet make holes in the canvas and the plane flies away. At this moment a big explosion is heard. RACHEL My God what is this? MEIR They are throwing phosphorous hand grenades at the Military Station. I hope that they hit this barn and they will this barn and finish our misery. RACHEL Meir shut up for God's sake. Let them hit the house but not the barn. Almighty God, for the sake of the baby let us survive. A minute later the planes were flying away and over the vent pipe one heard loud German voices barking some orders. MEIR One thing is sure, the Russians are close to us. Those planes operate only as ground support. END OF SCENE. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
II-67. SCENE 10 - REUNION SETTING: Ksenia's house. TIME: July of 1944 AT RISE: Meir and Rachel, looking haggardly, slowly approach the house. RACHEL. I am so anxious to see our baby. She must be a big girl, by now. She is over one year old. I am very afraid of this encounter. How will she react to us? How will Ksenia behave? Will she willingly return the baby? MEIR The worst is over. We are free people now. Things will settle. Nothing to be afraid of. I feel ecstatic and euphoric. We survived the catastrophe, we are alive. They knock at the window. Nobody answers. Ksenia is not home. They sat down on the steps of the house, waiting for her. RACHEL. Meir, do you think that we will have more children? MEIR. Rachel. This is a silly question. It is a war going on. Living with the Russians will not be easy. What about if they decide to take me to the Army, Russian army. How can I answer your question? RACHEL It looks like, that after the euphoria wears out, we are not out of the woods. MEIR. We are out of the woods, for me. But we have to start from scratch, to organize a new life. We will make it. At this moment Ksenia approaches pushing a baby carriage, KSENIA, (seeing them.) You are here. Why so late? It is almost 4 weeks after the liberation. Where have you been? Rachel runs to the carriage, pushes Ksenia away and sticks her head into the carriage.
II-68. RACHEL. She is so beautiful! The baby starts to cry. KSENIA I guess the baby is sleepy. Let's put her into the crib. It is upstairs. They walk into the house, and Ksenia takes the baby upstairs. Rachel and Meir follow her. The baby continues to cry. After a while, Meir and Rachel come down, why Ksenia remains with the baby. RACHEL. I think that the baby is afraid of us. How can it be? MEIR. The baby does not know us. She is bonded with Ksenia and thinks that Ksenia is her real mother. Babies form attachments, early in life. RACHEL. What are we going to do? It is heartbreaking. MEIR Give it's time, everything can and will be settled. Ksenia comes down from upstairs and sits down at the kitchen table. KSENIA Unfortunately, the baby is not used to strangers. RACHEL. But we are not strangers. KSENIA Yes, but for a long time, the only person that the baby saw was me. Turning to Meir. I waited for you to show up, for almost a month. Why are you so late? RACHEL. Meir was very sick. He had an acute diarrhea. MEIR. We were hiding in a underground bunker, in Lopushna. The Russians approached Lopushna in March of 1944, and our benefactor, who being a rich man, was afraid of the Russians, fled with the Germans.
II-69. PAUSE. "The Russians will be here any moment. I am leaving", he said to us. He left us with a supply of bread and water adequate for three weeks. Unfortunately, the Germans make a counter offensive and pushed the Russians back. KSENIA Oh my God! MEIR The farm was empty and was taken over by the German military police, with us sealed in an underground bunker without food, without water. KSENIA All my God! How did you survive? RACHEL. The almost died from hunger. We were very close to death. As one moment toward the I lost consciousness, my lips where parched, I could not lift myself up. I was giving up, then suddenly the baby's face flashed through my mind. The baby is waiting for you, I told myself. You have to get up. I mobilized my waning strength, got up and took a sip of water, and stayed alive. MEIR. Yes. The baby saved us from death. The "Bashert" miracle worked. KSENIA You have quite a story to tell. I'm sorry to say that. RACHEL. This is not the end of the story. After the liberation when we emerged from the bunker, hardly alive, Meir saw`a field hand carrying a pail of water for the cows. He grabbed the pail, stuck his head into it and ...drank half a pail of water. He got an acute diarrhea and couldn't move for weeks. KSENIA Where do you stay? RACHEL. We just came in. We have no place to stay. KSENIA Why don't you move in and stay with me. After the baby gets used to you, we will take the next step. RACHEL Ksenia let me go up and see the baby, once more Rachel walks up to the room and a moment later comes down carrying the baby She shows the baby to Meir. RACHEL Meir, isn't she pretty? Her smile pays for all those dark days spent in the bunker. I love her so much.
II-70. NARRATOR Rachel, Meir and a Aviva survived the catastrophe. Meir and Rachel lived with the baby and Ksenia a for about three months, until the baby accepted Meir and Rachel, and attached himself to them. After this, the new family left for Poland, and later for Israel, where the family settled, and Meir opened to small business. END OF PLAY -------------------------------------------------------------------------