Chapter l -April – Russia, 1940

 

 The End of That Day

 

     Again, he had that sense of ‘imbalance’, so sharp was it that he almost turned back from the dark Katyn Forest. But instead, Christian looked ahead and saw an intense light. On this morning of his fourteenth year he did not want to disappoint his father.

      Mesmerized, he let the light pull him in, even though everything inside told him to run and never look back. He did not realize his dog, Dame, had stopped, nor did he hear her low unearthly growl. He walked into the light. A profound pain plunged him to the ground. The Boxer, whimpering, crawled to his side and began licking his face and fists. Never had the ‘feeling’ been so intense - or lasted so long.

       Christian thrust his clenched fists into his shut eyes to stop the daggers which shot through his temples and lodged themselves in the sockets behind each eye. The dream would pass - he told himself - like it always had all of his young life, but this time he could see the faces vividly, appearing out from behind the fog.  The blond young men with blue hollow eyes too old for their young faces came one after another. Most were missing teeth as they vacantly looked past one another with mouth agape and drool at the corners of their mouths.

 

Beginning of Chapter 1

     This time it was no dream. He was awake. They passed in single file in front of him. He could see the entire human parade -. If a man occasionally stumbled and fell, the one behind just stepped on him. No man in the line had the awareness or strength to step over the fallen ones. The faces of the men he had sketched for years in his journals walked in vivid color in front of him.

     In those minutes, Christian could see through the line of shadows to the great earthen mounds which seemed to reach halfway up the pine trees. None of the men looked to the sky. He shook his head; the pain was gone, but the men kept coming. Now, the sound made sense to him. The sound that he had heard all his life - through the years - the slow push and stumble of leaden feet through pine needles which couldn’t muffle so many footsteps. For the first time he looked down to their feet- swollen purple, pus-filled, bleeding and lined with streaks of gray; the feet sloshed through the mist - methodically leading each man in the parade of the almost dead.

     Christian could no longer look at their wounded feet or empty faces. Instead, he focused on the blur of uniforms in front of him. Tattered, dirty, and thread bare, they must have held glory at one time, for he could discern an occasional mark where a bar or epaulette should have been. The uniforms hung from the frames of these once muscular beautiful young men. A ripped off sleeve or shredded shirt revealed sharp protruding shoulder blades, and ribs thinner than any child’s. Then he saw the eagle insignia and heard a hoarse whisper in Polish.

      “Please… mama … help.”

     The boy fell forward and Christian could clearly see his face when it hit the soft pine needles. The blond boy was no older than he. His face was bruised and one eye was swollen shut. His blond hair lay dirty and matted to his cheek.

    “Get up my son.” The older man behind him said in Polish. He hesitated but bent down to pull him up. “Remember the other soldier… for the love of God, get up!”

     The boy was on all fours, and as he raised his head, his  eyes looked straight into Christian’s. “Have mercy,” he cried.

     Christian buried his head in Dame’s fur. He understood every word of Polish - and understood he could not answer. With his ear pressed to the ground, he knew someone else was coming. Then he heard his native Russian.