- If you have headache, comb your hair with a wooden hairbrush - said Hakim, and stroked Ida's head. Then he rummaged in his pocket, pulled out something wrapped in paper and handed it to her. It was a small piece of rafinated sugar.
- Thank you! And then the pain will pass?
- Of course it will!
- How do you know?
- That's what my grandfather used to say.
- Do you have a grandfather?
- All people have a grandfather - smiled Hakim.
She was not afraid of Hakim like other children, she even liked him. And even now she was warm from his touch.
- Ida, go home! - Maria called her from the window in the first floor.
-You're talking to this old man again. How many times I told you, do not get close to him – Maria scolded her daughter when the girl came into the house.
- He's kind. He is also clean; he is washed five times a day.
-Ida, how do you know how many times he washes?
- Dad said that he washes five times a day; he always has a mat with him.
-Praying, you wanted to say he is praying- laughed Maria.
- Mom, buy me a wooden hairbrush.
Maria looked attentively at Ida, and repeated: "A wooden hairbrush". She took her daughter by the hand, and they went into the entrance. Maria led the girl down the stairs to the basement, taking with her a kerosene lamp. Ida was afraid to go to the basement alone, but she was always drawn there, there was so much interesting! Even the old piano was standing there, so she wanted play on it. Twelve high stairs and one low led down to a huge door. Maria lit the lamp and opened the door, they went deep into the basement. Ida looked around with interest. Mom stopped at a wooden shelf and easily pushed it away. Behind that wooden shelf was the door into which they had entered. It was a small room with a dim light filtering through a dusty window at the level of the sidewalk. On the side was an old leather sofa, from under which Maria pulled out a small yellow suitcase.
At home Maria wiped the dust from her suitcase and carefully opened it. There were multicolored ribbons, several embroidered lacy napkins, a carved mirror and a small wooden hairbrush.
-Here's a wooden hairbrush and a mirror for you.
- Hooray! Now I will not have a headache.
- Do you have a headache? You did not tell me, daughter.
- Yes, when I'm scared and when I want to eat. When my father was taken, I was very sick and had headache. When he will return?
- Soon, soon - Maria hugged her daughter and sighed sadly.
Maria put several small nodules in the suitcase and closed it. Then they went down again to the basement.
- Daughter, do you like to play hide-and-seek?
- Oh sure! - Ida was glad.
-Ida, you'll have to hide here in the basement, in this room, when I tell you. There is food in the suitcase, and here the water is in the pitcher. Do not drink too much and do not eat fast. Sit quietly until I come for you.
I was going to Poland, I was rewarded with a trip from the Komsomol committee, and this was an awesome event! Before the trip, we passed the medical examination and met with the rector of the institute.
- Behave like a real Soviet youth. Do not disgrace the name of the Komsomol member; do not disgrace the honor of our institute in a friendly socialist country. Show yourselves as benevolent and erudite people! - has directed us the rector.
Warsaw amazed me with the abundance and splendor of the churches. And all of them turned out to be active, among the believers - many young people. It seemed strange and surprising to me.
In the church of St. Anne we entered during the festive service. Sounds of the organ tuned to a solemn mood, and as if led for themselves us to another world. I felt that there I would be happy. And the mind resisted believing it; it seemed that this illusion was melting at the most inopportune moment, leaving a bitter disappointment in my soul.
The guide invited us to stay until the end of the service. But the head of our group insisted that we should immediately leave the church. He constantly criticized the Poles for their religiosity. He did not like the excursion dedicated to Frederic Chopin. Sabit Balgabaevich believed that the Poles too much elevated the composer, almost like Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. The guys said he was from the KGB. Noticing that our girls are attracting the attention of Polish men, he held a conversation with us:
- You can be invited somewhere, for example, to a theater, a movie or a visit. Do not agree in any way, you are in a foreign country, next to it is the Wild West. If you feel danger, contact me immediately. You are still young and inexperienced, you can be deceived.
One day we went on an excursion to the area of the Warsaw ghetto.
-What is the ghetto? - asked my classmate Sveta.
-The camp for the Jews- answered Sabit Balgabayevich.
- And what for Jews have separate prisons in Poland? And where did they get so many Jews? -She was surprised.
In the ghetto area, I had a very bad headache. I rummaged in my bag and took out a wooden hairbrush with a few broken teeth, took off my hairpin and started combing.
- Buy yourself a decent hairbrush, do not disgrace yourself - I was struck by Sveta.
-I need a wooden hairbrush, if you see it, say it.
We walked along a wide cobbled street, and then turned into a narrow alley. My head ached with renewed vigor. I rummaged in my bag in search of a hairbrush and fell behind the group. I found myself at the half-open window above the sidewalk and squatted down, the bag slipped from my hands. Part of the contents poured onto the sidewalk, something fell into the window, and the passport got stuck in the hole. Trying to get it, I threw it down with an awkward movement. A man was walking toward me.
-Excuse me the pan, my passport fell through there - I pointed out the window. He replied something to me in Polish, and I realized that I had to follow him. He turned to the left and pointed me to the door, wished good luck and retired. I went into the porch entrance and looked around.
High walls, cool stone floors and a ladder to the right down. I started to descend, counting the steps to myself: “one, two, three, four ...”
- Pani, are you looking for something?- I heard a voice above my head.
- Good afternoon, Pani! I'm a tourist from the USSR, my passport fell into a small window over the sidewalk, and I need to get it.
- Passport? - A woman with black curvy curls, in the kitchen apron looked at me in bewilderment.
- Yes, the passport. Excuse me, I do not speak Polish. Sprechen Sie Deutsch? -I asked her in German.
-Yes, dear lady. Let me see what you are doing here, -she answered in German with a strange accent. I explained everything to her. She brought a lantern from the apartment on the first floor and the keys. We went downstairs with her. She opened the heavy door and we entered a dark low cellar. My head ached all the time.
-Be careful, there is a high threshold here- said the woman, opening an inconspicuous door in the depths of the cellar. Despite the warning, I stumbled painfully and fell to the floor of a tiny little room, next to my open passport. I laughed with embarrassment and pain.
-You're laughing, that means you did not hurt yourself too much- she smiled. I looked around, and found my hairbrush, took off my hairpin and began to comb my hair hastily.
- Do you have a headache? -She asked me.
-Yes, since we arrived to the ghetto-I answered.
She looked at me in surprise and motioned me to sit on the couch.
- My name is Ida, Ida Stern - she introduced herself.
-And I'm Sarah- answered to her I.
-Sarah? This is a Jewish name - she was surprised.
- I'm Kazakh, from Kazakhstan, the USSR. We came on an excursion, I fell behind the group.
-Yes, you told me before. I'll take you to the parking lot of buses, do not worry. And if you'll late, I'll take you to the hotel.
I calmed down; put my passport and a hairbrush in my bag. Ida invited me to dinner, and we went up to her apartment. She explained that she was just laying the table in honor of some religious holiday.
The walls in the apartment were covered with fabric wallpaper with golden tint. The wooden, solid furniture in a tone darker than the parquet was in harmony with the red - brown piano. The books in the calico-bound are arranged in regular rows on the shelves along the wall. From all these beautiful things the indifference of the museum was blowing. A sense of anxiety and fear hung in the air, like in a concentration camp barracks. I wanted to leave this apartment as quickly as possible and forget the unpleasant sensations. The only thing that gave this room a little piece of life and coziness is a delicious smell from the kitchen; and photos of a cheerful girl on the walls.
-She was also called Sarah. She died thirteen years ago, now she would be twenty, like you. She was diagnosed with cancer, too late. My husband was a doctor and reproached himself for not seeing the symptoms of her illness in time. He left soon after her. It was a heart attack. - Ida told the story of her family at a festively laid table. And I, in spite of the tragedy of her memories, weaved juicy kosher beef cooked in an oven in some incredibly tasty sauce. My upbringing education did not allow me to reject hospitality, and she kept putting me all kinds of goodies into the plate. I wanted to somehow encourage her, but all the words that came to my mind seemed out of place.
They woke up from a loud knock at the door, barking of the dogs and brutal abuses. Maria gently raised Ida from the bed; quickly dressed her in warm clothes and they left the apartment. The doors of the entrance shuddered with blows, the dogs barked. She hugged her daughter tightly, kissed her and pushed her toward the stairs.
-And now we'll play hide and seek. Run away daughter, hide!
As soon as the cellar door closed, she unlocked another door, and a whirlwind of death burst into the house.
Ida quickly ran through the dark cellar, barking of the dogs as if to whip her. Not remembering how, she rolled over the high threshold of the closet and closed the door on the iron bolt as mother taught. She imagined she could hear a snarl next to her, behind the door, which made her heart pop out of her chest. A day later everything was quiet, and she was about to leave, but the door was locked from the outside. The meal ended in a few days. She tried to reach for the window to open it and call for help, but could not. From hunger her head ached more and more, and she combed and combed her hair with a small wooden hairbrush. She fell off somewhere, fell asleep and woke up. Once, through a dream, she heard her name. It was Hakim’s voice. Over her bent old man Hakim. Then there was an orphanage in Switzerland. Her salvation was incredible. Ida could not find out the details, she was only five years old in May of one thousand nine hundred and forty-three.
Miraculously preserved her metric, thanks to which she returned to Warsaw after graduating from a gymnasium in Zurich, and settled in her parents' apartment.
When Ida arrived in Warsaw she had in her purse a wooden hairbrush with the inscription "Mit Liebe aus der Schweiz" 1. And Sarah’s hairbrush has text - "From Siberia with love".
1. Mit Liebe aus der Schweiz (from German) - From Switzerland with love.
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