Beneath a Glass Bridge by Tali Asnin-Barel
English | 2020 | General Fiction | ePUB | 2.9 MB
“I was born in darkness, on a gray winter’s day, into a grim reality.”
Western Austria, winter of 1941. Naomi, a young Jewish woman, gives birth to a baby girl in a remote rural farm. The Nazi foe is everywhere, and Naomi realizes she must do everything in her power in order to save her daughter’s life, even at the expense of her own.
United States, 1990. Helena tells her daughter, Blair, for the first time, the truth about her past, and presents her with a mysterious box that sheds light on her personal story. Blair, stunned and sore by the shattering discovery, storms out of the house and disappears to the other side of the world.
Her family situation unsettled as ever, Helena leaves next. Shadows from her past and the need to cope with them have gradually revealed painfully tangible memories, imploring to be exposed. She travels far, determined to try and build bridges—to her past, to her husband and children, and to her loved ones that are long gone.
Distant and removed from everyone in her life, at a furious pace, she writes down all her secrets, as well as the life story of her extensive family, which was torn to shreds by the Second World War.
When she’s closer than ever to exposing her account, devastating news from home force Helena to expedite her return.
Is her world about to change forever?
I was born in darkness, on a gray winter’s day, into a grim reality. Ten minutes after I came into the world, my mother bundled me up in a blue rag, dipped its corner in schnapps and slipped it into my mouth to quieten my meek sobs. Then she tightened the bundle to her shriveled breasts; her sunken cheeks wet with tears, her bottom teeth biting her upper lip, and in faltering steps she hurried out of the dank basement, not before dropping a few coins into the outstretched hand of the Hungarian midwife.
The stocky midwife straightened to her full height. After wiping away the blood stains, as well as any other sign of what had just transpired in the little room, she covered her hair in a crude headdress, wrapped a shawl around her shoulders, and hurried out through the creaking backdoor.
During that cold and terrible winter of 1941, Adolf Hitler tore savagely through Europe towards the realization of his dream—German reign over the largest empire in the history of the continent. Within a few short months, he had set out the principles of the “New Order” in Europe, designed to subjugate the conquered nations to the rule of the Third Reich. In this new order, suited to the National-Socialist worldview, there was only room for Aryan people, elevated to the level of “culture makers,” and the Slavic people of Eastern Europe, servants of the Aryan race, who were downgraded to the role of “culture carriers.” The “culture destroyers,” the lowliest of races—the Jews and the gypsies—had no room in the new order at all.
Many winters have gone by since. My mother barely survived twenty of them, through which she spoke little and cried a lot, never truly able to move past the 1940s. As she’d once whispered in my ear during a chilling, soul-reckoning moment, she had experienced three successes in her lifetime: a happy, protected childhood as the youngest daughter in a wealthy and educated Jewish-Austrian household; a short but vertiginous love for a man in the shadow of the war; and having me against all odds, managing to get me out of the fires of hell alive, and delivering me to a safe haven in a faraway land.
Having been taught as a child to nurture her inner beauty and sanctify wisdom for the sake of modesty, she did not list her breathtaking beauty as an accomplishment. However, the instinct for life that still sparked within her at the time, taught that the end justifies the means, and for her and her child to survive in this world, she must seal her heart, make frequent use of her beauty, and offer her body to anyone who might bring her even one step closer to freedom.