A Malke Vi a Lalke


A Queen Like a Doll
A Bielecki Family Chanukah Story

From A Miracle of Chanukah

When I was little…about ten, I met a boy. His name was Aaron Blumenfeld. Yes. Your father Aaron. He was a very good boy who was kind to everybody. When I was teased by other children, he stuck up for me and protected me. You know like the stories you and Judith love to read about knights and damsels and dragons? He was a knight, and maybe just a little, the other children were like dragons. He and his family moved away, and I thought I’d never see him again.

Well...years later we ended up in Warsaw...and then what should have been a home became a ghetto. It was around Passover of all times. After the Germans broke through the wall and started the killing, my mother was afraid for me. I was only fifteen and she feared for my life. Somehow Uncle Herschel was able to sneak me out…it was almost a whirlwind running through attics and then on rooftops and somehow out of the city. But as I ran away I was shot. The Walesa family…they found me and nursed me to health....

December 1944, somewhere between Lublin and the Russian Border…

Snow had at least departed for the time being, leaving behind mud and muck but also an unseasonable warmth and welcome comfort. Esther would have grown tired of the chores at one time, but now most every day brought joy and gratitude to G_d. And some days wavered between faith and shame. She looked down at her frail body; almost doll-like since she was small, even for a girl. Even for a girl….

She breathed in the mixture of fresh air with only a whiff of the pasture outside and smiled. Somehow things were exactly as they should have been, she noted, as she raked the floor of the small barn. Her voice was pleasant as she sang a song her mother taught her.

A malke vi a lalke,
mit kleyne printselekh
mit yontefdike kleydelekh

She laughed as the nanny goat began to bleat happily at her singing. She never thought she had a good voice, and now that things had changed, her singing had become almost pleasant to her own ears, despite the journey she was forced to take to bring her to the chorus she shared with the cows and goats and the one ewe lamb that Mamma Walesa owned. She blushed as she remembered the shameful implication of the words meant for her alone, but even at that, the song was not quite fitting for the season and she began again with a new tune.

(Oy), Chanukah oy Chanukah
A yontif a sheyner,
A lustiker a freylekher
Nisht do nokh azoyner
Ale nakht mit dreydlech shpiln mir,
Frishe heyse latkes, esn on a shir

A few minutes later her work was done for the morning and she walked out of the barn and down the small hill to the house. She rounded a small bluff and saw that four men stood next to the short fence in front of the cottage. They wore rough-looking grins and dirty uniforms; Russian by the looks of them. She cringed. Too many years of war already in her young life had made her both cautious and confused. And her life was not safe if the secret she shared with Mamma Walesa would be discovered. She continued to walk slowly down the hill, still absentmindedly singing.

Geshvinder, tsindt kinder
Di Chanukah likhtlech on,
Zogt "Al Hanisim", loybt Got far di nisim,
Un lomir ale tantsen in kon.
Zogt "Al Hanisim", loybt Got far di nisim,
Un lomir ale tantsen in kon.

Ah, Mamma? A pretty girl? Your daughter,“ one of the soldiers teased. Esther shuddered at his words; fearing that no one was safe, no matter which side they were on, since soldiers from Russia and soldiers from Germany were no friends of the Poles, and even less for a girl like her. She cringed and went to back up, but bumped into a short hedge and stumbled. She would have fallen to the ground but strong hands caught her and kept her from harm. She looked up into the man’s eyes and saw only peace and gentle care. But she pulled away quickly and ran into the cottage past the startled soldiers and Mamma Walesa. She closed the door behind her and gasped. The man who kept her from falling was no stranger, and she feared that he would reveal the secret she kept to the peril of her own life.

A short while later....

“Yes,” Mamma Walesa said softly. “You are kind. I can see it in your eyes.” She stared at the young man who had rescued Esther from falling. Esther could hear the talking from inside the cottage and she breathed a sigh of relief after listening to them; they showed unusual respect for the older woman. She had worried when the other men had joked in a somewhat course manner, but the younger man glared at them, they quickly apologized. Two of them were Russian and the man in charge seemed to be a Pole, but Esther knew the young man was Jewish… from Warsaw. She sighed as she recalled their last meeting.

Lodz, Poland, 1937

“Never mind them,” the boy said.

“They’re only afraid of what will happen, and picking on you makes them feel better about themselves and the way things will go.” He used his arm in a broad sweep as a reminder of how life already become for them.

“If you go…” the voice was weak and fearful; the body slight and almost gangly; perhaps only a little from dearth of food but more from how G_d had designed?

“I pray ….but I must go anyway.” His family insisted, and he sighed in frustration.

“I fear for the future, the had said. Life had been a forbidden gamble for both of them. He looked away, almost as if he had already departed.

“I’m sorry,” the young man spoke quietly. Forbidden love in the midst of hatred for them already making things doubly impossible; maybe exponentially unapproachable. He stepped closer and kissed the face that beamed from love and admiration and pride over him. Aaron didn’t want to go for so many reasons even as duty and life called from beyond the moment. Aaron Blumenfeld and his family were leaving, perhaps forever, and it was sad…..

"Esther? We have company. These nice men are joining us for dinner. They will be staying in the barn tonight. Would you get some blankets for them?” Mama Walesa put her hand on the girl’s shoulder in encouragement.

“Do not worry. I believe everything will be fine.” An easy thing to say in the midst of dangerous risk, but Sophie Walesa displayed a calm that Esther had only beheld once before when she came to live with the old woman the few years before.

A few minutes later…

“You can use the clean straw over here for tonight.” She spoke almost in a whisper with her head down, praying with all that was holy that the young man would not recognize her. A moment later she felt a gentle touch as her chin was raised.

“It is good to see you alive,” he said with a big smile. She shook his grasp off her chin; wanting to flee. Mamma Walesa had done what she could to help, but even the best surgeons could not have done anything to change what horrific wounds to body and soul had wrought. She began to cry, hoping that the other soldiers would not discover what the young man already knew, and that the young man would just go away.

“Don’t be scared, little one. I am the same Aaron Blumenfeld who knew you then, no matter who or what you may be now. I haven’t stopped thinking about you since we parted those many years ago.” His departure had been hard enough, but then Warsaw and Yad Vashem+…. He was gone and she was alone and scared after ending up on a different path. Those big kind eyes that gave her strength when she was small and weak and helpless now made me feel strong and alive.

Aaron smiled; his strength seemed to push Esther’s nervousness aside. She looked down anyway; still ashamed of her voyage from the person she had been in the past. He looked around and then stepped to the door of the barn. His comrades were nowhere to be seen; likely helping out Mamma Walesa with dinner or at least standing at the doorway of the cottage in anticipation. He walked back and pulled Esther into a hug.

“I’m….I’m so sorry, Aaron. I….” She buried her face in his chest; still much shorter than him in so many ways. He gathered her close and hugged her.

“Nothing to be sorry about, myyn lieb.” He kissed her forehead.

“But….I am….I cannot….I am so sorry,” she plead. Esther Walesa had come full circle even if she felt unworthy of the trip. Asher Bucholz died in a field outside Warsaw two years before in a way, only to be resurrected as Esther Walesa. A gift of G_d and a blessing both to her and to the young man who had never stopped loving her.

“No one….ever….just you and me, myyn tyya’r.” A secret that life would never betray. He kissed her on the cheek.

“Will you….now that we are free, myyn lieb? Will you be mine?” His eyes had filled with tears and he looked away; his time of nervous fear. Nothing in life is a guarantee but for the grace of the Almighty. She touched his lips with her fingers. She pulled his face close, kissing him gently on the cheek.

“Yes….If….if you’ll have me.” He didn’t wait to speak but kissed her and held her tight. Of course, he would have her and she have him, even if life had arranged a very circuitous journey to bring them together.

And so, on the 18th Day of December in 1944 – the second day of Tevet and the last day of Hanukkah, Esther Bucholz Walesa was united with Aaron Blumenfeld in the witness of the Almighty and Mamma Sophie Walesa and Senior Sergeant Arkady Garanin and Private Dimitri Borodin and Junior Sergeant Anatol Krupka as well as two cows, two goats, and one ewe lamb.

Gliklekh iz der meylekh af der velt,
er shmeykhlt tsu der malke un er kvelt

“I never stopped loving you,” he said as he pulled her closer. The romance was quickly set aside as Aaron leaned in and placed her left hand on the wooden stock supporting the barrel of the AVT-40.

“I love you so much,” Esther said in return as she pulled the trigger, firing the weapon for the first and only time without haste or peril, as the next time would not be at a tree but at the enemy. And while things were very anxious and challenging, the difficulties they had known growing up had steeled them to the world they still faced and brought them closer. And even as life swirled and tossed and turned them around, they did finally live happily ever after.

Chag Urim Sameach!
Happy Chanukah!

*A Malke Af Peysekh
(A Queen for Passover)

Song from Yiddish Stage by
Louis Gilrod from tradition

A queen like a doll,
with her little princesses
in their holyday finery

****This king is so happy with his world.
He smiles at his queen, and he beams.

**O Chanukah

(Oh), Chanukah, Oh Chanukah
A beautiful celebration.
Such a cheerful and happy one,
There is none like it.
Every night with the dreidels we will play,
Fresh, hot latkes we will eat endlessly.

***Come quickly children
Light the Chanukah candles
Say "Al Hanissim", praise God for the miracles,
And we will all dance together in a circle!
Say "Al Hanissim", praise God for the miracles,
And we will all dance together in a circle!

+Yad Vashem - http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/holocaust/about/03/warsaw.asp

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