selection, taken from the narrative " The Travels of Dvora from Kalisz
and Letters to Nowhere." Travels tells of a young woman whose wanderings
take her from refugee flight to love, relationship and life in Warsaw
and participation in the Vilna ghetto resistance. Shaul recalls many
happenings: recollections of childhood in a living Jewish community,
memories of everyday life suffused with the glow of holiness, panicky
days and devastaating reoundups, mass shootings and frantic hiding,
and nostalgia of near-miss escapes from Nazis and service with partisans.
was a glorious Polish winter and the edge of the woods was bathed in
purple radiance. Whenever she found herself pushed to the side of the
road, swept along like a log on the stream, Dvora would feast her eyes
on the open landscape. Giant chestnut trees stood naked, their fallen
copper leaves rustling at her feet.
trees were still green and there was no shortage of wild flowers in
the meadows. Behind the hedgerows, late flowering sunflowers, not yet
cut down, swayed their heads. Nature seemed to take care that not everything
should die at once.
men and women sat leaning on their suitcases, taking a respite, wheezing
and out of breath. They tried to protect themselves from the wave of
trampling feet, but anyone who was not quick enough to stand his ground
was bound to be pushed down the slope.
waters were flowing at the foot of the embankment, and from time to
time a shout of terror would rend the air as someone found himself stumbling
and falling into the turbulent sewage. The true river, the river of
humanity, flowed along the road above, filling its length and breadth
from Warsaw to Lvov and beyond. Everyone was there! Farmers with their
families and a bundle of property and a cow pulled along on a rope.
Prosperous merchants in well-protected carts, with pieces of fur to
cover the feet of the passengers. Householders in wagons with tarpaulins
over them, the wagoners sitting up front in their drivers' caps. Country
gentry riding horses, town intellectuals conspicuous in their spectacles,
priests, sportsmen on bicycles, lorries creaking under their loads,
cars with baskets tied to their roofs and motorcycles hooting to pick
a way laboriously through the crowd, for the roads were crammed with
thousands of feet.
soon there was a change in the direction of the flow. While many were
still pressing out of Warsaw and the bombed cities of the west, the
first of the returnees could be seen making their way back to the banks
of the Vistula. Poland had been conquered and the Messerschmitts had
stopped harassing the refugees; now the migrants were moving in two
directions. More and more the ones moving east were Jews.
from the small towns traveled in wagons. Property was loaded in the
front of the wagon, suitcases and eiderdowns. An abundance of eiderdowns.
Mostly it was old people, children, and pregnant women who sat in the
wagons. The men and youths walked alongside. There were some who had
gotten up from their sickbeds, from surgery, some half paralyzed, others
holding their hands to their hearts, heads drooping, straining with
effort. They came from all directions. At every crossroads more refugees
joined them, the column of Jews continued to swell. The majority trudged
in silence. The road between Bedzin and Pinczow was strewn with corpses,
most of them charred, the skeletons of burned out buses, motorcycles,
and suitcases, their contents scattered unheeded. Here a devastating
bombing attack had caught them, one of those strafing raids the German
pilots took such purposeless pleasure in. The columns passed the charred
remnants without stopping, with a mask of indifference.
the sight of baby carriages lying on their sides stirred them. Some
went up and stood the carriages back on their wheels, looking all around
in case there were any babies in the vicinity, then lined up the carriages
along the side of the road, as though on parade, eleven of them, and
burst into tears. The weeping was infectious and became an uninterrupted
wail. Suddenly and all together the sobbing ceased and the dense column
began to move. At that moment they realized that what they had seen
on the road belonged to the past, to the bombings, to the conflagrations
of war visited upon Poland; they were all party to her sacrifices, but
from now on the Jews would meet their own fate. "The people of
Israel have once again taken up the staff of wandering," said the
lawyer Rubinczik. "Lekhlekha-go forth," 
a man from Pinczow said in support. And after a short pause: "Suddenly,
about three nights ago, my grandfather came to me in a dream and said,
`go forth from your native land, and from your father's house!'. . .
and I didn't understand what on earth he was talking about. I'm not
Abraham! But it seems Abraham too didn't understand at the time, and
that's where all the trouble started." He stopped talking, with
no explanation; the sky overhead grew dark with billowing smoke.
LEKH-LEKHA: The Lord said to Abram, "Go forth from your native
land and from your father's house to the land that I will show
you." (Genesis 12:1)