“The Little Smuggler…”
This poem broke me down at the Sho’ah Museum in Israel.
Inside the Museum, there is an exhibit called The Little Smuggler…. but, before I explain it, let me give you some personal history.
When I was about 3 to 4 years old, we lived in my Mom’s hometown in Georgia, next to my grandparents there. My grandmother was Jewish, but did not make a fuss about it until I asked her when I was 28 years old. Then she told me about the Dreyer family and how they came to Georgia. I later found Louis Dreyer, one of our grandfathers, on the Simon Wolfe database of Jewish Civil War soldiers.
While living in that town, on the weekdays while my siblings were at school, myself being the youngest, my Mom would send me to the store/post office to collect the mail and buy us a coke and a bag of peanuts. I thought I was walking a mile. It turned out to be about 75 yards, I realized later in life. We’d sit at the kitchen table and share peanuts in coke [a Georgia thing, you gotta try it], and talk. It’s one of my fondest memories.
So, at Yad VaShem’s main museum, Melly wandered ahead of me. I’m standing in front of this one exhibit called “The Little Smuggler.” There’s a photo of a boy carrying bread, and of a hole under the ghetto wall, and an asortment of other suffering children’s photos. We had already gone through the children’s museum, and it was hard. The picture is from within it, and represents all the children killed in the Sho’ah, whose name, age and city are called out as you walk through. I’m a more visual person, so that did not get to me as much as the following.
Not only am I very visual, stimulated by the many photos here, but I’m a poet. It’s one way I deal with my inner thoughts, much like Melekh David did [Tehillim/Psalms]. So, I’m standing there perusing these sad pictures, and then I begin to read this poem, written by a child herself, who was eventually killed in a camp…
I could not finish it.
My memories of that trip in peace and safety to get mom and me a coke and peanuts were superimposed over the little boy in the main picture…..
THE LITTLE SMUGGLER
by Henryka Lazawart
Past walls, past guards
Impudent, hungry, obstinate
I slip by, I run like a cat
At noon, at night, at dawn
In foul weather, a blizzard, the heat of the sun
A hundred times I risk my life
I risk my childish neck.
Under my arm a sack-cloth bag
0n my back a torn rag
My young feet are nimble
In my heart constant fear
But all must be endured
All must be borne
So that you, ladies and gentlemen,
May have your fill of bread tomorrow.
Through walls, through holes, through brick
At night, at dawn, by day
Daring hungry, cunning
I move silently like a shade
if suddenly the hand of fate
Reaches me at this game
’Twill be the usual trap life sets.
Don’t wait for me any longer
I won’t come back to you
My voice won’t reach that far
Dust of the street will cover
The lost child’s fate.
Only one grim question
The still face asks
Mummy, who will bring you bread tomorrow
Let’s just say I lost my ‘military bearing’ here….
I have since found the Dreyers who perished in the Sho’ah and lamented their death. I give thanks for the blessing of survivors, realizing how very precarious is our existence.
May they always be remembered, and may their memory remain a blessing…