From the back of the truck, our captors barked at us to come, to follow them through that opening, the edges of which was already smoldering.
“Schnell,” they shouted, as if we were some circus animals that had to be threatened into leaping.
Not wishing to place myself back into their hands, I decided to take my chances and try escaping the fire my own way. Up to this moment I had felt weak, helpless, dejected—but now I discovered a way, a rogue way to get out.
In the front corner of the cargo area, there was a slash in the canvas, which I had noticed yesterday, at the outset of the journey. Summoning strength I did not know I possessed, I ripped it completely apart. Immediately, the prisoners lined up to slip through the tear and get off.
Once outside, we crawled away from the eight-wheeler and from our captors, who started to circle around it in search of us. One of them spotted the boy and charged in his direction.
By some stroke of luck, the SS guard tripped over a dead body, which allowed me just enough time to scramble to my feet and grab the boy by his arm. We dove into the bushes.
All around us, the air reeked of ash. We choked the urge to cough. Fearful that the foliage might catch fire, we rolled down the slope, away from the burning vehicles. All the while we hoped that the clinking of our chains, which might disclose our position, would be swallowed by the roar of the flames.
Thankfully, with each motion forward on our knees and hands, the cloud of smoke was thinning out, till at last we could stop guessing our way.
In an instant, the truck that had carried us became engulfed in flames, as did other vehicles. We took cover behind some rocks, just as sheet of fire spread across the road. The blaze was a magnificent sight. I could not begin to describe the sensation in my heart, the unexpected relief.
I was in chains—but at least for the moment, I was free.
"Uvi Poznansky, a master story-teller, captures the sights, sounds and smells of World War II France, bringing them to life with an imaginative plot, excellent writing, a mastery of fine detail and the creation of imagery in her scenes. She draws you into the story as though you were there, experiencing what Lenny and Natasha experience."