Feed on

I love snow storms, preferably enjoyed from either my reading chair or writing table (both close to a window). But this weekend presented opportunities (read: responsibilities) that could not be ignored and ended up being more challenging that I could wish for.

First, the shoveling. Yes, I went outside and shoveled my way through the massive labyrinth that under usual circumstances is called my neighborhood. Luckily I met others who were willing to engage in the same activity and share their tools and words of wisdom (read: great chit-chat). The experience turned from expected horrifying labor to un-expected recreational gathering.

Second, the short story. I have a due date! I must finish the story by March 1st and I am not even close to meeting the deadline. What’s so difficult about it? I have never thought that writing about something I know so well – my own life – would be so difficult.

This is a short story based on my grandfather’s life. He shared this story with me many times. After 30 years, I still remember the way he looked when he talked about it.

It’s a story about an atrocity committed by the Nazis during the World War II in the Piaśnica Forest, in Poland. Piaśnica massacre is sometimes called the second Katyń.  I feel the obligation to share it with others – to make sure we know and remember our history, to do everything in our power to prevent this from happening again.

Drinking hot coco, thinking about the busy morning and snow, I plow through my memories. I plow through images of my childhood. I plow through words of my grandfather. I look out the window to see the serene motionless whiteness and I try to be still.

Here is how the short story begins:

Piaśnica Forest

to Joseph, my grandfather

When he knelt on the kitchen floor to pick up his granddaughter’s hair with dedication worthy only the sacred, his wife paused stirring the soup and after watching him for a while, said the usual.

“You must forget what happened, Joseph. Life goes on. We must go on!”

“Angela,” he said, getting up and rolling the long blond hair around his index finger. “I have to remember to forget. This is the only way.”

“It doesn’t make any sense! It’s been twenty years after the war, twenty years!”

Joseph stopped believing in existence of time the day he was forced to dig the graves. That day he was taken from the Nazis’ prison in Wejherowo, five kilometers from where he lived, ten kilometers from the Piaśnica Forest where the murders took place.

It was a golden autumn day. The air in the forest, saturated with the soft light of a late afternoon and smelling of the majestic pines, was filled with speckles of dust and flowing ribbons of spider webs. The bedding of the forest was lined with pine needles browned with time.

When he looked at the ground from the back of the truck that took him and the others from the prison, he remembered his childhood adventures in the woods around his house and how slippery the fallen needles become when they form a thick layer. Walking on them barefoot was impossible because they could cut through the skin easily and running on them in snickers was impossible because they were too slippery.

He remembered being a boy – the lightness of never-ending days, the adventures of never-ending nights.

5 Responses to “Snow storm and short story”

  1. Pawel says:

    I’m sad about waht happened to our common grandfather…

  2. Danuta says:

    Yes, Pawel.
    I hope I can write a story that would show the truth about our grandfather because it always would be the truth about you and me — this is our heritage, this is who we are.
    I am working on it …

  3. ~john says:

    I understand why your grandfather wanted to tell his story. I have had many people tell me that time moves on from what happened to me in childhood. I empathize with your grandfather because it is usually the people closest to us that give us this advice. When it comes from them, the advice can make us doubt ourselves, and create more problems in the relationship.

    In the way you tell the story in the first 3 paragraphs, I admire your grandfather for his courage to stay with his story. I also feel encouraged by his story of needing to tell the story of what happened in that forest. You’ve done a great job of making us care for him in just a few lines.

    • danutahinc says:


      Thank you for your comments.

      Yes, I think my grandfather didn’t have the choice to “move on and forget”. He had to acknowledge that what he witnessed changed him forever and that it was his responsibility to tell the truth about what happened.

      I feel that our greatest challenge lies in accepting the truth about our lives, about who we are, and figuring out how we can live our lives in a meaningful way (despite all that happened to us, like in my grandfather’s case).

  4. “I have to remember to forget” – beautiful line, beautiful truth. Thanks for giving me something to carry with me today!