Bloyz ash

[Only Ashes]


Two men, “He” and his “Friend,” are entering a house. “He” says it’s the same one he lived in before the war. The Friend notices a cross on the wall, and “He” replies that he married a Christian woman. She had been his family’s servant, and took him in when he returned to the house after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The Friend says he’s passing through Warsaw with other people returning from the USSR. “He” invites the Friend to stay in the house’s spare room. The Friend accepts, and goes to retrieve his belongings.

The Wife and her Mother then arrive. The husband tells them about the plan to have the friend stay with them, which prompts them to complain that he’s always hanging around Jews. When he points out that the Mother interacts with Jews too, she responds, “You’re my daughter’s husband--and you’re not a Jew anymore!” He goes to get the guest room ready. The Wife tells her mother she thought her husband would gradually distance himself from Jews, but the opposite has happened since Jewish survivors started returning from the east, and she keeps finding that her husband has given clothes to them. The Mother tells her “the Devil draws him back to them,” and suggests a solution: to get him to move with her to the Mother’s house. The best way to accomplish that, she says, is to tell him she’s pregnant. The Mother goes to the next room to eavesdrop.

When the husband returns, his wife suggests the move to her mother’s house, which leads the husband to point out an ugly fact: during the war, her father (now deceased) suddenly went from being a hairdresser to a merchant--that is, he was given a Jewish family’s home and business. The Wife then tries to turn the screw by saying she has to move because she’s pregnant. He can’t believe it, but in any case says he doesn’t want to be a father, particularly of the product of intermarriage.

Wife: You’ve suffered plenty from being Jewish. Now you want your child to inherit that?

He: I’d sooner give my child my father’s inheritance, which cost him and millions of others their lives, than your father’s: profiting from their murder.

She then admits that she isn’t pregnant after all, but insists he should still move out of gratitude, since he owes her his life. He replies that gratitude alone can’t sustain a marriage, but when she reminds him that she not only hid him, but boosted his morale when he felt he couldn’t go on anymore, he agrees to move to her mother’s house in the town of Lowicz. The Mother then enters and says she wants to sell the house in Warsaw immediately, and already knows of a buyer. The women exit.

The Friend returns, ready to move in, but is told of the change of plans. So he says he’s return to his initial plan: to leave for Lower Silesia with other refugees. “He” then tries to imagine the very Polish life he will live in Lowicz, including going to church on Sundays and marching in street processions, accompanied by crosses and the ringing of bells. Suddenly he exclaims, “No, no! It won’t happen! Protect me from them! Don’t let me go there!” His vision reminded him of a procession he saw on his street when he was a child. Whenever such things occurred, his mother muttered a prayer that all would be calm. On the occasion in question, “He” was playing on the balcony, and when he leaned over to see better, his hat fell into the middle of the procession, and sparked a pogrom. His mother hid him behind a bookcase--as it turns out, the same hiding place he would occupy two decades later.

“He” decides to go away with the Friend, leaves behind a note, and they go. The Wife and Mother return, the Wife reads the note to herself, and exclaims, “Oh, Jesus!” Her Mother: “Everything has been burned up here. Only ashes remain, only ashes.”