Leosia by Michael Rosen

Nov 03, 09:13 PM

I went to see my father’s cousin Michael.

He was born in Poland.

When the Nazis came in the west

his parents put him on a train

going east

and he never saw them again.

They died in a Nazi death camp.

When the Russians came in the east

he was arrested, put on a train

and sent to one of the Russians camps.

But he lived.

When I went to see him

he wouldn’t tell me any of this.

When he went out of the room

his wife said he can’t bear to talk about it.

When he came back into the room

he said, ‘Tell him the story about my cousin Leosia.’

So they told me about the story about cousin Leosia.

‘When the Nazis came in the west

Leosia pretended to be a Christian.

She put a crucifix around her neck

and then she fetched her grandmother’s brooch

and took the diamonds off it.

She took the soles off the heels of her shoes

put the diamonds inside the heels

and put the soles back on.

She thought if there were going to be any problems

she would be able to sell them.

Then she went west

into Germany.

In Germany she worked in a factory.

No one ever found out that she was Jewish.

At the end of the war

she couldn’t face going back to Poland.

Her parents, all her friends and all her relations

had been taken away to the camps and killed.

She went to Israel to find her brother Naftali.

She told him how she had lived

right through the war

with diamonds in the heels of her shoes.

‘I already knew if ever I got into difficulty

I could’ve sold them

and maybe paid someone to help me.

And here they are’, she said,

‘the very diamonds themselves.’

And Naftali said, ‘Where did you get the diamonds from, Leosia?’

And Leosia said, ‘From our grandmother’s brooch.’

So Naftali said, ‘Listen carefully, Leosia.

Many years ago, our grandmother wrote to me.

She said that grandfather’s business wasn’t doing too well and so to help out

She had taken the diamonds off her brooch

put in glass ones instead

and sold off the diamonds.

She didn’t tell anyone about it

but she wrote to me to get it off her chest.

You went through the whole war

with nothing more than

bits of glass in the heels of your shoes.’

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