Leosia by Michael Rosen
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.’