On the night Nazi soldiers come to her home in Czechoslovakia, Milada’s grandmother says, “Remember, Milada. Remember who you are. Always.” Milada promises, but she doesn’t understand her grandmother’s words. After all, she is Milada, who lives with her mama and papa, her brother and sister, and her beloved Babichka. Milada, eleven years old, the fastest runner in school. How could she ever forget?
Then the Nazis take Milada away from her family and send her to a Lebensborn center in Poland. There, she is told she fits the Aryan ideal: her blond hair and blue eyes are the right color; her head and nose, the right size. She is given a new name, Eva, and trained to become the perfect German citizen, to be the hope of Germany’s future—and to forget she was ever a Czech girl named Milada.
Inspired by real events, this fascinating novel sheds light on a little-known aspect of the Nazi agenda and movingly portrays a young girl’s struggle to hold on to her identity and her hope in the face of a regime intent on destroying both.
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Joan M. Wolf’s research for SOMEONE NAMED EVA took her to the Czech Republic, where her great-grandmother was born. She lives in Minnesota.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
June 1942: Lidice, Czechoslovakia
A few weeks after my birthday, Terezie and I got permission to stay up late, look at stars, and plan her upcoming party. The night was warm and clear, and it seemed that every star in the universe could be seen. I showed Terezie how to use the telescope, and after looking through it for a while, we lay down on the grass to talk. I want dessert too, of course,” Terezie said when we began to talk about the food for her party. But I’d really like a cake, a cake with frosting. I don’t know if that will be possible with so little sugar, but . . .” She stopped talking when Jaroslav suddenly appeared. Don’t let me interrupt your dreams of sugar and cakes,” he said with a smile.
I just came outside to enjoy the night air.” Go away, Jaro. We’re talking about Terezie’s birthday.” Despite how nice he had been to me at my party, he could still be a pest. No, Milada, let him stay.” Even though I couldn’t see in the dark, I knew Terezie was blushing. It was no secret she had a crush on Jaroslav. He sat on the grass quietly as we finished planning. By then it was late, so Terezie and I said good-bye. After she left, I went to bed and fell asleep, thinking about stars and birthday parties.
A few hours later I was awakened by a loud, angry pounding on our front door that sent a sickening feeling down into my stomach. Something was very wrong. Suddenly, the door banged open and the pounding was replaced by the sounds of heavy boots, barking dogs, and fierce shouting in German. Throwing my covers aside, I jumped out of bed and raced downstairs to find our living room filled with Nazi soldiers.
Papa!” I cried. He held out a hand to stop me from coming any farther. I felt my whole body shaking. Nazis. Up close they were even more frightening than when I had seen them in Prague. And now they were in our living room.
Jaro stood quietly next to Babichka, with an arm around her shoulders. In the other room I could hear Mama taking Anechka out of her crib. I looked from Jaro to the Nazis. The soldiers seemed almost as young as my brother, and a few of them swayed on wobbly legs. The reek of stale whiskey hung in the air. The Nazi nearest me barked a command in German, pointing upstairs with his gun.
Go upstairs to your room, Milada,” Mama said as she entered the room with Anechka in her arms. They are saying we must leave the house. Get dressed and take some of your things. Pack enough for three days.” I couldn’t understand the soldier’s words, just the fear he was causing, but Mama understood German. I turned to go upstairs, trying to get my legs to move, and suddenly the soldiers and dogs were gone. They had left the front door open, and silence stood in their place. In school Terezie and I had once read a poem about loud silence,” and we had laughed at what the author had written.
How could silence be loud? But that night, right after the Nazis left, a loud silence was what stayed behind in our house as if it was a real thing, just as in the poem. Everything was completely quiet, but the terrifying presence of the soldiers lingered behind. Jaro was the first to speak. Why are they here?” He looked from Mama to Papa, then back to Papa again. What’s going on?” We are being arrested and taken for interrogation.” Papa’s voice was quiet.
What? Why? I don’t ” Jaro began, but Papa interrupted.
I don’t know, Jaro. Just follow their orders and it will get sorted out. Now pack. Go.” I dressed quickly, still not believing that Nazis had actually been in our living room and that I was packing to leave my home. I put some clothes into a bag and tucked Mrs. Doll under one arm, even though I knew I was too old for her.
Then I gently lifted my telescope down from the shelf. It would come with me wherever I went. Downstairs, Anechka rested quietly in Mama’s arms. Papa was holding a suitcase in one hand and Mama’s hand in the other. Jaro stood with his traveling bag too, and a stubborn look on his face.
Babichka carried nothing other than the small framed wedding picture of herself and Grandfather, who had been dead many years, and her crystal rosary beads. I stared at her, wondering where her bag was. Why didn’t she have her silver candlesticks or her crucifix? Where was her hand-stitched shawl? She pulled me to her and grasped my hand in hers. Gently, she pressed her garnet pin into my palm. It had always been my favorite. It was shaped like a star, with tiny red stones around it that twinkled up at me in the light. I shook my head and tried to give it back. No, Milada.” Shee took it out of my hand and pinned it on the inside of my blouse, her hands trembling slightly.
You must keep this and remember,” she whispered, bending close to my ear.
Remember who you are, Milada. Remember where you are from. Always.” I opeeeeened my mouth to protest further. Shh, little one. Don’t say anything.
Shh.” She put a finger to my lips and ran a hand through my hair. All right,” Papa said, turning off the living-room light and turning on the porch light. All right,” he repeated, and together the six of us left our house. Two Nazis waited in the yard with dogs.
The porch light spilled across their faces, changing their features so it looked as if they were wearing masks. One guard used his gun to direct Babichka and me to the right side of the house. The other guard grabbed Papa roughly and pulled him from Mama. I watched as Mama’s and Papa’s intertwined hands stretched and stretched, until at last they had to let go and Papa, his eyes filled with tears, was pulled away from Mama. I love you, Antonín!” Mama cried.
I love you, Jana!” Papa’s voice cracked. The other Nazi grabbed Jaro by the arm and shoved him behind Papa, away from where Mama, Babichka, and I were standing. Jaro looked at us, blowing Mama and Babichka a kiss and winking at me. I felt myself being pushed farther and farther away from Papa and Jaro. I opened my mouth to say something, but no words came out. I could only watch them being led away, until Mama turned me in the direction the Nazis’ guns pointed. I was shaking all over and looked up, noticing the stars tucked into the folds of night. They twinkled but looked dull and listless to me and offered no comfort. Other women and children, our neighbors, began to join us. They, too, were led by Nazis, and I realized it wasn’t just my family that was being arrested. The night air filled with the sound of our feet crunching on the gravel path as every house in Lidice was emptied. Mama kissed Anechka lightly on her forehead, and I shifted the telescope in my arm, beginning to feel its weight. Milada!” I turned to see Terezie and her mother running to catch up to us. Terezie!” I cried, grabbing her in a hug. Mama gave Terezie’s mother a brief kiss on the cheek, tears wetting both their faces. Do you know what is happening?” Terezie asked. Her eyes were puffy, and she looked scared as she slipped her hand into mine. Like us, they had no men with them. It was just Terezie and her mother. Papa said we’re being arrested,” I whispered. All of us? Why?” Terezie whispered back.
I don’t know,” I answered. We were stopped at the entrance to our school, where the soldiers’ German commands mixed with the sounds of children sniffling and women whispering.
Prodding us with their guns, the soldiers led us into the gymnasium and directed us to stand along a wall in a long single-file line. I stood close to Mama and Babichka, while Terezie sandwiched between me and her own mama. Casually, the soldiers began grabbing our bags and suitcases, all the things we had been told to pack. A mix of fear and anger ran through me. Why had we packed just to have everything taken away from us?
As the soldiers approached Babichka, she stared straight ahead. She didn’t move or show any emotion when the black-gloved hands took her wedding picture from her. It flew soundlessly, end over end, toward one of the growing piles of possessions, finally landing with a loud, splintering crash as the glass shattered.
My doll was torn from me and thrown through the air toward the same pile.
But when the Nazis reached for my telescope, I felt tears come to my eyes.
I shook my head, pulling away from the Nazi soldier whose hand was reaching for my precious birthday gift. Milada!” Mama whispered. Obey.” I looked at her but didn’t move. How could I watch my new telescope get tossed onto one of the piles like a useless rag? I looked up at the guard, trying one last time to use my eyes to plead with him. But with a rough yank he pulled the telescope free from my hand. Instead of throwing it on the pile, though, he handed it to another Nazi, who was walking up and down the aisle, clicking his heels with importance. That guard took it and quickly disappeared into the gym locker room. I breathed a small sigh of relief. At least it hadn’t been broken. The guard barked another order in an angry, rushed tone. Quickly we were led back outside, where large trucks waited with their engines growling loudly. Each was covered with thick fabric that billowed up like a tent. Even in the dark I could see the black swastikas boldly glaring down at us. Everyone huddled close together as we were led up the ramps like animals into the waiting trucks. Inside, guards motioned for us to sit on the small benches lining either side of the truck bed. I sat down, suddenly tired. My arm throbbed from having held my telescope, and I could no longer keep the tears back.
Where are we going?” I whispered to Mama as the truck lurched away from our school. I don’t know.” She brushed a tear away from my face and swept my bangs out of my eyes. Anechka was almost asleep on her shoulder. Where are Papa and Jaroslav?” I asked.
Babichka took my hand in hers and squeezed. Hush now, Milada,” Mama said. Just close your eyes and try to sleep.” She pulled my head gently against her shoulder. Babichka was praying softly next to me, using her free hand to finger the rosary that she had managed to keep by hiding it in her dress sleeve. Terezie and her mother sat together farther down the bench. I closed my eyes, feeling the bumpy gravel of the road, and tried not to breathe in the rancid smell of engine exhaust.
I jerked when the truck lurched to a stop a few minutes later. Whispers ran up and down the benches, passing along the message that we were in Kladno, a town close to Lidice. Nazi soldiers appeared and placed ramps at the backs of the trucks. Then we were herded into another school. This one was bigger than our school in Lidice, and we found ourselves in an even larger gymnasium. There was hay spread across the floor, filling the air with a soft, sweet scent. Using their guns, the soldiers directed us to a place on the hay, and Mama spread out Anechka’s blanket for us to sit on. My sister awoke, and her wail mixed with our hushed voices as we settled down on the floor. Suddenly, I felt immensely tired. It was as if sleep was the only important thing. Despite the fear, the worry, and the itchiness of the hay, I fell asleep as soon as I put my head down.
Rays of sun poking through the gymnasium windows woke me with a start. My body felt stiff and sore, and at first I couldn’t remember where I was. But then the rustling of children awakening and the sound of women whispering brought back the events of the night before in a sickening rush. I sat up, looking around the gym.
Terezie and her mother were next to us, and my friend Hana was with her mother and sister not far away. Nearby sat her grandmother and aunt. Our widowed neighbor Mrs. Kucera was on the other side of Terezie. Across the gym I saw my teacher from last year, and near her was Zelenka with her three sisters and their mother, sitting against one of the walls. Ruzha sat with her aunt on a blanket near Zelenka, looking pale and tired. They can’t arrest all of us,” Mrs.
Hanak said to her neighbor. For what crime?” she asked to no one in particular. Terezie’s mama pleaded with a guard as he patrolled near our space, his gun held ready. Please, sir, what has happened to my husband? When will I be able to see him again?” He responded in clipped German without looking at her, his eyes continuing to sweep the gym. I turned to see if Mama had heard. A thin smile crossed her face, and she translated for me. All the men are being held at a work camp. We will go soon to join them.” Soon. That was what the guard had said.
Soon I could see Papa and Jaroslav, and we would all be together again. None of us are Jews,” Mrs. Janec?ek whispered loudly, trying to get one of us to talk to her. Her three children, all boys older than Jaro, had been left behind with her husband. She was alone.
Do they know this?” Her voice rose in pitch, and her eyes darted from side to side. We are not Jews. Why are they taking us away?” Hush, Helena, hush.” One of her neighbors patted her hand. Hush. It will be fine. Don’t start trouble.
Please, please. It will be fine.” The hours passed slowly. I tried to hurry them by counting things; how many windows were at the top of the gym; how many basketballs sat on shelves along one wall; how many doors led outside; how many Nazi soldiers patrolled the rows of women and children. Almost fifty soldiers walked among us, different ones from the night before.
These men didn’t look like small boys playing soldier. They were older, and they carried their guns differently.
Their expressions were fixed more firmly on their faces, their eyes more focused and alert. The sounds of women and children whispering and babies fussing echoed around us. If I closed my eyes, I could almost pretend we were at a church picnic or a school festival, rather than being held prisoner in a gym. But then I would hear someone crying or catch the scent of hay and open my eyes again to what was really happening. Babichka continued to pray, using her crystal rosary beads. Her dress hung wrinkled on her small frame, and pieces of gray hair had begun to escape her bun. Anechka seemed unaware of the fearful things happening around her. She played patty-cake with Mama, who kept smiling and telling me everything would be fine. I smiled back, but I could see the tightness in her mouth, the worry in her eyes. Terezie’s mother joined Mama on the blanket, and they whispered back and forth to each other, their eyes avoiding both Terezie’s and mine. I sat next to Terezie on her blanket, and we talked about what we were going to do when we were allowed to go back home. I’m going to change clothes,” Terezie whispered, and then go for a long bicycle ride.” That sounds nice,” I said. I liked the thought of riding free through the streets of Lidice on a bicycle instead of sitting in a gym on a blanket. I think I’ll do the same.” I’ll come get you and we can go together,” Terezie said, nudging me with her elbow as I smiled at her. Yes. Then we’ll make some more plans for your party. We haven’t decided on dessert yet.” I want a cake, a chocolate cake,” Terezie said. That would be nice. We’ll find the sugar somehow,” I said, and Terezie nodded, smiling back at me.
No one ventured far from their blanket or assigned spot. Children stayed close to their mamas, and everyone sat waiting. We were frozen in that gym like some sort of photograph, unable to do anything except wait until we could return to our homes and see our fathers and brothers again.
I wanted to hug Papa hard, harder than I ever had. I wanted to feel the roughness of his beard and hear his deep voice and gravelly laugh. I wanted him to know about my telescope. I wanted to hear him say that he was proud I had tried to keep it from the Nazis, and that somehow we would get a new one so I could continue to look at the stars. I wanted to see Jaro, too. To give him a hug and let him tease me about the doll I had brought with m...
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Book Description Clarion Books. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0618535799 Ships promptly. Bookseller Inventory # GAT1577JMGG101117H0231A
Book Description Clarion Books, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0618535799
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Book Description Clarion Books, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 1. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0618535799