Concerning a Russian Jewish refugee in Edwardian London, it reads like a short story but is a factual article. I think it's worth posting, for the record. (Of course, "the Lane" mentioned in the article is the famous Petticoat Lane, in Whitechapel. pictured left.)
Little Zelda rides daily in her carriage now, and is extremely happy. Some people feel very sorry for her when they see her drive past daily, and say, "Poor little thing."
Zelda's large shining eyes do look sorrowful and there is even a touch of sorrow in the sweet smile with which she answers all the glances directed at her.
Zelda is a cripple, and the carriage in which she rides is the omnibus which calls for her and for others afflicted as she is, and takes them all to school.
A bright, clean, and cheerful lady, in a nurse's costume, sits with them, and altogether they feel very happy; and in their prayers they do not forget the kind and generous people who have devised these and other things for their comforrt.
When I first saw Zelda lifted out of the omnibus one day, I cried. One foot is strangely twisted. She cannot put it to the ground, and, even with a crutch she walks with very great difficulty.
I asked her how she came to be so afflicted, and the poor little girl's face went white and she trembled. She looked so frightened that I was sorry I had asked the question. She cried also
when 1 kissed her.
"Everybody in this wonderful land is so kind," she said. " I think this must be Heaven mentioned in our prayers."
It was so strange a remark for a girl only ten years old to make that I was really anxious to hear her story. And when I got to know Zelda better she told me it of her own accord, in quaint, broken English.
Zelda is a pogrom girl. She was one of the victims of a pogrom in a fearful Russian town, where Jews have been set upon and massacred.
"Oh! it was a horrible time," she told me."My father – peace be on him – he was a teacher of Hebrew – he came running into the house one day and cried, 'In God's name, hide ! Hide in the cellar!"
"That was not easy. Mother was in bed. We had a new baby – peace be on him – and mother could not move. We would not go nto the cellar without her. There was my eldest brother, Yankel,
nearly a man, a brave boy. He got the big wood-chopper and stood near the door.
'This for the first pogromchik who comes in here,' he said fiercely; but my father said, 'No, no." My mother cried bitterly. Only my older sister, Sorra, she whose betrothed went away to fight for the Czar in Manchuria [during the Russo-Japanese Wat, 1904-5 – D.A.], she was calm.
She took me into the cellar. Then we heard a great noise and screaming and scuffling.
What happened I cannot tell you. Ask me not. The pogromchik found us; they dragged us up the steps into the room whore mother lay. Father was not there. Yankel was not there. Only mother, was there!
She was moanlng, oh, so pitifully. The baby,the little blue-eyed Moses, only two weeks old, he was not crying. He was covered with a white tablecloth, which was red – yes. with blood."
I wanted Zelda to cease telling me her story.
But she said, "No; let me finish. There was somebody else dead in the room, a great big, ugly man, one of the pogromchlks. It was horrible to look at him. Near him was the big wooden chopper, and 1 know it was my brother, Yankel, who had killed the man. I began to cry. I was only a little girl. I had never seen such things before.
Sorra had no tears. She never cried after she heard that her betrothed was wounded in the war. We sat down on the floor and mother looked at us as if strange. She kept asking for the baby.
Then there was a great noise in the street. Sorra got up to bar the door,but it was broken.
The pogromchiks came back. We stood by the bed to guard mother. Sorra picked up the big
wood-chopper, but it fell from her hand,and she gave a terrible scream. I screamed as well. The men had some thing on a board. They threw it on the floor .
'This is yours,' they said, and they laughed in a way that made me feel cold. Then they went away.
The thing on the board was once our father."
Again Zelda interrupted her story with an outburst of tears, and I said I did not wish to hear the rest;
"I had two straight legs then," she.went on as if she did not hear me. "When I saw my dear father dead, my father who loved me so, my father who taught me the beautiful prayers and told me the wonderful stories from the Bible and from the Talmud, I felt like Yankel must have felt when he picked up the big wood-chopper. It was there on the floor, with blood on it.
I looked at it, and I could see nothing but the blood. I picked it up. I ran to the door. I threw it with all my might at the men. It hit the man who had said, 'This Is yours.' It hit him on the head.It did not kill him.
Blood came from his face, but he picked up the chopper, and – and, you can see I the mark on mv leg yet. It is all twisted. Oh, It did hurt! It burnt like fire, and I fell across my father's body. I thought I was going to die too."
The rest of the story I heard from others.
Zelda, with her foot in bandages, and her mother and sister, left home one night – the same night that their father and the baby were buried. Her mother and sister are working here, and they
live on a nice, clean little tenement not far from "the Lane."
They are going to America soon. Sorra's young man escaped from Manchuria to British Columbia, and he is now in Cincinnati, working hard and making money for his future wife. They have heard from the brave Yankel, too. He was sent to Siberia, but he is hopeful of escaping and reaching America.
"Yankel always keeps his word, mother says," Zelda told me. "If he says he will escape from Siberia, we know he will. He sent us word with a man who escaped. They could not escape, together, or they would have been found out."
Zelda told me one thing more.
"I am collecting pennies and halfpennies for the Cripples' Fund. I have put all my halfpennies in a box. I do so want to leave something for the fund before I go to America. I shall so sorry to miss my beautiful carriage."
(I wonder whether she and Yankel did in fact settle there.)