The Fascists’ Last Stand
The Hungarians decided to make their last desperate stand right in the middle of our lumberyard. They rolled a large cannon into the yard, along with a platoon of soldiers. When the cannon started firing, the earth shook around us in our underground pit. The sensation was terrifying. As the cannon created an obstacle between us and the communal hall we visited every night, we stayed put in our bunkers.
We lost count of the days and dates. Even New Year’s day went by unnoticed by us. With tanks rolling by on the street, shells pouring over our lumberyard, and the crazy Hungarian cannon shooting away, there was absolutely no respite from the battlefield noises and ruckus around us.
After long deliberation and two long days of starvation, our family decided to take the risk and sneak over to the warehouse building. As the soldiers were taking cover most of the time, and keeping their eyes fixed on the eastern horizon, from where they expected the Russians to appear momentarily, it turned out to be quite easy. It turned out that the men in the yard were only soldiers; there was not a single nazi armband in sight. Those rats had disappeared, shedding their uniforms as they fled.
When we got to the warehouse, we discovered that the others had all made the same decision the night before. We were the last ones to join the group.
Cooking was not allowed, matches and candles remained unlit. All conversation was kept to a whisper, although most of the time we wouldn’t have heard each other even if we had shouted because of the din outside. We were not allowed to move unless it was to go to the washroom or to distribute food. The intense cold in the unheated warehouse forced us to stay in our bunks, covered as much as possible. Families and lovers sat huddled together. Hours, days and nights passed this way. We had no idea what was happening outside and no one dared to look.
At one point, even though the exchange of shells overhead continued, the big gun in the yard stopped firing and the world around us fell silent. The soldiers in our yard had retreated, leaving behind their guns and ammunition. We were now in the most dangerous zone: the no-man’s land between the two armies. Both sides could now shell us with the knowledge that their own soldiers wouldn’t be hit.