Ήταν ένα παιδί. Ένα εβραιόπουλο. Τον έλεγαν Αλβέρτο. Ερχόταν στη γειτονιά μας, στη Λήμνο, και παίζαμε. Είχε και μια μικρή αδελφή. Την έλεγαν Ελίζα, νομίζω. Κι ύστερα, μια μέρα, τους είδα που έφευγαν φορώντας ρούχα χειμωνιάτικα και ήταν Ιούλιος. Και ήταν μεσιμέρι. Κρατούσαν και κάτι μπόγους στο χέρι. Το παρακάτω κείμενο είναι ένα “όνειρο”, από εκείνα τα περιστατικά της παιδικής ηλικίας, που έβγαιναν στα όνειρά μου σαν εφιάλτες.
Χρόνια μετά, τα όνειρα εκείνα έγιναν βιβλίο. “Νύχτες του Φεγγαριού, Δεκαοκτώ όνειρα” ο τίτλος. Στο Βιβλιοπωλείο της Εστίας, η έκδοση. Κι ύστερα, εδώ και κάποια χρόνια, πολλοί άγνωσοι αλλά και γνωστοί που έρχονταν από ταξίδι τους στο Ισλαήλ, μου έλεγαν πως το βιβλίο το είχαν στην πρεσβεία τους, ανοιγμένο στη σελίδα του κειμένου.
Εγώ δεν το είδα αυτό. Και ούτε ξέρω αν ακόμα υπάρχει εκεί.
Το ελληνικό κείμενο δεν το βρήκα πουθενά – και από το βιβλίο δεν ήξερα να το πάρω. Την αγγλική μετάφραση την είχε κάνει μια Αμερικανίδα Εβραία καθηγήτρια με τον Μίνωα Πόθο.
Καλημέρα, φίλοι μου
Επειδή αυτές οι μνήμες δεν πρέπει να ξεχαστούν
“I am innocent, sir…
Yes, but your innocence can’t save you…”
Why was Albert wearing a heavy coat in the middle of July?
Why did Albert have to leave right away by that old warship?
Why was Albert carrying a small bundle of clothes?
Why was Albert crying, as he was turning the corner of the earth- road?
Why did he look at us so painfully, as he was heading speechless for the harbor?
Where was he going with his little sister?
Who was Albert?
He was a Jewish little boy. We played together. He came with the other children in the neighborhood and we played together. But he left the game in the middle because he had, they said, to leave immediately. But where was he going? Nobody gave us an answer.
I am standing at the side of the road and I am trying to figure out where all that mass of water comes down from…
How strange. It’ s a large stream. But there was no rain. This water one could say wells out from the earth. From the depths of the earth. Or was it always there and I had not noticed it? But it is summer. Middle of July. How is it possible for rivers to overflow? And I must cross the road…To reach the corner. I enter the water. It comes up almost to my knees. On the left is the house of Georgia and on the right the fish-shop. If only I could see someone. To ask about the water. There is not a living soul about.
But, suddenly, I see something floating on the water. Something like a small bundle. And I don’t wonder that it doesn’t sink. The flow of the river brings it to me. Soon I will be able to reach it. I stretch out my arms. How strange. It is not drenched. I catch it quickly. And I try to take it out of the water. To open it. My curiosity is so great! Or, rather, it is not curiosity, but a strange intuition. There is something inside it. Something very important. I sit on the step of Elisaios’ house and I open it anxiously.
And what do I see!
It is a photo of Albert. It is Albert with his little sister. Curiously enough, this is what I expected to see. As he was the day he left. He is wearing a heavy coat. And his eyes are sad, I feel exultation. So, he is alive. Then, he may be still alive. It is a sign. I leave the other things, or, rather, I don’t see what else there is inside the bundle and I get up to leave. The water has withdrawn… The road is still wet, of course. An earth-road. The one which leads to the harbor. And a green-blue orange light spreads about an excellent transparency.
I move to go towards the port, to see if the boat left. But, what boat? It was years ago. I wonder. The photo, how has it been saved? And I? How come I am here? Since the war is over. I know it very well. This tangle inside me becomes an awful anguish. And my house is watery. A watery transparency. But how did my home happen to be in my way? It’s something I don’t understand. Its walls are watery. I can discern my face through layers of transparency that fascinate me. But what does my house have to do with the war? And, then, I don’t know if the war is finished. I hold the photo in my hands and this is strong evidence. But, of what? This anguish is a strange painful feeling of loss inside me.
And I wake up.
There are moments in our life, special little moments which follow us sleepless, broken pieces of an event, which is lost and which we carry in us threatening and blown up.
I was sitting on the steps of Elisaios’ house, with other children that midday of the summer, when we saw Albert with his mother and his little sister following the earth- road to the harbor. They were to leave, it was said, by a ship which was waiting for them there, a ship which had come only to take them. But nobody knew for where.
His mother and his sister went on, they turned the corner. But Albert remained a few moments, just there, just before turning the corner. There he raised his hand to bid us good-bye.
We went to him. He was wearing a black heavy coat. And it was midday. And it was summer. On one hand, he was holding a small bundle, so small that a child could carry, and with the other, he was still waving us good-bye. His eyes were sad. His eyes were full of tears. And he did not speak. He let drop his arm, like a little wounded wing. And left. Turned the corner of the road. Vanished.
We never heard about him since. Noone did. The earth-road remained empty. The light of that early afternoon was very bright. And whenever I think of Albert, a dazzling sensation of whiteness makes the incident, one might say, buoyant as if hovering slightly above its reality, in a sadness of dream.
Then, after many years, when we read about the crematoriums and the gas chambers, when we were told about those death camps, in my thought always came the picture of that afternoon. The boy’s arm bidding us good-bye and the sad eyes, which did not know then yet the fate in store for them.
All this subsequent experience of mine was related to that event, which was but a small broken bit of memory that I carried in me through time. In that parallel existence out of time. In the fragments of my child in me.
Lemnos, June 1983
From the poetic prose book ” Nights of Moonlight “