Little Girl My Little Girl

Little Girl My Little Girl
By Amaranta Osorio and Itziar Pascual
Translated by Phyllis Zatlin

Volume 8, Number 3, Spring 2021

Co-authors Amaranta Osorio and Itziar Pascual were inspired by the story of a renowned actress in Prague, who started her acting career as a child and became a victim of the Nazis in the 1940s. Vava Schoenova (1919-2001) was deported in July 1942 to the Terezin Concentration Camp where the SS famously created a fake ghetto of happy Jews to deceive international Red Cross inspectors. Among the 150,000 Jews who were sent there from Czechoslovakia and other countries, there were 15,000 children. Eventually the children were sent by rail to their deaths at Treblinka and Auschwitz. Fewer than 150 children survived.

Schoenova’s talents were recognized by the Germans, thus allowing her to continue acting, directing, and creating theater for children and young people. Osorio and Pascual foreground a production with dancing fireflies. One survivor of Terezin told Schoenova years later that her best memory of childhood was running across the stage as a firefly while singing that spring would come.

The original play in Spanish, Mi niña, niña mía received its world premiere at Madrid’s municipal Teatro Español, Sala Margarita Xirgu, from March 6 to April 7, 2019, under the direction of Natalia Menéndez. It had won the Jesús Domínguez Prize for Play Texts in 2016. Even before the premiere, the authors approached contacts to have a fragment translated to Spanish, French, and English for a conference of Women Playwrights International to be held in Santiago de Chile the following fall. When I retired, I promised myself I would give up play translation, but upon reading the text I found it far too compelling to say no to Itziar’s invitation. Given that I am deeply disturbed by the treatment of refugees in our times and heard stories from my Jewish father about the Holocaust my whole life, the script spoke to me personally.

The Osorio-Pascual play centers on the historic figure’s past but juxtaposes it with a fictional French entomologist in the present; their separate stories are told in poetic style, with occasional touches of humor. In final scenes, the two women meet, learn of the connections, and relate the horrors of the Holocaust with the treatment of refugees now. Scenes from the past (1942-1945) take place in exterior and interior locations of the Terezin Concentration Camp. Contemporary scenes (2000-2016) are played against the backdrop of a ski resort and various indoor spaces.

During my preparation of the translation, shortly before the original play opened in Madrid, I benefited from a reading of my work in progress from the Isadoora Theatre’s Playwrights’ Collective in Door County, Wisconsin. On April 17, 2021, the translation and the original Spanish text were given Zoom readings by B8theatre in Concord, CA under the direction of Michele Apriña Leavy.

Itziar Pascual is an award-winning playwright whose work became well known during the 1990s in Spain. In 1997, for example, Las voces de Penélope won second prize in the Marqués de Bradomín competition. Pascual has also worked as a teacher, journalist, and journal editor. She also contributes critical essays to theatre journals. Pascual is currently on the teaching staff of the drama school, the Real Escuela Superior de Arte Dramático. She is particularly interested in promoting the activities of female writers and theatre practitioners, having been a member of the Asociación de Mujeres de las Artes Escénicas en Madrid, “Marías Guerreras.”

Amaranta Osorio is a Mexican, Colombian, and Spanish writer, actress, and producer. She has a B.A in dramaturgy from the Real Escuela Superior de Arte Dramático of Madrid (RESAD). She has a Masters in Cultural Management (Complutense University of Madrid and SGAE) and did a postgraduate course on leadership at Harvard University. As an author, she has received several awards. Her plays have been performed in various countries (Spain, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Denmark, Italy, India, etc.) and translated into French, English, and German. Some of the awards include: Premio Calderón de Literatura Dramática, Premio de Textos Teatrales Jesús Domínguez, and the Premio Teatro express de Caja Madrid. In Mexico, she obtained a mention from the jury of the Premio Dolores de Castro among others. In 2019, she became member of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte FONCA in Mexico. Since 2011, she has been an active member of the international network of women, the Magdalena Project.

Phyllis Zatlin has been translating plays from Spanish and French for more than thirty years and is a member of the Dramatists Guild and Spain’s authors’ society (SGAE). Most of her translations have been published and/or performed in professional and university theaters across the United States as well as in the U.K., India, and Australia. Among those that have previously appeared in The Mercurian are Jean Bouchaud’s Is That How It Was?, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 2007); Carlos Semprun-Maura’s Brandy Blues, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Spring 2009); Francisco Nieva’s It’s Not True, Vol.3, No. 3 (Spring 2011); and Antonio Muñoz de Mesa’s Policy, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Spring 2015). She is professor emerita at Rutgers, The State University, where she taught for forty-five years. Her fields of specialization have been contemporary theatre, women writers, and translation. Since retirement, she resides in Door County, WI where she is involved with community theater groups. Her website is www.phylliszatlin.com.

Little Girl My Little Girl
(Moje Holka, moje Holka)

By Amaranta Osorio and Itziar Pascual
Jesús Domínguez Prize for Play Texts, 2016

English translation by Phyllis Zatlin

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that Little Girl, My Little Girl, being fully protected under international copyright laws, is subject to royalty. All rights are strictly reserved. Inquiries regarding permissions should be addressed to the authors through Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE) jsanchez@sgae.es or to the translator pzatlin@gmail.com.

Suddenly the life of fireflies seemed strange and disquieting, as if made of a surviving material: luminescent but weak and pale, sometimes greenish—like that of ghosts.

Georges-Didi Huberman
Survival of Fireflies

Love is not consolation; it is light.

Simone Weil

The firefly:
living emerald;
light in the grass.

Ángela Figuera Aymerich
Songs for the Whole Year

Vava Schoenova (Nava Schaan) was a famous actress in Prague before the war. In July 1942 she was deported to the Terezin Concentration Camp where she continued acting, directing and creating theatre for children and young people. One survivor of Terezin told Schaan years later: “I owe you my childhood. Being a firefly became my best memory of childhood: running across the stage singing: ‘Spring is coming!’ was more for me than you can imagine. In those difficult circumstances you created grand moments for children!”

To the Magdalena Project, community of fireflies.

To José Sanchis Sinisterra, firefly of Spanish theatre.

To José Monleón, always.

CHARACTERS

Two women:

HF, Historic Figure. Freely based on Holocaust survivor Vava Schoenova, known as Nava Schaan (Prague, 1919-2001). Jewish actress deported to the Terezin Concentration Camp (Theresienstadt), 61 kilometers from Prague. She staged works with children from the camp.

Portrayed at two stages of life: young (early twenties for scenes from the past), elderly (in her eighties or nineties for scenes from the present). White skin. Immaculate.

YC, Young Contemporary (Yvette Céline). Entomologist, she studies insects and lives in Paris. (She is in early twenties in her first scenes and in her thirties when she discovers her mother’s letter.) Soft spoken, sensitive soul who reveals timidity, introversion, evasion.

SETTINGS

Exterior:

Snow-covered.

Spring.

Interior:

Room from the past.

Living room:

  • Teresin Concentration Camp
  • Events room
  • HF’s home
  • YC’s home

Kitchen:

  • YC’s home
  • HF’s home

Hotel room (YC)

1. A Woman and a Trip

Room from the past.

HF

They’ve told us we have to go.

I follow their orders.

It makes sense to obey.

Raus! Raus!

Where are we going?

They don’t answer.

For how long?

They say nothing.

When will we be back?

They point at me and shout:

Raus! Raus!

I pack my suitcase, like for a vacation.

The small suitcase for short trips,

this time with all the important things.

Two skirts,

A black dress because you never know.

Two sweaters,

three blouses,

pajamas,

underwear,

high-heeled shoes.

In the pink cosmetics bag: perfume, toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers, soap,

cocoa butter, eyebrow pencil.

And my coty rouge.

I choose my favorite photos.

One from last Passover, with all my family. My father is smiling.

The photo from the first time I went out on a stage.

Documents, passport.

These days without documents you don’t have an identity.

I take my grandmother’s book of recipes, the Torah, and a candle.

There’s still space.

Some matzohs and raisins.

I look from side to side.

I take a foulard from a drawer.

Inside is my pearl necklace,

the emerald ring.

ruby earrings.

Better hide them in the secret pocket of my black overcoat.

I ought to put on the Star of David.

I’ve never liked yellow.

My heart is pounding

like a canary entering the mine,

I leave my room without looking back.

Exterior. (Sound of damp, shuffling, hollow footsteps,)

It’s cold,

too cold.

Everything is drowned in fog.

They make me follow them,

the wind pushes me backwards,

tugging at my suitcase,

every step a struggle.

Is it beginning to snow?

No, it’s hail.

The ice hits my face.

My skin is burning.

My right hand can’t hold the weight of the suitcase.

I switch it to my left hand.

I want to stop for a moment, but I can’t.

They follow me like shepherds with a flock of sheep,

Striking me with force.

A gust of wind tips me over.

My watch breaks.

The one my mother gave me.

I try to pick up the little broken hands.

An officer kicks me twice in the stomach.

I get up.

I don’t know how I find the strength, but I get up.

I hug the suitcase, carrying it as if it were a child.

My eyes are burning.

I don’t know if it’s because of the hail,

or the wind,

or my anger.

I can see nothing.

I try to hide my face in my coat collar.

I keep walking.

Don’t think, don’t ask.

Just keep walking.

My gloves are soaked,

my steps are bits of rubble.

I open my eyes, but fog restricts my vision.

I can’t see them, but I sense them.

I only sense the turbulence of our group.

I walk for hours.

My legs hurt,

my shoulders,

my arms.

I don’t feel my hands but I still carry my suitcase.

Where are we going?

I had a rehearsal this afternoon.

They’ll be worried about me.

The opening of El Dybbuk is next week.

Only one more week until we do The Evil Spirit. (Pause.)

Will we open?

I haven’t been on stage for six months.

They barred us from doing theatre.

Why?

It’s the first time I’ll be acting in Yiddish.

I love El Dybbuk by Shalom Anski.

I have to let them know. (Pause).

Will I act again?

Where are we going?

Raus! Raus!

It’s no longer light.

An officer shoves me into a stable.

Nobody is talking.

Some children are crying.

The soldiers jab us.

Horses are whinnying.

It could all be over right now.

In the darkness of the stable, a spark, a familiar voice.

Auntie Vava! Auntie!

Aviva, little Aviva, runs toward me.

Aviva! Vendula, my sister!

In these times, to be able to say sister, isn’t that something?

There are Vendula and Aviva.

Vendula, my sweet little sister,

and Aviva, her only daughter.

Aviva is an only grandchild, an only daughter, my only niece.

I have a whirlwind of thoughts.

They hug me and we cling together in my overcoat.

A hug is a hug, sweat, kisses, kisses, kisses.

Raus! Raus!

Fear.

We stoop, we lay down on the floor.

The hay on the floor is frozen.

It doesn’t matter. We’re together.

Together.

I use my suitcase like a pillow.

I open it slowly.

I take out a sweater and some raisins.

What time is it?

My watch…

Why do they have us here?

Where are they taking us?

Raisins, yes, the raisins.

We haven’t eaten anything since we left.

How long has it been since we left?

I give some raisins to Aviva and some to Vendula.

What will we do, Aunt Vava? Where are they taking us, Auntie?

Auntie, why are they shouting at us?

I want to get out of here, she says.

Aviva doesn’t stop crying.

I can’t stand it.

She has to calm down.

I hold her in my arms.

Aviva devours all the raisins like a little mouse.

I close my eyes.

Fatigue overcomes me.

My feet are burning,

my throat is dry,

there between the smell of bodies and animals.

In the morning we start the trip again.

We three are one in the silence.

A pale sun accompanies us.

I still don’t know what time it is.

I don’t know where they are taking us.

We have climbed a tall mountain,

too tall.

Had I seen it, I wouldn’t have had strength to climb,

but there was fog.

2. A Woman and a Trip

Present. Exterior.

YC

You shoulda said no before, Yvonne Céline.

Before getting here,

On this mountain that goes on forever,

Snow covered, formidable.

You oughta find a polite way

to say, “No thank you… I don’t want to.”

I feel like an astronaut from the 60s.

I feel clumsy, useless, fragile, impotent.

I feel like at home, but worse.

The boots, the skis, the gloves,

Always losing the damned gloves…

All the while you said to yourself, “Tell them no, tell them no,”

out of your mouth came expressions of enthusiasm.

“I love black trails.”

Black trails? The ones for experts?

Did you say black trails?

You hate the lines for the chair lift.

Leaving home in the middle of the night.

Thought is frozen in this cold.

And these ski boots are crap.

They make you as light as a dying ox.

“I love black trails.”

Well, here we are:

skis, snow, you,

and fake enthusiasm.

The others have already gone on.

I can’t see the mountain,

only a sea of snow.

The fog keeps me from seeing anything.

What are you doing here, Yvette Céline?

What are you doing here, risking your life?

God, I can’t see.

(Rapid breathing, agitation, cold…)

To hell with enthusiasm.

You bought an all-day pass.

Keep going, Yvette Céline.

And the fog? Where is it?

God, where did the fog go?

Now the snow is blinding.

(YC opens and closes her eyes repeatedly.)

Merde! Now I can see the mountain.

This mountain goes on forever.

It’s impossible.

Too far, too steep,

too much snow.

And you know you can’t scream;

scream and you’ll have an avalanche…

Too much enthusiasm.

I won’t be able to get down.

What if I die?

What if I fall and start rolling?

What if I end up a quadriplegic?

I could take off the skis and walk down…

Getting there by spring.

Breathe, breathe,

Hold on, hold back your fear, Yvette Céline.

God, I can’t stand this sport.

I can’t stand doing everything to be social; let them go without me.

Nobody waited for me.

Nobody is waiting for me.

One, two, three,

Off we go.

My eyes are burning,

I’m going too fast.

Never again, Yvette Céline,

Never again, Yvette Céline.

Sometimes one needs the truth.

Sometimes one needs the fog.

3. A Woman and a Hope

Past. Exterior.

HF

More and more people arrive.

We are many.

I’m cold.

Very cold.

I have to go to the bathroom.

There are more and more of us.

One hundred, two hundred,

I don’t know.

The stable yard is too small.

I’m being pushed.

They’re shoving their elbows into my back.

I feel Vendula’s hard nipples on my right arm.

She’s agitated. I only think about breathing.

I hope Aviva’s crying doesn’t drive me crazy.

Because Aviva is crying,

and crying, and crying, and crying,

as if for the last time and the first.

At my side a man moves and hits me in the ribs.

It hurts.

I have to go to the bathroom.

Nearby they tell me there’s a railway platform.

We hear the sound of trains on the rails.

The trains keep coming.

Nobody says anything.

Why don’t they open the gates?

I struggle not to touch the iron bars.

I use all my force.

The metal jabs me in the stomach,

in the chest,

in my face.

I can’t breathe.

I have to go to the bathroom.

How long are they going to leave us here?

Why can’t they open the gate?

I can’t move.

Aviva keeps on crying.

I can’t see her. I no longer can see her.

But I still hear her sobbing within me,

like age-old desperation.

I have to go to the bathroom.

I can’t hold it anymore.

I can feel my urine,

hot,

almost boiling,

dancing between my thighs.

It soaks my feet.

I don’t even have space to open my legs.

There are more and more.

They push me.

I’m no longer cold.

Their bodies shelter me.

Why can’t they open the gates?

A woman on the other side approaches.

She has a blue dress and beautiful green eyes.

She isn’t wearing a star.

Is she German?

She’s looking for someone.

She approaches me.

Do we know each other?

She tries to give me a cookie

but I can’t move my hands.

I don’t have room.

She puts her hand between the bars.

She puts the cookie in my mouth.

Why does she help me if she doesn’t know me?

The cookie is very sweet.

The woman is crying.

Her tears taste like cinnamon.

Thank you, I say.

She caresses me.

She kisses me.

Thank you.

She puts a square of chocolate in my mouth.

People push me.

The man next to me tries to take the chocolate away.

As he moves, he makes me lose my balance.

She gives him chocolate, too.

And to Vendula, who is still nearby.

I try not to swallow the chocolate to give it to Aviva,

but my body knows better than my mind.

The mind can abstain but the body has no regrets.

My mouth tastes like praline.

We haven’t eaten for two days.

The woman takes cookies from her bag and slips them through the openings.

An officer sees her.

She kisses me on the mouth.

The officer rushes over and takes her away from the gate.

He shoves her.

She falls.

Odolává!, she tells me.

I try to get my hand through the opening.

I can do nothing.

The officer beats her.

He beats her and beats her.

The woman stands up.

Odolává!, she tells me.

The soldier beats her some more.

She looks at him and tries to get up.

Another officer arrives.

He takes her away.

Odolává!, I shout at her.

Odolává!, I tell myself.

Where are they taking her?

I shout, I shout internally.

A shout echoes within me.

The gates open.

I clutch my beautiful Vendula’s hand.

They shove us, they shove us.

Our hands, our fingers are slipping…

Suddenly Aviva has stopped crying.

4. A Woman and a Dream

Present. Interior. YC’s home.

An enormous case for insects. YC enters the living room. Her hair is disheveled, her clothes casual. She looks among cushions for the remote control and aims it at her music system. We hear a song by the Beatles. Barefoot, she walks over to the insect case and studies it carefully. Except for Lucy, a name chosen from a Beatles song, she has given her insects names of well-known entomologists.

YC

Good morning! How are you, Lucy? Ah, Prof. Chauvin, I see you are quite content. Did you have a good night? Just a minute, Father Kirby, I’ll give you your meal.

(She takes something from a jar she keeps near the insect case.)

I had a strange dream… last night.

I dreamed I was in a grand theater,

an old theater, from the 40s.

A theater with a fresco on the ceiling,

like the Paris Opera. In the painting, there were

a bride, little girls, and winged women with long bodies.

The theater had green leather seats.

I was looking for someone, but I don’t know who.

A man gave me a giant wooden tray.

You were there, Lucy, and Remy Chauvin, and Jean-Henri Fabre.

Next to the seats was a conveyor belt,

like the ones for passengers at De Gaulle Airport.

I climbed on the belt, and it leaned to the side,

as if we were climbing a mountain.

Next to me a woman was playing the cello.

With each one of her notes, you all moved.

Lucy, you were shining. You all were dancing.

We kept on climbing, but at the end of the

belt there was a bonfire.

The cello was falling,

The woman clung to the cello,

trying to play some notes

in the midst of the flames.

It was complete silence composed of sparks.

When I was about to fall, I looked at the

child brides, the winged women, and I ran

with all my might in the opposite direction.

The wooden tray slipped out of my hands.

And you all fell, into the violet sparks.

I ran and I ran,

trying to reach you,

but I couldn’t.

I had to survive.

I ran until my legs broke

and I woke up with a start, in my bed. (Silence.)

Why are some able to resist and others…? The woman with the cello could not.

You could not… And I… (Silence.)

5. A Woman and a Day at a Time

Past. Exterior. Terezin Concentration Camp.

HF

Every day is like this.

At five o’clock,

the shrill whistle.

Make up the bunk.

Take care of personal hygiene.

Hygiene?

How can I wash up if there is no running water?

Maybe tomorrow…

My mouth is parched, from one day to the next.

My head is shaven.

My neck is dry and cracked.

My body is gone, like a castaway,

wandering among the ghosts of a shipwreck.

I have to squeeze each drop from a glass of water

to wash my face,

my hands.

Not forget that I was a person

I am a person. Not forget the

woman who kissed me an eternity ago,

with a kiss of cinnamon and chocolate.

Washing up makes me a person,

Helping me to resist.

To remember my days of primping,

light-heartedly brushing my hair,

feeling myself pretty for the slightest reason.

Every morning the same gray dress,

mended a thousand times.

The black overcoat they forbid me to wear for sleeping.

Waking up with frozen fingers turned purple.

I am so cold.

Every morning.

Go out in the yard.

Line up.

Don’t move.

Look at the ground.

Don’t move.

Every morning.

Line ups and cold.

Resist.

They leave us here

too long.

The time it takes to check the bunks,

take away those no longer breathing.

Every morning.

Dead women with a fixed stare.

They don’t close the women’s eyes.

Why don’t they close their eyes?

Every winter morning,

nude bodies in a German truck.

Don’t move.

Look at the ground.

Don’t move.

How long are they leaving us here?

I would like to see sunrise, but here the sun doesn’t shine.

It doesn’t shine.

Resist.

Don’t move.

Look at the ground.

Don’t move.

Keep your back straight.

Bend your knees a little.

Think of training for the theater,

Training.

Resist.

Keep your back straight, bend your knees a little,

look at the ground, don’t move.

I can’t go on.

Resist.

Resist.

Every day the same,

except that day,

Pavilion 12 is leaving.

That moment of separation comes

back to me with every march.

Vendula, Vendula,

where are they taking you?

Her look, the scream,

the shrill whistle.

Vendula is no longer,

she isn’t, she isn’t.

Emptiness. Finally

we get out of line.

The writing on the door: Arbeit Macht Frei.

Work will make you free?

But no one is free.

Freedom is not possible.

Resist?

Walk to the kitchen, looking at the floor.

Wash the dishes,

the pots.

Sweep the dust.

Serve the officers.

Every day.

Not a crumb, only dust.

Only…

I’m lucky to be in the kitchen.

And to care for the children.

I care for Aviva, now

she only has me. The children live

here very little time, very little.

Little bodies in a German truck.

What can be done so they can stand hunger and cold?

What can I do in this terrible weather?

Odolává! Like she said.

They say the glass pavilion will be a playground.

A glass park at Terezin?

To play?

You can’t eat glass.

Aviva needs food.

They need food.

Hunger is always present.

Everyday.

Cold.

Line ups.

Hunger.

Work.

Night.

Don’t forget that I’m a person.

Treat others as people.

Treat the children as people.

Look out the window.

Darkness.

Odolává! Like she said.

Today…

In the distance,

Little sporadic lights glow in nothingness.

They look like fireflies.

Fireflies…to resist.

6. A Woman and a Trauma

Present. Interior. YC’s home.

YC

Oh, Tomas Tranströmer, what happened to you?

I’ve told you a thousand times.

Don’t be intimidated by the caterpillars. What happened to you this time?

Don’t go near the Podalias. Those moths’ hairs are poisonous.

Don’t go out of your comfort zone. You have to stay there.

You’re a Chilopoda, a centipede.

You have to stay with your own kind.

You see? Here’s your food.

I’m going to tell you a secret.

When I was nine, I wanted to do an experiment in my school yard.

And… I removed some little legs from a centipede.

I know, I know, but I was a little girl, and little girls…

My classmates caught me at it, and it was one of the saddest days of my life.

My classmates accused me of being dirty, cruel, a bad person.

I said it was just a centipede, but those girls insisted “It’s alive!”

I just wanted to take away some little legs, only a few…

My classmates decided to have a funeral for the darned centipede.

They put it in a little match box. Almost

the whole class participated in the funeral, and I

became someone who tortured animals.

They didn’t notice they were burying it alive.

I just wanted to know if it could walk with fewer legs.

My teacher scolded me in front of everyone.

You don’t do that to living creatures.

The teacher called my mother, and she got furious.

She punished me. No dessert for a week.

Say goodbye to apples baked with sugar and butter.

All for a Chilopoda.

You understand, Herr Tranströmer. All for a few little legs…

I discovered something important that day.

I promised myself that I would always follow my curiosity.

Wanting to know, above everything.

So I became an entomologist.

Now I don’t talk much with people but a lot with centipedes.

And yes, you are my comfort zone.

Herr Tranströmer? Herr Tranströmer? What are you doing? Stay away from the caterpillars!

They’re going to…! Augh!

7. A Woman and a Trauma

Past. Interior. Terezin Concentration Camp

HF

I run my hands over my dress, trying to make the

wrinkles disappear, ten times, a hundred times.

I wash my face.

How I miss my perfume, my toothbrush and tooth paste, lotion, nail clippers,

soap, cocoa butter, eyebrow pencil,

and, of course, my coty rouge.

I long for all that I was, all the possibilities for being,

I long for my family jewels, yanked away in the first searches,

for the Torah, the candle,

the light from that candle, and the

curls of my hair touching my shoulders.

I long for language to express doubts and ask questions,

I long for documents, passport, a name, because

now I am only a number and a star. And while I’m longing,

I pinch my lips with a tiny splinter

and use my blood as lipstick

and a bit on my cheeks.

So I look healthy.

I take the coffee and set it on the table, I look at his eyes.

He could kill me.

Looking at a soldier’s eyes is forbidden.

I look at him, I smile, he looks at me.

I lower my gaze and go to my usual corner.

hübsche Hundin, he calls me “beautiful bitch.”

I smile, listening to everything

he says, hübsche Hundin. I pretend

that I like him. For a moment I want

his hands to inhabit me.

I let him do what he wants.

He turns me around.

He penetrates me.

He turns me back around.

I feel like a rag doll.

It’s rapid, with an unheard of violence.

I know he’s done, his face contracts in a grimace

that’s horrible but beautiful at the same time.

He covers his face.

Does he perhaps feel…?

I draw near, but he pushes me.

I stand still, not daring to say anything.

He pulls up his pants and looks at me

the same way the others do, as if I were a

foul-smelling animal.

From a shelf he takes a piece of chocolate

and throws it in my face.

He didn’t have to do that.

He gives me chocolate.

I smile at him.

I kiss the chocolate, and save it for Aviva.

He slaps me.

Hundin, he says to me.

Thank you, I reply.

Halt die Klappe!, he says, telling me to shut up.

I dress rapidly and get into my usual corner

where I observe outside of myself and my body.

8. A Woman and a Memory

Present. Interior.

(YC’s home. Soft Beatles music.)

YC

Come on, Lucy. It’ll be dark soon.

One day I ran away from home while my parents were taking a nap.

I left without making noise, tiptoeing, with a backpack filled with glass bottles and lids with punched holes.

I hoped to find new insects for my collection.

It was night before I started home. In the middle of the darkness, scared to death, I started to see little flying lights.

I managed to trap one.

I ran with all my might for home. I felt something so big, an immense satisfaction, that overwhelmed me. I had trapped a fairy!

When I got near the house, my fairy stopped shining.

I ran and my mother stopped me at the door.

Where have you been, she asked me furiously.

I could only tell her I had trapped a fairy.

She snatched the jar and put it under the light.

She raised her eyebrows and her eyes got very big.

Then I realized that my fairy was an insect.

A firefly.

At that moment, my mother without a word set the insect loose in the dark part of the garden.

Then the firefly started to shine again and I fell in love with your species.

(YC turns off the lights in the room.)

I understood that love is a form of light.

(In the dimmed light, the firefly shines.)

9. A Woman and a Letter

Past. Interior. Terezin Concentration Camp.

HF (Rereading a letter to an officer)

Dear Mother,

Many months have passed since they brought me here and I think of you every day.

I’m well. The officers are letting me send you this letter. I have to write it in German. I hope you can understand it.

These have been difficult months, but Terezin has changed a great deal since we arrived.

They’ve built a glass pavilion, with some games for children.

For some time now the children have a special menu.

Once a week we have an activity.

We have poetry recitations and even concerts. Some of the best musicians from the ghetto in Prague are here, like Hans Krása and Pavel Haas. Thinking about bumblebees, Haas has composed an opera for children, Brundibar.

I’ve directed two shows for children. The first was in Yiddish and the second in German. A work about insects who are waiting for spring.

I would have liked… (Pause)

I would have liked for you to see it. The fireflies are precious.

Today we will be performing it again. This time just for the officers. A group of thirty officers and a delegation from the Red Cross.

The work was inspired by Aesop’s fable that you used to tell me. Do you remember? I asked for it every night. And you said to me Moje Holka, Moje Holka.

Once upon a time there was a serpent that pursued a Firefly, who rapidly fled in fear of the fierce predator, but the serpent continued chasing her.

The firefly fled one day and the serpent did not give up. Two days and the serpent persisted.

On the third day, exhausted, the Firefly stopped and said to the serpent:

“May I ask you three questions?”

“I don’t usually give anyone that privilege, but since I’m going to eat you, you may do so,”

“Am I part of the food chain?”

“No,” the serpent answered.

“Have I done you any harm?”

“No,” the serpent answered again.

“Then, why do you want to destroy me?”

“Because I can’t bear to see you shine.”

The show was precious. Aviva was a marvelous firefly.

There was a great deal of applause.

The officers took pictures of themselves with us.

(She pauses and looks at the officer.)

They treated us like people.

After the show, they took away half of the children.

They took them to your camp. They said that their parents were at Auschwitz.

Please take care of them.

Aviva stayed with me, in the theater.

Now we live in the same pavilion.

I have to finish. Give my love to the family.

I think of you always. Always. HF

(The officer takes the letter and rips it up. HF looks down. The officer hands her a small postcard. HF writes. She is sobbing.)

Mother,

Everything is fine. They treat me well. Aviva is getting fat. She is getting fat. I do theater with the children. They are fireflies.

I think of you always. Always. HF

(The officer grabs the postcard from her hand.)

10. A Woman and a Failure

Present. Interior. YC’s home.

(YC enters and tosses her purse. She takes off her overcoat, shoes, and throws her house keys in the air.)

YC

Can you believe it, Lucy? Can you believe it?

They asked Madame Latreille about her students and I,

I waited and waited, and waited for

her to say something about me.

I thought that she could mention my contributions to her explanations, her publications, her proposals…

Nothing.

Not a word.

It was a conference about our work, and Madame Latreille didn’t even say my name,

Not even a mention.

Nothing.

I felt anger rise to my mouth,

I wanted to interrupt the conference and say to her,

“What’s wrong with you? Huh?

Don’t you remember me?”

And what’s worse, Lucy, the worst of all, is

that I said nothing. I said nothing to her.

What do you make of that, Lucy?

Two years off the clock, without weekends, working fourteen, fifteen hours,

days with a sandwich out of a machine, and then back to

work. And now all of this work, all my effort, is hers.

Two years thrown in the garbage,

two years! You get that?

And what’s worse, the worst of all, is

that I kept silent. When

I was coming home, I started

to cry; in the bus, on the subway, in the doorway.

At what place in my memory,

in my past,

in my story did I learn to

keep silent? When did I accept

my place in the shadows?

When did I accept it’s our place to be skilled without shining?

I’m not sure, Lucy, I’m for being discreet, but…

I need some light,,,

(The insects move in their case. For a moment it appears that Lucy shines in the semi-darkness of the room. The phone rings. YC answers.)

Hello. What’s up?

What?

That can’t be.

But my mother…

I spoke to her yesterday.

She was fine.

I’m leaving right now.

(YC hangs up and stands motionless.)

11. A Woman and an Impossible Action

Present. Interior.

(HF’s home. HF is now an elderly woman who walks slowly. She holds a little wire object in her hands.)

HF

The dream came back.

My dream is a nightmare,

repetitive…

The same train is full of people,

The darkness, sweat, lamentations,

the sound of unspoken words,

and Mama saying to me, stay there, stay there, Moje Holka…

Moje Holka…

Little girl, my little girl…

It was the same dream, the same dream,

that keeps coming back, but this time the doors

didn’t open. The roof opened,

letting in a white light,

intense and blinding.

I closed my eyes, and when I opened them, there was the sky,

Everyone’s body had become elongated, like in

a painting by El Greco, pale and bluish.

Suddenly I began,

we began to float.

Mother’s blue dress turned to cobalt blue,

the wind stirred it like stalks of corn,

as gently as a lullaby.

I wore a bridal veil

and a white dress with buttons shaped like bells.

We could all fly.

I wanted to rise up,

but my legs were unable to run in the sky.

I went back to the train car.

I fell, it was dark once more,

The sweat, lamentations, the sound of

unspoken words. But Mother

was no longer there.

(Pause. A white butterfly crosses the stage.)

12. A Woman and a Question

Present. Interior. Events room.

A large table with a white tablecloth. Candles and white flowers. A woman’s photo. A crown of flowers. Remains of an elegant dinner. Empty bottles that YC is clearing up. She puts them next to a barrel. YC tosses a bottle into the barrel. Broken glass. She breaks another bottle, then another and another, more and more rapidly.

YC (looking at the woman’s photo)

Why didn’t you tell me, Mother?

You had to wait until the end?

You had to do it that way, like that?    

(YC breaks several bottles.)

Why did you leave me that letter?

In thirty-five years you couldn’t tell me anything?       

(YC breaks another bottle.)

What good does it do me to know?

Why now?

(YC breaks another bottle. And another.)

What good does it do me to know you were born in

Terezin? You were born in captivity, Mama, you are

the daughter of a Jew from the Prague ghetto who

gave birth to a little girl in Terezin,

raised by a German family that kept the secret for

years…

And I? Who am I?

Who was my grandmother?

Großmutter Hilda wasn’t my grandmother?

What am I to do with your story?

And once more, where is my story?    

(YC breaks several bottles.)

And why do you tell me about that actress?

Is she still alive?

(YC breaks more bottles.)

Why, Mama? Why now? Why…?

I am made of shadows,

I don’t know who I am nor what gives me shelter.

I take refuge among tiny things,

I am made of silences.

Should I adopt your story?

Mama, who are you?   

(YC breaks more bottles. She breaks down.)

Mama, Mama, I need you.

13. A Woman and a Supplication

Present. Interior. Living room(s).

A large table with a white tablecloth. Candles and white flowers. Four wine glasses.

HF washes her hands in a basin. She fills the second wine glass and drinks.

HF (reading)

“How is this night different from other nights?

This night is different because I’m alive,

Because I was lucky and survived.

Because now, no matter what, I will always fight for life.

This night is different because I know that it is my duty to tell my story.

Our story.

So that oblivion does not fill our souls.”

(HF puts the letter away)

YC

Mama.

I’m not Jewish.

There’s nothing Jewish about me, Mama.

I don’t know if I can, if I’ll know how, if

I have the inner strength.

I will look for the woman who saved you.

(HF finishes her glass of wine.)

14. A Woman and a Light

Present. Interior. HF’s kitchen.

HF

Oh, Mother. Reading the pages of your cookbook is like going back to our kitchen.
“Seven-hour eggs.

When you shell them, the designs from cracks appear painted on them. After at least an hour in the oven, take them out and tap them.”

I remember you preparing for the Sabbath, Mother, starting early the day before to put the eggs in the oven. And then hours to cook them.

(HF takes the eggs out of the oven. She puts them in water.)

Oh, Mother, do you remember? “If the egg resists more than seven hours, so much the better. Eggs, like people, get better if they resist.”

(The shelled eggs show designs.)

I love seven-hour eggs. Their scars are beautiful. Nowadays, scars are hidden.

(Sound of doorbell)

I’m coming. I’m coming.  The mail carrier?

(She exits. A moment later enters with an envelope. She reads. The letter falls from her hands. She stares into space. Silence. She picks the letter up.)

Moje holka, moje holka.

(We hear the song “Now Beautiful Spring Is Coming” (Jetzt fängt das schöne Frühjahr an). She carefully holds the wire firefly. She kisses it.)

Mama, Mama,

Moje holka.

Baby Hadda survived!

Aviva, your granddaughter, survived.

15. A Woman and an Expectation

Present. Interior. YC’s living room.

(YC is speaking on the phone with her father.)

YC

Dad, it’s me. Yvette Céline.

She’s answered me.

She, the

actress,

the woman who saved Mom.

I’ve found her.

And she’s willing to see me.

She’s in Prague.

Afterwards, she returned to Prague.

Are you coming with me? (Silence)

Alright.

As you wish.

No, I don’t need money.

See you Sunday.

(YC hangs up.)

16. Two Women and Happiness

Present. Interior. HF and YC in their respective homes.                           

YC

I’ve found her, Mom.

HF

My beloved Vendula, my dear sister, has a … Great granddaughter? And I… I…

What am I? A great aunt? A great great aunt? Oh! What difference does it make?

YC

At last she can tell me.

HF

A great great niece in Paris.

YC

It’s what you wanted.

HF

A light in the darkness.

(The two women begin to twirl around. As if they were little girls. As if there was nothing else in the world. They dance. They don’t see each other. They don’t touch, but they are together. They are overcome with joy. They laugh.)

17. A Woman and Transportation

Present. Interior. YC’s livingroom.

(YC is looking at her Ipad.)

YC

I can’t go by plane.

I couldn’t stand it.

Closed in,

Suspended there,

Up above.

(Speaking to her insect case.)

I wish I were like you.

If I could fly with my own wings…

You’re never afraid, or are you?

There are no direct trains.

Ew, three hundred euros.

Eleven hours to get there.

Paris to Mannheim to Prague.

March 2nd.

8:00 at night.

Buy.

(To the insects)

We’re going to Prague.

18. Two Women and a Meeting

Present. Interior. HF’s living room

(HF polishes the wire firefly as if it were a great treasure. She looks in the mirror. She fixes her hair. She takes out a coty rouge. She handles it with great care. She touches up her cheeks. She looks at the clock. She sits down. She looks out the window. Sound of doorbell. She puts her hand on her heart. She opens the door. HF quickly hugs YC and YC responds with self-restraint.)

YC

Good afternoon.

HF

Welcome.

YC

Thank you.

HF

Come in, my dear. Don’t just stand there.

(YC enters and remains motionless. Pause.)

HF

Do sit down.

(YC sits down.)

I’ve made tea. Do you like tea?

YC

Yes.

HF

How was your trip?

YC

I came by train.

HF

By train?

YC

It takes a long time. Eleven hours.

HF

I can never travel again by train, you see.

(Pause. She stops to observe YC.)

YC

What’s wrong?

HF

Words. Words are of no use. You are… Like the shadow of two butterflies.

YC

Is that pretty?

HF

If you like butterflies, yes.

YC

What was she like? (Silence)

HF (Offering YC a tray)

They’re Rugelach. Typical pastries.

YC

Delicious. Thank you.

(Silence. Both women search for something to do without finding it.)

HF

I’m sorry you had to find out this way. How are you doing?

YC

I’m still…

HF

Of course. It’s still very soon.

(YC nervously moves her spoon.)

What do you expect from me?

YC

The truth. I know my mother was born in Terezin and that she survived thanks to you.

HF

Aviva, your grandmother, was my niece. I’m the sister of Vendula, your great grandmother. In other words, I’m an antique. (The two women smile.)

YC

How did you survive?

HF

The theatre saved me. Thinking, even if only during a performance, that I could get away. (Pause.) That and what a woman said to me that I’ve never forgotten. Odolává!

YC

What?

HF

Odolává! Resist. In Czech. (Silence.)

What do you do?

YC

I’m an entomologist.

HF

Etno….

YC

I study insects. I study fireflies as a source of light.

HF

Did you say …fireflies?

YC

Yes, The light they produce is very efficient. Almost 100% of their energy is emitted in light. A spotlight, for example, emits only 10% of its energy as light, the other 90% is lost as heat.

HF

I didn’t know that. I only thought they gave us hope.

(She shows YC the little wire firefly.)

YC

Coming from…?

HF

From darkness. Doesn’t it seem magical to you that unwittingly, without knowing…?

YC

No. (Pause.) Well. I don’t know. I don’t know what to believe in…

HF

Can one live without believing in something?

YC

I believe in the fireflies. I believe in fireflies because they produce beauty in the midst of darkness.

HF

Like theatre. (Long silence.)

YC

And you, what do you do?

HF

Now, well… Very little. Sometimes I tell our story to children.

YC

But you were an actress.

(HF nods.)

Were you in a lot of plays?

HF

I had some successes… but the greatest one was constructing a worthy life on the ruins. Resist. Evil is unlimited but not infinite. Infinity limits evil.

YC

You believe?

HF

Yes. And Simone Weil, who also resisted, did to. (Silence.)

19. Two Women and a Question

Present. Interior. HF’s living room.

YC

What was life like at the Terezin camp?

HF

What do you know about the camps for Syrian refugees? What do you know about the border between Greece and Macedonia?

YC

Well…

HF

Do you know the European Union has agreed that Turkey can expel all the refugees? Did you know that? (Pause.) Forgive me, forgive me. It’s just that sometimes I hear the news and I begin to feel the trains again… Those trains. (Pause.) We lived in inhuman conditions. And even so, Terezin what better than Auschwitz. I was very lucky because I spoke German so they gave me kitchen chores and care of the children. With them I was able to put on some theatre pieces and I could care for Aviva. (Pause.) If I were younger and stronger, I would go to the border.

YC

You’re very brave.

HF

No, of course not. It’s just that… we have to protect those children. (Pause.) But let’s talk, let’s talk about the past.

YC

You put on theatre in Terezin?

HF

The Gestapo used Terezin as fakery. They wanted to convince the world that their treatment of Jews was acceptable. They allowed the children to stage theatre. Your grandmother… Do you know what the name Aviva means? It means spring. Did your mother learn her name in Hebrew?

YC

I don’t know. She preferred silence… And a letter. My father told her that she was doing the right thing. We set the past aside, he told me. Why go back?

HF

That’s why the trains have returned, filled with terrified children. Because of not going back. (Pause.) In our tradition, we have a rite for giving a Hebrew name to little girls when they are one year old, but your grandmother gave that name upon the baby’s birth. She called her “Hadda”, the one who radiates happiness. (Silence.)

In the last performance we gave, the stage was filled with fireflies and the little girls ran everywhere singing…

(HF sings in German, Jetzt fängt das schöne Frühjahr an –Now beautiful spring is coming. At some point, YC joins in the singing For suggested English translation of song and the melody, see appendix..)

Jetzt fängt das schöne Frühjahr an,
und alles fängt zu blühen an
auf grüner Heid und überall.

Es blühen Blümlein auf dem Feld,
sie blühen weiß, blau, rot und gelb;
es gibt nichts Schön’res auf der Welt.

Jetzt geh ich über Berg und Tal,
da hört man schön die Nachtigall
auf grüner Heid und überall.

HF

Your grandmother was a wonderful firefly. (Silence.)

It was a special work. The children were happy. They had food,

They put on costumes, we could sing and dance.

I believed that things were changing for the better. We all believed it.

What else could we think?

But in reality they had to convince the Red Cross that at

Terezin we were fine. They took photos of us, they made a movie…

And as soon as the Red Cross went away, hunger returned, and they took half

of the children to Auschwitz.

Your grandmother was saved because they thought she could work. (Silence.)

20. Woman and an Origin

Present. Interior. HF’s living room.

YC

Do you know anything about my grandfather? Did he live with her in the camp?

HF

In our pavilion there were only women.

YC

So… (Silence.)

HF

Your grandmother managed to hide her pregnancy until the end.

When they discovered it, they couldn’t take her away. They made her sign a letter that she agreed with euthanizing her daughter. They smothered newborns. (Silence.)

Your mother, Hadda, was born in the early morning. In the pavilion, with the help of all the women. She was born in absolute silence. At night, in secret.

But we had to get her out of the camp. That was the only way she could live. I hid your mother in my overcoat. In the morning, I took her to the kitchen. I showed her to Hilda, one of the German women I worked with. She shook her head.

Nein, nein.

I begged her to take the baby away.

Nein, nein, bitte.

Your mother began to cry.

And Hilda, who was a mother herself, couldn’t bear it.

She put her in a potato sack and left.

I never saw Hilda again.

I thought… I thought…

And then I got your letter… (Silence.)

I am so happy you are here. For years I thought I had been the only…

YC

The only?

HF

The only survivor.

(Silence. HF tries to get up but lacks the strength.)

I have to rest.

Can we meet tomorrow?

(YC nods. She stands up and crosses to the exit.)

21. A Woman and Poetic Justice

Present. Interior.

(YC enters her hotel room. She undresses, slowly, and sits in a chair. For a moment. She makes a decision and then makes a telephone call.)

YC

Madame Latreille, am I disturbing you? Oh, I’m sorry. I’ll be brief. Don’t worry. I’m in Prague and it will be a few days before I get back. That shouldn’t bother you, right? (Pause.)

I’m not sure just how long this matter will take. I’ll let you know. I’ll look for a flight… Yes, a flight. Why not? The train trip is too long.

Madame Latreille, perhaps, when we’re in Paris… I’d like to talk to you. Calmly. Perhaps our collaboration ought to move on to a new phase. Yes, a different phase. A more balanced phase. One that is more fitting. (Pause.) You see, Madame Latreille…. I don’t want to resemble Tomas Tranströmer (Pause.) No, not the entomologist. The centipede in my insect case. (Pause.) He can’t go near the Podalias. Their hairs are poisonous. (Pause.) Tomas Tranströmer searches around and lets himself be attracted by the Podalias… He doesn’t realize that their strength is in him. But we’ll talk about that in Paris. (Pause.)

Oh, really? I’ve changed? Maybe. Do you know that I’m the granddaughter of a firefly? Of a woman filled with light. Yes…  That’s right. Do you know what Odoldává means?

(Blackout.)

22. Two Women and a Threat

Present. Interior. HF’s living room.

HF

Good morning. I expected you later.

YC

I’m sorry.

HF

Of course you’re welcome any time.

(HF takes out a jar of paste similar to marmalade along with some matzohs.)

Try this. It’s called haroset.

YC

Delicious. What’s in it?

HF

Apples, walnuts, honey, cinnamon and wine. It’s a sweet that we eat at Passover. It recalls the clay used by the Hebrew people when they were slaves in Egypt. (Silence.)

YC

I have to know.

Who was my grandfather? (Long silence.)

HF

Grandfather?

Did you say grandfather?

No, that word isn’t worth mentioning.

I don’t know who he was. And if I once had an inkling, I no longer can see his face…

They were terrible times, my child.

Aviva did not choose Hadda’s father. She did not choose to get pregnant. At Terezin women did not choose, my dear. Young girls didn’t either.

But there were also incredible actions. Like that of Hilda, the cook who sheltered Hadda. Like that of the woman who risked her life to share a piece of chocolate with us. Because a piece of chocolate was the difference between going on and dying.

(Long silence. HF hands YC the wire firefly.)

You are the last one in our family. All of our family lives within you. Now you can tell our story.

23. A Woman and a Poem

Present. Interior. HF’s living room.

HF

We said today we’d talk of poetry.

YC

I haven’t had time to find a poem.

HF

Then I’ll read mine to you. I wrote it the day I met you. When you told me that you believed in fireflies.

The sun is dying out

leaving me bereft of

hope. Yesterday no longer

exists. Nostalgia is bitter.

Faraway, intermittent splendors.

Fireflies that still love.

24. A Woman. Alive.

Present. Exterior.

(Spring 2016. YC has returned to the mountain of scene 2, She is carrying an insect case.)

I had to come back here.

I believed that sometimes fog is necessary.

And that’s not true.

I need light to understand, to know, to do.

To know who I am.

I am the little girl who looked for fairies with a jar.

I am the little girl who took legs from a centipede.

I am the woman who was afraid to fly.

I am the woman that sought refuge among insects.

I am the woman who discovered her mother after her death.

I am the memory of my ancestors.

I am the woman who flies now, like a Chagall painting.

I am a firefly and doubt and a question and curiosity.

Always curiosity.

I am dream and little girl and light and laughter and path.

Remy Chauvin, do you feel it? Do you feel this fresh air?

Oh, Father Kirby, listen… Don’t tell me you prefer the Beatles!

Lucy, Lucy? Can you feel spring?

Tomas Tranströmer, you don’t know how much I’ve learned from you. From all of you.

Now we must say goodbye.

You shouldn’t wait for me in our Paris apartment.

Remember the dream I told you? It was a terrible dream about sacrifices..

I don’t know how much I can help,

I don’t know if I’ll be able to do something, something that is worthwhile.

I only know that I don’t want another Europe that is crossed by

trains, with little girls who are lost, who cry, with

women who don’t know where they are goingl Someone will have to

shed a little light, like the fireflies… Because

we must go on.

Go on, in spite of everything.

To act, in spite of everything.

To build, in spite of everything.

To create, in spite of everything.

To smile, in spite of everything.

To shine, to shine, to shine.

Odolává!

(YC frees all the insects. The stage is filled with flying insects, at last free.)

The End

APPENDIX

Beautiful spring is almost here,

Blossoms are coming far and near

In the green meadows everywhere.

Little flowers grow in the meadow.

They are white, red, blue, and yellow.

All is beautiful everywhere.

We go now o’er hill and dale.

Soon we’ll be hearing the nightingale

In the green meadows everywhere.

6 thoughts on “Little Girl My Little Girl

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