(Excerpt from Rachel Sarai's Vineyard)
author wishes to dedicate this story to Wallace Ray Hardy, WWII
soldier on the European front
and father of Editor Kathy Rhodes "and all the other soldiers,
who allowed us to live."
golden light is coming ... from the east
It rolls gently forwards on a morning mist
towards childish eyes of wonder kissed.
Its light gently touching a soft pink cheek.
The first thing young Rachel noticed, when she woke up on the
seventh of May 1945, was the sunbeam that streaked into her room
through the little heart-shaped opening in the shutters and told
her the weather was beautiful. Oh, yes, the weather was beautiful!
She smelled it and she heard it. She smelled the sun and heard
the sunshines silence.
When the weather was beautiful, the world smelled different and
silence was in everything. In the gorged silence of a sunny springtime
morning, the singing of birds in the trees, the sounds of people
talking, the clippety-clop of a horse-drawn farm-cart, a barking
dog, a closing door ... all sounds became clean and crisp and
clear and both closer and more distant.
In young Rachels world the sun first coddled, cleaned and
filtered the hums, thuds, swishes and jingles and then swathed
them in illuminating silence, and within the silence of the sun
she heard a little song in her head and found the living easier
than on other days.
On such sunny days she wiped her feet, before she stepped out
into the clean, fresh, dew-washed world and on such crisp, sunny
days young Rachel Sarai could see further than far.
The seventh of May 1945 was one of those days and the little girl
jumped out of bed. She knew that the sweet smell of sunshine and
the silent music of its light would be there to greet her, as
soon as she opened the window and threw back the shutters.
Good morning, Sun! Good morning, Birds! Good morning, World,
she exulted and turned around to look at the two sleeping shapes
in the big bed on the floor. Good morning, sleepy Mum! Good
morning, sleepy Papa!
She crawled onto the bed, gave them both a quick hug and got dressed
in a hurry.
I must go outside, she sang, hopping around on one
foot and trying to put a sock on the other, I simply must
Her father smiled at the melodrama in her voice.
Go right ahead, my little Sarah B., he said. Go
quick, my little elfin, run like a gazelle to meet your beloved
sun ... but dont leave the garden, Pip! Stay around the
house, you hear.
Young Rachel gave him a thumbs-up and a wink, darted out of the
room and down the stairs, where the two dogs were already waiting
for her. They jumped up and down like two yo-yos, barking excitedly
and followed her out of the house.
She skipped towards the wooden entrance gate and climbed on top.
The sun warmed one side of her face and body and she purred like
a kitten ... the way she purred, when Marie brushed her hair,
or when Marie softly ran her fingers over her back. Marie....
Tears prevented her from seeing further than far. Thinking of
Marie always brought on tears and it angered her, because deep
in her heart she knew.... She damn well knew! No news from Uncle
Ingemar, since they left for Sweden and at home no one even mentioned
Marie, not even Auntie Caro! So how could she be so stupid to
still hope for Marie to come back?
Marie wasnt coming back! She knew damn well that Marie wasnt
coming back. Marie had been taken to one of those camps in Poland
and ... and yet....
The dogs yawned noisily and flopped down in front of the gate.
The little girl looked at them and grinned.
I love you, you stupid mutts, she said. Youre
abseblumelutely loverly bastards and that's what you are.
The dogs lazily wagged their tails and dozed off. Young Rachel
swung over one leg and straddled the fence.
Look to the left, Papa often told her. Look
to the left, Rachel Sarai, because when they come, theyll
come over that hill on the left.
Young Rachel basked in the warm sunshine and looked to the left
and then, suddenly, she felt it!
She felt the air vibrate and instinctively looked up to the sky.
No, no, it didnt come from up there ... no airplanes in
sight. It came from the left, from up the road.
The sound that vibrated soundlessly in her ears came from behind
the hill on the left.
And then she smelled it: the crisp spring air vaguely smelled
of whirling dust.
And she heard it: she heard a rumbling rumble and she knew they
were coming. She didnt see them yet, but she smelled the
whirling dust, she didnt see them yet, but she heard the
monotone rumbling-rumble that got stronger and stronger.
She pulled herself up and grabbed a branch; she balanced on her
toes and looked to the left.... When they come, theyll come
over the hill on the left.... She looked at the wide road going
uphill; she cocked her head to the left and heard the rumbling-rumble
that was becoming even louder now. Theyll come over the
hill on the left....
On the clear and sunny seventh of May 1945, young Rachel Sarai
could see further than far and she saw a cloud of dust come rolling
over the hill on the left. It rolled towards her and she smelled
the dust and the rumbling rumble became louder still and countless
military trucks sped by. They went so fast, that she hardly saw
any of the soldiers on the trucks, but the Union Jack on the doors
told her they must be English. And then she saw them. She saw
a tank with its turret wide open and she saw a very tall soldier
standing very tall in the opening and she saw more very tall,
all of them tall soldiers next to the tank and behind it.
Sound off ... sound off ... sound off, one two, one two
... three four, sang the tall soldiers.
She saw jeeps and more soldiers and tanks and trucks.
Its a long way to Tipperary....
Young Rachel smelled the exhaust fumes, the oil, the uniforms
and the sweat, and the soldiers smiled broadly and waved at her.
Shyly, she walked towards the road. She noticed the colour of
their uniforms, the red leaf on their sleeves, she noticed how
they marched with an oh-so-easy swing to the rhythm of their song
and she saw their faces, their ever so friendly faces that beamed
smiles at her.
Neighbours came out of their houses, some of them still in their
nightclothes and they stood next to the road and waved at the
soldiers. Many of them were crying and one woman threw her arms
around a soldier and kissed him on both cheeks.
They were tall soldiers, very tall soldiers and one and all very
handsome men. Elite troops were sent in first, she was told many
Theyre Canadians! See the Maple Leaf? shouted
a neighbour and young Rachel stood and watched and smelled the
uniforms and the dusty leather boots, and felt the warmth of their
kind and smiling eyes.
A soldier jumped out of his jeep and came up to her. She turned
to run away, but when she saw his face, she stood and waited.
Hi, Gorgeous, said the soldier and ruffled up her
hair. He dug something out of his breast pocket and handed it
to her. Here, baby, have some, he said. For
Young Rachel looked down at the flat package he put in her hand.
It was wrapped in silver paper. She turned it round and round,
didnt know what it was, didnt know what to do with
it. She looked at the Canadian and he gently took it from her
and unwrapped it.
Look, babe, look, he said, its chocolate.
He put the chocolate bar back into her hand and pushed it towards
her mouth and when the little girl smelled the chocolate, she
began to cry. The soldier sat back on his haunches and awkwardly
rubbed her back.
Its okay, kid, its okay. Dont worry, little
girl. Its chocolate, baby, you can take it. You like chocolate,
Young Rachel didnt stop crying, because she didnt
know what chocolate was and she didnt know what she was
supposed to do with it. She also cried, because the man was a
Canadian soldier and shed been waiting for them for such
a long, long time, and most of all she cried, because she realized
that the war was over.... For them, the war had come to an end.
The rumbling of the tanks stopped. They came to a halt in front
of the house and only the sound of happy voices and laughter was
Mum was also outside. She was talking to one of the officers in
the jeep. Young Rachel looked around for her father, but he wasnt
there. She licked some melted chocolate off her hand and ran back
to the house.
Papa, Papa, she yelled, theyre here, Papa,
the Canadians are here!
She ran up the stairs and into the room. It was dark, except for
the sunbeam that still came in through the heart-shaped opening
in the shutters. Her father was standing in front of the window
and didnt move at the sound of her voice. Young Rachel ran
over and excitedly grabbed his arm.
Theyre Canadians, Papa, Canadians! I saw it on their
sleeve, Papa ... Canada, thats what it says, Papa and theres
also a Maple Leaf and....
She looked up at her father and stepped back in fear, when she
saw his ashen face, saw his fists pressed against his mouth and
the terror his eyes.
Oh, shitshitshit! she murmured. She slowly pulled
down her fathers arms and turned him towards her. He didnt
resist, but there was no reaction either, only mute terror in
his eyes. She tried to shake him, but his body remained rigid.
Its over, Papa, the Canadians are here. Come outside,
Papa, come, Papa, come outside, Papa, its over, Papa, the
war is over, Papa, theyre here!
Her father remained frozen with fear and young Rachel held his
arms, quietly talked to him, repeated the same thing over and
over again and then, she talked some more, took his hand and gently
guided him down the stairs and towards the open front door. When
he panicked and pulled back, she firmly held his hand and steered
him outside into the sunlight, to the entrance gate and the road.
Look, Papa, look, she shouted over the noise of laughter
and everybody talking at the same time. Look, Papa! The
Canadians are here.
Her father still did not move and she didnt know if hed
The Canadians are here, Papa, she kept telling him
and finally, he looked at the Canadian soldiers and the terror
left his face. His body went slack, he looked down at his daughter
and fell to his knees and pulled her into his arms. He rested
his stubbly cheek against her little face and wept....
On the fifth of May 1945 the Germans officially surrendered and
as of the seventh of May, the Allied Forces, mainly British and
Canadian troops, moved in and liberated the western part of the
country. For them the war ended.
German soldiers were taken prisoner and marched off to the temporary
POW-camp the Canadians set up. As they passed by, people yelled
insults and spat at them. A Canadian officer, who accompanied
two captured German officers, noticed the look in young Rachels
eyes and stopped in front of her.
Go ahead, kid! Kick him, kick him hard, itll do you
good, he said, but the little girl turned away and ran home.
She told her father what happened and he shook his head.
Oh, God, the madness of it all, he exclaimed, the
bloody, bloody madness of it all! You did the right thing, Pip
and goddamn it, Im happy and proud that you did! Its
true, those bastards were the enemy, its true, they made
us suffer and its true, they deserve to be kicked and kicked
hard, especially by little girls like you, who maybe suffered
even more than we did ... but in spite of all that, theyre
human beings, my daughter. Godforsaken goddamn Krauts, but still
That same afternoon, Rachel saw another group of Germans being
marched to the POW-camp and recognized the officer, who had wanted
to check her twisted ankle, when she was doing her rounds with
messages and Blue Journal in her shoes. He didnt have his
dog next to him and she ran over.
Where ... wo ist dog Kazan? she asked him and he looked
down at her, his eyes dull and sad.
I shoot. He dead, he told her and all she did was
nod in agreement.
Is good, she said and then turned to the Canadian
soldier, who was in charge of the Germans. You be nice to
this officer, please, she told him. You no shoot him.
He is nice Kraut, this one.
The Canadian smiled down at her and patted her head. He told her
not to worry, they wouldnt shoot her nice Kraut. Young Rachel
walked away feeling sad about the dog Kazan. Hed been such
a kind dog, just as his master had been very kind to her. Yet,
maybe it was better that Kazan was dead. What would they have
done with him in the POW-camp?
Collaborators also were arrested. Some were jailed, some punished
on the spot and executed without a trial. To mark the young women
whod slept with German soldiers, their heads were shaven
and 'decorated' with a swastika, painted with red, or black oil
paint. Those punishments were carried out in public and all over
large crowd had gathered in front of the neighbours house
and people hollered insults, when the two young women were dragged
out of the house and onto the sidewalk.
Young Rachel knew the girls well. They were extremely pretty and
had always been very friendly to her, but she kept away from them
and politely refused, when they offered her a German candy, or
a ride on the back of their German bicycle.
The girls father had been a fanatic Nazi and one of the
first to be executed, in his own front garden. His two daughters
were mere girls and their biggest crime had been that theyd
fallen in love and slept with a German soldier. Theyd slept
with the enemy, they had to be punished and the crowd called them
foul names, kicked them, hit them, spat at them.
Two wooden kitchen chairs were put on the sidewalk. The girls
were flung onto them and their arms tied behind their backs. They
didnt try to get away, they didnt protest, they sat
on the wooden chairs and their dull eyes stared into the black
emptiness of despair.
A neighbour and his wife were in charge. He was a dentist, she
a teacher, their faces grim, their eyes filled with hatred and
They cut off the girls hair and cursed them with every blond,
or auburn lock that fell to the pavement. They roughly sheared
their heads and didnt mind the bloody cuts the sheep shears
made. The crowd applauded every drop of blood.
The young women didnt react. They sat motionless, as their
hair fell on the sidewalk and they didnt react to the pain
of the cuts. They just sat.
When all the hair had been removed and the girls heads were
as bald and as shiny as a Gouda cheese, the woman executioner
took a tin of red paint and painted swastikas on them.
In spite of their clothes, the young women looked naked, they
looked shamefully naked in front of the cursing and spitting,
Young Rachel quickly walked over and put her brightly coloured
headscarf on the knees of the girl, whod been blond. The
young womans dull eyes turned to her and filled with tears.
The neighbour grabbed the scarf and threw it back at Rachel.
Get your ass out of here, Rachel Sarai Felder, he
barked. What do you want to give that German whore your
scarf for, eh?
Rachel Sarai didnt cry until she got home, where Mum told
her she must have been mad to offer that girl her pretty scarf.
Papa took her in his arms, but didnt have words to comfort
her, no words to explain such mad and inhuman revenge.
The country was liberated and for them the war was over.... Food
packages were flown in from Sweden. They fell like manna from
the skies and landed on the moors behind their house. The International
Red Cross handed out blankets and clothes, and doctors and nurses
once again had enough medication to treat the sick and ailing.
It was no longer dangerous to be taken to hospital, because the
pre-war medical staff was back at work and if necessary, Canadian
medics helped out.
The liberating troops took over German Headquarters and the Canadian
cooks gave young Rachel more food than shed ever seen in
her whole life.... Gigantic slices of white bread and tins of
peanut butter and marmalade and butter and white cooking fat and
chewing gum and lots of chocolate.
For them the war had ended....
The Canadians often gave young Rachel a full pack, sometimes even
an unopened carton of cigarettes, but Papa continued to smoke
half a cigarette at the time, and the little girl still picked
up the large butts the soldiers carelessly flicked away.
For them the war had ended....
On the radio there was music by Glen Miller and the Andrew Sisters
and young women danced with Canadian soldiers and fell in love
and loved. These girls would never be punished for loving a foreign
The war had ended, the country was free and things slowly came
back to normal....
Young Rachels brother came back home. He was tall, well
fed and mature and had grown up so much, that he had outgrown
his little sister. He liked playing war games and made toy guns
and rifles from pieces of wood. He found it silly that young Rachel
was afraid of his home made weapons. He blamed it on the fact
that she was but a girl.
Many concentration camps had been liberated and Suzannes
father came for his daughter. He looked like a skeleton and told
young Rachel she didnt have to be scared of him. She told
him not to worry his soul and took his hand, but he roughly shook
her off and turned away. Mum told him his little Suzanne was alive
and safe, and living in Sweden. She gave him the address and he
left without a word. They never heard from him, or Suzanne again.
Before long, Papa was back at work at the newspaper and Mum could
go shopping every day. She prepared real meals again and slowly
they all regained the weight theyd lost during the infamous
Hunger Winter. Young Rachel and her brother went back to school
and took up playing in the forest and on the moors again.
Right after the Liberation, young Rachel found it strange and
at times even frightening to see people walk around freely and
talk without fear, but after a while that, too, became normal.
In the beginning, it was difficult not to be afraid of the omnipresent
soldiers, but their easy smiles and friendly manners made all
fear quickly disappear.
For many, the war quietly slithered into a subconscious recollection-proof
strongbox and wasnt mentioned too often. After all, the
war was over.
Every year, on the fourth of May, the victims and horrors of the
war were commemorated. All traffic stopped throughout the country
and during two minutes of complete silence people thought back.
Every year, on the fifth of May, the Liberation was officially
celebrated and a major part of the population rejoiced and danced
in the streets. Every year, during those two very special days
in May, the people who had chosen the wrong side during the war
locked their doors and hid behind their lace curtains....
Rey (1938 - ?) was born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and
from the time she was a little girl, has worked in radio, television,
publicity and the theatre, as a broadcaster, entertainer, scriptwriter,
translator, editor, and actress, in the Netherlands, Canada and
Today, retired, she finally has the time to be a full-time writer
for herself, and an editor for other authors.
Her work during the Second World War, as a 'baby-courier' in the
Dutch Underground, earned her the honourable distinction of having
been one of Holland's two Child Resistance Fighters.
Deborah Rey is married and has one daughter, and one grandson.
She lives at the French Atlantic coast, with her husband, the
Dingo-Dog and six cats.