The new story is called, The Whore of Solna Street. It’s 1942, deep inside German-occupied Poland. The matchmaker offers Erno Hammer, a poor tailor, the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen. At first, he can’t believe his luck. Dora is a wonderful cook and housekeeper, and a dynamo in bed. When he discovers that she’s sleeping with every man in town, he considers divorcing her. But after a brutal Aktzia, the tailor and his wife escape to an underground bunker, which she pays for with the pleasures of her body.
Their hiding place is already occupied by forty-three other Jews, the wealthy members of the Judenrat, the Jewish Council. They ostracize the tailor and his wayward wife, but in the end, Dora’s specialized set of skills save all their lives.
This time around, I based a narrative on one of my father’s experiences.
I didn’t think I was going to be able to use any of Dad’s war stories. Mom’s stories involve heroics on all sides; Partisans, virtuous German officers, courageous Polish farmers. And everyone in her family survived.
On my father’s side, everyone died. There are tales of heart-stopping heroics…but the heroes in Dad’s family gave up their lives.
Still, Dora. Here are the facts; in the town of Drohobych, where Bruno Schulz lived and died, my father, his brother, and their father entered an underground bunker, a bunker that did, in fact, house the Judenrat. Two pretty girls took turns sleeping with Ivan, the Ukrainian who lived upstairs and brought them food.
Not content with what he was earning, Ivan came up with a plot to murder the poorer inmates of the bunker. The plan was to bring in new people, with new money. Luckily, his girlfriends overheard him talking with the doctor who was to commit the murders, and reported back to the people downstairs. And so, The Whore of Solna Street was born.
Editor Todd Wellman, God bless him, accepted it for the Spring Issue of Cream City Review, available wherever fine literary magazines are sold. (Or, ordered from the website.)
A family history like this may not be good for children…but for a writer, it is a gift.