“Come on, fellows.” He slowly goes forward, waiting for them. The two men carefully and soundlessly jump from the car where they are hiding. With almost choreographed movements, the three men attempt to blend in with the other railroad workers.
Ferdek, the younger, is the ambassador’s son. He, along with Tavius and Wolfgang, are lieutenants in the Polish army. Today they are not in uniforms but instead dressed in ragged clothes, with dark cloth caps pulled low over their eyes. They glance nervously in both directions, then move out among the train cars jammed in the yard.
“Let’s move into that group as the shift changes,” Wolfgang whispers.
Each man is wearing an old leather backpack like many of the men. They need to use these workers to make their scheduled meeting. A long, mournful whistle from a departing train added to the uncertainty settling on their shoulders.
They hit the shift change perfectly, merging with the outgoing workers. Calm but defiant faces are revealed in the soft light as they try to be inconspicuous. Inner turmoil has them each on high alert, eyes constantly darting from left to right.
Initially, they are making good progress to distance themselves from the train yard until a German troop carrier pulls up and stops in front of the group. Eager troops disgorge to line up in front of a lieutenant standing at attention. A German officer, Major, strides up and quietly states, “We know he’s here. We don’t know why.”
The lieutenant replies, “We will find him, sir. Once we do, what are our orders?”
“Shoot him. We are the masters now,” the major states with the hint of a smile.
The lieutenant barks to the troops to stand at attention. These soldiers clutch their rifles and move out, following their squad leader. They trot down the street toward the railroad yard, moving past the cluster of workers surrounding Ferdek, Tavius, and Wolfgang, who instinctively turn their faces away from the squad.
Unexpectedly, the major stops beside the cluster of workers. He grabs an old man and jerks him into the street. He holds out one hand with the other resting on the butt of his Lugar. “Your papers, old man. I’m sure they are in order.”
The man nervously rummages through his coat pocket and finally pulls out his papers. His hand trembles as he hands them to the major. After a cursory review of the documents, he hands them back, but the frightened citizen misses, and the papers drop to the ground. He scrambles to retrieve them.
The German major turns to Ferdek, frowns, and snaps his fingers, motioning him to come forward. “Your name?”
Ferdek hesitates. He glances at Tavius then at Wolfgang. Each struggles to keep their anxiety under control while sweating profusely.
The major repeats, “Your name. Now. And your documents. Or you will be shot as a refugee without papers.”
Ferdek raises his head in defiance and hoarsely states, “Look around you. Like the others you see, the railroad is my employer. My shift is up, and I’m going home.”
Unimpressed, the major presses. “Then you will have papers. I want to see your papers. A man without papers is a man who no longer exists.”
Emboldened Ferdek counters, “Poland is a free land, and I am a free man. You’re here without an invitation. I do not answer to you.”
Unimpressed, the officer slowly removes his 9mm Lugar from its holster and points it as if Ferdek is no more consequential than a fly. “You are sadly mistaken. Poland is no longer free. No one is free of German rule. Your papers or Poland will hold your grave.”
Before the drama can go any further, the situation erupts. Suddenly the rail yard workers are battling among themselves, shoved forward, then backward. A young man breaks free and runs wildly down the street.
The major rushes into the street, raises his Lugar, and
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