Saturday, June 1, 2013

Saturday's Excerpt from Gypsy Spirit by Rita Karnopp

Poland – Slovakia – Germany 1943


The twins ran past Zilka, their skirts blowing in the breeze nearly tripping them. The coins tied to their blouses jingled with each step. Their laughter carried on the wind.

“Mayla, Vanya, where you running off to?” Zilka hoped they’d ask her to join them.

“Varekai,” Mayla shouted.

Zilka stomped her foot and frowned at them. “Don’t wherever me. I know you’re headed to the pond. You want the boys to find you. I’m telling papa.”

“Shush, you baby. Don’t be tellin’ papa anything or I’ll tell him you and Petre were up in that tree last night.”

“You keep your tongue or I’ll tell papa you and Vilas were kissing out by the horses this morning.”

“Quiet, both of you before everyone knows, including papa.” Mayla leaned toward the girls and whispered. “A vardo came in late last night.”

“Just one? Why would just one wagon come?” Vanya asked.

“Who was it?” Zilka looked around the encampment and adjusted the woven flower ring on her head.

“It was a family of diddakois.” Mayla answered with an exaggerated expression of distaste.

“So what, we’re a family of half-gypsies.” Zilka shook her head and rolled her eyes.

“They stayed with Natsi’s family. She said they were nervous and scared. They all went to the Shero Rom and talked and argued for hours before finally settling down for the night.”

“What were they arguing about?” Vanya whispered.

“I asked Natsi, but she didn’t know. The diddakois did a lot of crying.”

“You think they were sent away from their kumpania and they want to join ours?”

“We’ll have to ask papa. He’ll know.” Mayla reached over and pulled on Zilka’s necklace.

“Atch,” she shouted, then grabbed Mayla’s long, sandy braid and gave it a tug.

“You little schej.” She yanked Zilka’s flowers down over her eyes and ran. Vanya followed on her heels.

Zilka smiled. She loved it when the twins called her a little Gypsy girl. The early morning chill sent her fetching a shawl before following them. Their house on wheels snuggled under a tree on the edge of camp. Zilka smiled. She loved the blue and green carved gilded spokes that housed a sitting space just outside the front door. The windows of the wagon were covered by lace curtains and the wheel spokes were painted gold. The curved roof edges were carved and painted yellow and red from which they hung copper ornaments.

She picked up her shawl and readjusted the flowers she always wore.

“Bajram, you cannot be serious. Mayla deserves a much younger man than Istvan Radita. Even his son, Ivan would be a better choice. She will never agree to it.”

“We should never have promised the girls they could approve or disapprove their tumnimos. Mayla is the eldest and must choose her betrothed first. They are all getting too old for me to arrange marriages for them. We should have taken care of this long ago.”

It wasn’t right to listen to her parent’s conversation, yet Zilka couldn’t bring herself to leave.

“Bajram, you are a good taj and the girls love you.”

“A good father would do what’s best for them even if they don’t understand. They know I love them and want them happy. I’m the laughing stock of our kumpania where the girls are concerned.”

Zilka smiled to herself. Everyone knew Bajram Sucuri could not say no to his girls. He was fiercely strict and protected them, but in the end the girls had the last word. There would be no abiav until Mayla agreed to marry. Then they’d have a fabulous wedding feast.

“What if Rosalia and Adam Bogdan are telling the truth? We must—“

“You want to divorce me and go back to the city? Would you take my chavis from me? It would tear my heart out, Elise.”

“You know I love you, Bajram,” Elise stifled her emotions. “If the SS are now arresting Gypsies, we must consider what this means.”

Zilka sat and leaned her shoulder against the front door, afraid what she would hear next.

“It can’t be true,” Bajram slammed his fist on top the wooden table. “We are German citizens.”

“We are also Gypsies.”

“No. I am Gypsy,” Bajram shouted. “You are Arian and our chavis are mischlinge.”

“Yes the girls are of mixed ancestry, but they could easily pass as Arian because they are jenische. Maybe being a white Gypsy is a blessing now. I could take them to my mother’s chalet in Switzerland. We could wait out the war there until you return for us. I am not divorcing you.”

“I’m not convinced we have to do this. We should wait until we can confirm these rumors. What if—“

“We can’t take the chance. We have to think of our girls . . . “

Zilka didn’t want to listen to another word. She bolted from the wagon and ran down the trail. A sharp rock pierced the bottom of her bare foot and she hobbled a short time, then sped ahead. Tears filled her eyes and streamed down her face.

“We’re over here, Zilka!”

She heard Vanya in the distance. Blinded by tears, she ran along the edge of the pond. Finally out of breath, she stopped and sat on the dry shore. Pulling her legs into her chest, she cried until it hurt.

“Zilka, why on earth did you keep running?” Vanya asked, gasping for breath.

“Are you okay?” Mayla slid her arm around Zilka’s back.

“I heard mama and papa talking.” She paused and hiccupped. “They said they were going to make Mayla marry Radita.”

“Ivan is actually really nice. He has been—“

“Not Ivan. His father, Istvan.”

“What? That is dinilo. He’s almost as old as papa.” Mayla stood and paced back and forth. “I won’t do it.”

“You won’t have to.” Zilka wiped her wet cheeks with her palms.

“You’re not making any sense. Why are you crying?” Vanya sat and pulled Zilka’s hand between hers.

“Mama is leaving papa and is taking us to our gadze’ grandmother.”

“No, that can’t be true.” Disbelief edged Mayla’s tone. “In Switzerland? Why would she do that? You must have heard wrong.” She sat next to Zilka.

“No, I know what I heard. It has something to do with those people who came last night. Papa said the SS were arresting Gypsies. Mama is going to make us look like gadze’—”

“She wouldn’t leave papa,” Vanya interrupted.

“I’m not going to dress like a non-gypsy. I refuse to act like a gadze’ and pretend to be only Arian. I won’t leave papa and Petre.” Zilka wiped at the new stream of tears. She found comfort sandwiched between her sisters.

“We need to talk with mama and papa.” Mayla suggested.

“They can’t make us leave. This is our jamarokher. We are not gadze’ and we’ll never think like them. Never to travel. To be confined to one town. It is not for me.” Zilka pulled her flower ring off her head and studied the yellow and pink flowers. It always brought her comfort – until now.

“It is our home, Schej,” Vanya soothed. “Let’s see what mama and papa have to say before we get all upset and worried.”

Zilka allowed her sisters to pull her to her feet. A dark cloud settled over her as they headed back to their vardo. She had not known such unhappiness. How could she leave papa? She would stay with papa and the kumpania. How could she live without mama, Mayla and Vanya? New tears surfaced and freely rolled down her cheeks.

* * * * *


Melissa Keir said...

Great excerpt! I love the use of the native language! :)

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Rita,
Lovely excerpt, sounds like a great book. It is on my TBR list

Best wishes