In silence, they hid in the vegetable cellar, curled up
And snug as a litter of fox kits—five huddled children,
Blanketed, side by side, on a frayed, braided mat
On the earthen floor, surrounded by baskets
Of beets and carrots, piles of onions and potatoes.
They had run through the mud—the snow was melting—
In the woods that clung to the backs of the houses.
None had heard of the term “refuge,” but soon
They would leave, by train and then ship, to join their
Father in America. None had spoken the term “atrocity,”
But they understood gunshots and shattered windows.
The elder three knew about the killing of Jews
For sport. “Run!” their mother, Malka, ordered. “Go
To your grandparents. Don’t stop for anything.” So,
When the six-year-old lost her shoe, they did not stop.
The village, Stanislavchyk, not far from Poland,
Still stands. The Ukrainian president, resolute,
Is a Jew. The invader savors bombing apartment buildings,
A maternity hospital, an overpacked train station. The term
That most pertains is “evil.” More than 5 million refugees
fled their homeland. Who can calculate what they mourn—
Their lives on a shelf in a burning house. The sunflowers. A shoe.
—For Molly and Abraham Wolf Dvosis (1872–1948, 1866–1928)