Archive for the ‘Stories of Historical Fiction’ Category

Where lies the remains of Annie C. Maguire

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Portland Head lighthouse, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

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Memorial to the capsized British vessel, Annie C. Maguire, 1886

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mist roles in from a cold, dark sea.

Waves kick up, thrashing the British barque.

Wind gusts rip sails from the bowing masthead.

A deep guttural sound bellows to the surface from under the ship’s hull.

She hits rock, breaking apart on impact.

Caught in her rigging she turns and twists in its knotted embrace. 

The Annie Maguire drifts, its SOS not acknowledged.

Were there none to hear her distress signals sent?

Darkness descends.

A bullhorn sounds, and the cone-shaped glow of light emerges.

The lighthouse; a beacon to the capsized ship and crew.

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Footnotes: Mystery surrounds the capsized Annie C. Maguire British vessel. Miraculously her crew was saved and rescued on Christmas Eve, 1886, when the ship went aground during a storm, but the ship’s remains were never recovered. You can find images and information on this vessel and story here

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

 


 

 

 

Manitou Springs (Day 14 of NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month)

That's me in front of the old Ute chief in old Manitou Springs, Colorado (Nov. 1969)

That’s me in front of the old Ute chief in Manitou Springs, Colorado (Nov. 1969)

MANITOU CHIEF

His ghost stalks the town of Manitou Springs

where the Ute and Cheyenne came.

Little remains where much is new,

but the history and the name.

The trading post where goods were sold;

its pottery, blankets and crafts were

produced and made by the young and old.

They came for the water from the springs

filled with rich minerals found in the earth,

and all the benefits from which it brings.

Their tribal villages are all gone,

the ghostly past of a place grown old,

but the soul of the Manitou lives on.

The village grew and with it came change;

white men settled, houses were built,

roads were put in, and cars came to town.

Now the red stone chief bowing with clay pot,

pouring his water is no longer around,

and the springs have too gone dry.

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Notes: Manitou Springs, Colorado is a historic town that sits just below Pikes Peak and merges with the city of Colorado Springs where I was born and raised. It was a favorite place back then in the fifties and sixties when tourists and local residents would visit, shop, and tour the Indian cliff dwellings where Indian tribes settled and lived. The Cave of the Winds, Garden of the Gods, Seven Falls and Pikes Peak are just a few of the popular tourists sites to see. The mineral water was also popular for its health benefits and also was very good used in beverages like Cool-aid and lemonade drinks which we made when I was younger and went to Manitou for the water. When I moved away from Colorado Springs and relocated Manitou Springs was still a favorite place to visit and see all the new changes, shops and tourist attractions, but the springs dried up and I missed the water whenever we went back to visit. Today, the town is still a main attraction, and its history and surroundings have been preserved.

Joyce E. Johnson (2014)

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XIV (14), ‘Jacob’s Story,’ continued (Part 4)

Chapter XIV, ‘Jacob’s Story’, continued (Part 4)

“After the war we didn’t know who we could trust again. Evil prevails in those with hate in their heart. It is not just with one kind of people, or one race, but with any. I believe there will always be those who choose to hate for whatever reasons.”

“I saw people who claimed to be Christians, but they betrayed us, or turned us away when we needed help. We were their neighbors, living side by side, but they were unforgiving of Jews who rejected the Messiah they preached about. There were some who turned their own gun on the Jews and shot them. But, there are stories of Jews who were protected and hid from their enemies, fed when hungry, clothed when stripped of their own. Some became martyrs and died alongside Jews when the Nazis came. I was young, but wise beyond my years.”

“Jacob, do you know if any of the collaborators; Romanians or Germans here involved in committing these atrocities were ever caught, or found?”

He shook his head, “No. I think most were never seen again. After the war, there was so much chaos, locating missing people, registering survivors, trying to treat and care for the afflicted I don’t think it was the thing that was foremost on people’s mind, until much later. I think the horrors of the war left everyone traumatized. There was some good that came out of it though like the Zionist movement and the birthing of the state of Israel. Their intelligence agency was born, and an army of trained fighters formed. I know they have hunted for the guilty involved in the deaths of the Jews. But, I don’t know if they have been entirely successful hunting them all down.”

“It seems hard to believe that there could still be any alive somewhere and walking free. How do you deal with all this, even now after so many years? Aren’t you bitter? Don’t you feel hatred for those who killed your family, and left you to die?”

“If I am to be the kind of person called by Messiah’s name to love as he loved, can I carry hate in my heart? He has called us to forgive, as he forgave his enemies. I admit it is difficult at times. But what is to be gained from hating? It is the evil of a darker force that walks among us, trying to destroy all that the Messiah died for. But, He was raised up, resurrected and lives so we would not have to walk through life with those shackles on, but be freed of them. That is the deliverance, the power we have as his children.”

“My Mother cried out to the Christian Messiah to help us, to save us from the soldiers who came for us. That is what changed us, Ms. Mengelder. No baptism, Torah, traditions or prayer shawl would have saved us from them. Out of our desperation we were given eternal life, and placed our trust in the one called Jesus, making him our Messiah. We prayed for deliverance, not just from the Nazis, but also for our soul.”

All I could do was nod my head in silent agreement and thank him for sharing his story. The park was still empty, no children on the playground, no one around to hear, or care what he had shared with me. Only the birds quietly perched on tree limbs as if with respect listened quietly too. We sat for a few moments just listening to the rustle of the trees, soft breezes blowing under a clear blue sky.

It made me shudder to think about the scattered remains and ashes of the thousands who died and suffered at the hands of their enemies, their graves we walked upon, the trees, flowers, parks, buildings and roads built above it all as if declaring that life does indeed go on, and one has to move forward.

It was hard to contain my own emotion, so didn’t even try. It was as if Jacob’s life was being replayed in slow motion before my very eyes like a repeat from a documentary on the History channel. His grandmother Magdalena, the sister to my great, great-grandfather Adam whom my family had tried so hard to locate could now be technically laid to rest, even if there was no grave we could find or visit.

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This is the end of chapter XIV, but the story will be continued with new chapters posted after Christmas.

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XIV (14), ‘Jacob’s Story,’ continued (Part 3)

Chapter XIV, ‘Jacob’s Story,’ continued (Part 3)

“I was very young when all that happened. But, the faces of the soldiers, the evil things done. Those things I cannot forget, even as I have tried to…they stay with me.”

“We were living in Odessa. The Jews were all confined to the cities during that time. My father would show my brother and me how to garden, plant seeds in tiny plots and teach us what he’d learned from his father. He was educated and trained in Odessa as a doctor, but later lost his medical license to practice when Jews were moved and confined to ghettos. When the ghettos got overcrowded the Jews were transported to other places. It became very unsanitary and people were always ill. So much sickness and hunger. No one cared to help us, or treat the sick. By then there were no seeds of anything to plant. We were just thankful to get food, clothing, and clean water to drink.”

“The Romanians put in charge of the Jews kept us all isolated. Fences were erected and places sealed up. Then the Nazi soldiers came and ordered the liquidation of the ghettos. The Romanian soldiers aided them in helping to carry out the massacres and deportations.”

“My older brother, Joseph died of typhus, like so many others. I got very sick, and my father squeezed out one night through a hole in the wall. He told my mother he was going out to find us food, and medicine. But, he was gone for days. We did not know where he was. We heard shots so thought they had found him, killed him. Then soldiers came for all of us, to transport us to Transnistria. They thought there were others who had escaped, searched everywhere, sealed up everything, and marched us all out of the ghetto with guns to our backs.”

“I was seven when the soldiers came to transport us to the concentration camp in Transnistria.”

“They shot all the sick, the old ones and any who were not strong enough to work. The old and weak ones were the first to be killed, thrown into ditches, or burned alive while crammed and locked into storage sheds. Some were hung up alive by meat hooks. They threw screaming babies and children into the fires until their cries were silenced. Some were  thrown from high windows onto the street, while the mothers were made to watch, wanting to die with them. Many were asphyxiated in mobile vans as they were shoved in and the gas turned on through exhaust pipes.”

“Grandmother Magdalena was one of the old ones that could no longer work. She was about the age I am now when they shot her in the back as she ran screaming into the freezing waters of the Dniester River. I watched as her body jerked violently from the bullets, then went down under the ice floes exploding from machine guns.”

“The younger ones that could work were forced into cattle cars packed so tight they could barely breathe. My mother and I were in that group. She held me up over her shoulders to keep me from being trampled. Many suffocated and died, their bodies all bunched together. We had to step over them to get out. People were fighting for just the air to breath. They could not get out fast enough climbing over the corpses. Those who were not taken by train to Transnistria were forced to march the rest of the way through the icy waters of the Dniester, and frozen steppes in nothing more than the rags they wore, or put on ferries.  People sold or gave away their clothes to anyone in exchange for food. The rest of our time was spent at Transnistria waiting the day when they would kill us all, or leave us to starve to death.”

“What about your mother, and you? Were you together at the camps?”

“When we got to the camps in Transnistria the children were yanked away from their parents and separated, some never seeing one another again. A soldier pulled me from my mother’s arms and she screamed at him as he hit her repeatedly. I was dragged away. They would not let us say goodbye, hug or anything. She started crying out, “Yeshua, Yeshua!’” His voice broke, trying to hold back sobs as he pulled out a handkerchief and blew his nose.

“Finally, when the Russians advanced westward in their pursuit of the German army Transnistria was liberated, and the Germans and Romanians retreated.  The remains of thousands of Jews murdered lay wherever they were killed. We never learned where my brother’s or my father’s bodies were. To prevent the spread of more disease there were mass graves dug, or bodies burned in piles to cleanse the areas. My mother was still alive when the camps were liberated, but her skin hung loose over her thin bones. Her eyes looked sunken in her drawn face. I remember how beautiful she was once…long dark hair, soft clear skin, eyes that laughed when… well, before all that happened.”

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To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XIV, (14), Part 2 ‘Jacob’s Story’

Note: The below portion of ‘Jacob’s Story’ is Part two of a lengthy chapter. It will be continued in Part three, maybe four. The entire story, The Informant’s Agenda is fiction, but is based on actual facts and the history of ethnic and German Jews from Russia, and much of my 30+ yrs. of research on my own paternal German family from south Russia.  My story characters and plot are fiction, and were created to better tell their story. I want to thank those who are following the story, or just reading bits or pieces as they visit here and hope you have enjoyed the story. All comments, questions and feedback are always welcome. In between chapters posted here there will be other varied posts of poems, photos, misc. prose and writings with a few Christmas related ones coming up in the next two weeks.

Joyce E. Johnson

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‘Jacob’s Story’, Part two

“I will tell what I know. But, I was very young…when my father died, so…”

 “That will be fine. If you can start from the beginning of their settlement period that will help fill in the gaps of history I don’t have. Do you mind if I run my recorder while we talk?”

“No. I guess that is alright.”

“They came from Prussia, Germany, Wurttemberg, and other East European countries. They were given sections of land to farm by the Czarina, Catherine the Great in the late 1700 s. They first settled in Grigoriopol, but later migrated to villages in Bessarabia, or southwest Russia, a part of what is now known as Moldova. It joined the countries of Ukraine and Poland that was eventually partitioned and divided up between Romania, Prussia and Russia, all a part of the ‘Pale of Settlement.’”

“Was your family Jewish, then?” I asked.

“Yes. The Jews lived near the ethnic German colonists in villages of their own.”

“Has your family always been Jewish, or did they convert at some time?”

“They came here as Jews, but was told the Czar tried to conform them, make them convert to the Orthodox Russian faith. When the new laws were sanctioned the Czar claimed all the Jews and Germans must dress, talk and be educated alike, but neither group liked that. They wanted to keep their own culture, language, and traditions.”

Jacob continued.

“Many Jews converted to the Lutheran religion. When they were baptized, their names were modernized, their traditions, kosher diet, culture, all changed. It was during the “Age of Enlightenment,” when there were a lot of changes and reforms. Others refused to convert and kept to their Orthodox Jewish dress style and laws. They became known as the Hasidic Jews, very devout.  They were targeted by everyone because they were ‘different’. So, the pogroms continued. They were later blamed for all the wrong in the anarchy, for starting the revolution, Bolshevism, even assassinating the Czar.”

“What about your grandmother, Magdalena? Did she convert?”

“No. She did not want to be baptized.  Jews suffered terrible things when the pogroms came. She denounced God and would not believe in the Messiah sent to save us. She said, ‘There is no God that can change those things which we Jews have suffered.’”

“When the Christians talked about their Messiah we did not judge them if they did not judge us. God is the creator of love and does not judge us for our ignorance. When they continued to preach to us, we just continued to listen, patiently, even if we did not want to hear,” he said with a slight smile on his face looking at me.

“The Jews listened to the stories about a ‘Cross of Redemption’ which the Christians spoke about, teaching them from their Bible. Some tried to help the Jews and were kind in their heart, not just in deeds. When the Jews lived in the colonies the Germans taught them how to farm, grow gardens, harvest crops. They told about the Messiah sacrificing his life to save all.”

“But, my grandmother thought one must die first to be worthy of being saved. She said she felt as if she ‘died when the Cossack soldiers came’ and violated her, and said she, ‘lived in a hell that only the Jews could know.’ She could not understand how a man would give his life to die for the sins of all so that all would be reborn if only they believed”.

“The Czar’s laws were made to force restrictions on the Jews that would not convert. They could not own property, attend their synagogues, go to schools or universities, work as agriculturists any more, or reside in their villages. They were forced to move to the large cities. Revision Lists were drawn up forcing taxation, even when they lived in poverty”.

“It seemed at the time all the Jews were getting baptized so they could be like all the other Germans who were much better off. But they were really not much better off when the Bolsheviks came to power because even the Christian Germans were being taken away to Siberian prison camps by the train loads and most starved to death or were executed. That included Jews who were baptized if they became Christians. The Soviets took away all our freedom, our faiths and right to worship and closed down the churches and synagogues. It did not matter if you were Jew, Gentile or Christian. They all were taken away. Our family was spared that, though. I don’t know why. Maybe, because they still outwardly lived like Jews, because they were not Christians. But we were not spared later when worse horrors came”.

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To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

 

The Informant’s Agenda, Chapter XII, ‘Journal Entries’

English: Aquatint print of a Don Cossack.

English: Aquatint print of a Don Cossack. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chapter 12

Journal Entries

After spending that afternoon at the Odessa archives filming, indexing and copying files we headed back to Tiraspol, to a Lutheran parish library for more records, then back to Grigoriopol to Olga’s. Irina dropped me off and left.

The first thing I did was send a priority message to Jeremy telling him to contact our cousin, “Jessie” and could he please send me his e-mail address as I had forgotten it and no longer had it with me. This was mine and Jeremy’s prearranged set up “message alert” to let him know we needed to switch to the alias account for e-mail messages, and attachments. When done, I reviewed and updated files, sent reports, e-mails and blog posts, then noticed the priority icon highlighting the one from him. I opened it last, giving it more time and attention.

[M, – got your files on those journal entries. Sending comments along with the transcriptions. Interesting stuff. Get a big cup of Olga’s ‘sludge’.]

When I had made myself a cup of hot tea, I got comfortable, and read the file comments he’d sent along with the transcriptions. He had transcribed the scanned copies of the more difficult journal entries I needed help on. Each had a date or year and initials at the bottom of each entry.

 Sept. 1868

We work hard to gather in the crop. It is harvest time. The winds are not yielding. There is no mercy in them. The winter will soon be here. The warm sun will soon not shine its heat upon our labors. We must hurry the harvest. We work while our bellies are full, content and store away what we will need to save when we are in want, hungry. We pray the locust swarms will not come this year or find other fodder upon which to feed. Elisabeth gave birth to a beautiful daughter today. Praise His Holy name. We named her Magdalena.    J.M.

Oct. 1884

They rode away as fast as they came, Cossack soldiers riding on fast steeds. It was the Sabbath. They tore through our village with whips and rods, fierce eyes piercing our soul like hot pokers. They held their bottles high with its evil amber fluid, praising the Czar. One mocked me covered in my prayer shawl, laughing, taunting. I stood rooted in fear. He ripped it off me and threw it into the fire burning our barn with our stored grain, then laughed like a demon from hell. My legs could no longer run, my voice no longer could be heard above a whimpered cry to eternal God. The harsh cold winds fed the fires, raging on our threshing floors. Then it swept clean the tracks of the murderous Cossacks as if they had not come. All that remained of their presence was the foul-smelling bottles of their drink. We gathered to mourn our loss. Our village destroyed, our food gone, our horses stolen, our livestock killed, our women violated and our loved ones we bury. Forgive me God. I cannot praise you today.   J.M.

 1885

We cannot help our dear Magdalena. She has recurring nightmares of that day. She wakes, screaming, rolling in pain and anguish. She says she still sees the Cossack’s face, his lascivious look. I too cannot bear to remember the horrid deed to our child. Her belly is distended, full with child of that evil man. I sit in despair and write these words. Eternal God, do you not hear our wailing cries? Where is your mercy to we, your people?   J.M.

 1888

The Czar says we must convert, be baptized and become Russian Orthodox Christians, learn their religion, speak their language, wear the clothes of their people. If we do not obey his commands we will be sent away, work in a labor camp, be exiled. I will do as he says, so I can save my family, keep us together, but it will not save my soul. My soul was dead to our God when he forsook us. David has run away. He refused to serve in the army. We do not know where he has gone. I think he has gone into hiding. They are looking for him and hold us responsible. I feel certain we will face another pogrom, more horrible than any in the past if we cannot get out of Russia.   J.M.

 1925

Rail car doors were pushed open. The empty, black space was cold and dank. The smell of cattle excrement and rot was overwhelming. The Bolsheviks shoved guns at their backs as they pushed and forced them inside. Mothers screamed, their children pulled from their arms. They raped the women, pillaged and set fire to their homes. Stole their horses, drove off the cattle, and sheep. Then beat or shot the men who tried to stop the carnage. I begged for mercy for the Christians. But the Bolsheviks would not listen. They said, ‘There are no Christians in Russia. Only good Soviets.’” A.G.

 I read Jeremy’s comments at the end of the transcribed entries.

[When families migrated west for immigration into the U.S. I believe they found people more tolerant toward the Jews. There were so many diverse ethnic groups coming over on ships it was a mixture of every nation and color. They just blended into the masses. Unless noted on their passports that they were East European Jews they most likely told officials and everyone they were Protestant since they had been baptized, and officially “converted” before leaving Russia and the ‘Pale of Settlement.’]

I hit the ‘Save’ button and transferred the transcriptions along with Jeremy’s comments into my document folder under a password protected file with the name, ‘Journal Chronicles’. My brain felt as if it was on overload. After reviewing and studying the Cyrillic and Hebrew letters and script from the video and photos of the graves I compared it to initials, birth dates and deaths, period era and village locations. Could it really be the Mengelder family? There was no proof. It was only my ‘theory,’ unproven, yet made me think that what I had found was a chronological record of my own grandfather Jacob’s family history.     

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To be continued…

Joyce E. Johnson (2013)

‘Yearning to breathe free’. Friday Fictioneers photo prompt

It has been over nine months since I’ve participated in Friday Fictioneers (due to other priority writing projects and time involved), but often read and comment on other writers’ stories. This week, however I decided to add one into the mix. Friday Fictioneer stories can be found at Rochelle Wisoff-Field’s blog, at http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/ Because of the current piece of work I am editing and posting chapters of now (a novel, The Informant’s Agenda) this photo prompt seemed appropriate to my writing genre and story theme, so here is my contribution this week for this prompt.  The interesting thing is that although my current novel is fiction, this little story has a lot of truth in it as it is based on factual truths found in my novel. 1) My grandfather Jacob’s family were immigrants from Odessa, Russia, and were German Jews. And after over thirty years of research I am now writing a story similar to their own. And 2) I did visit Russia and cities in Ukraine in 1989 where I visited several cities in my novel, and took the photos below this story of the Babi Yar Jewish Memorial in Kiev, 1989 which is a sad, unforgettable site. Information on the Babi Yar can be found in Wikipedia and elsewhere.  Any comments and feedback are always welcome, and thanks for reading.

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The Babi Yar Memorial of the 33, 771 Jews massacred on September 29 and 30, 1941 by the German SS in Kiev, Ukraine

The Babi Yar Memorial of the            33, 771 Jews massacred on September 29 and 30, 1941 by the German SS in Kiev, Ukraine

  I took the photos above of Babi Yar in 1989 while touring Ukraine, Russia : Joyce E. Johnson (1989)

Below is my story to go with the photos above and submitted for the week’s Friday Fictioneers story.

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I thought of Grandfather Jacob and his family coming ashore in 1889, yearning to ‘breathe free’, to live in a land where ‘pogrom’ and persecution were foreign words, not ones to be feared.

The words of one from the Babi Yar memorial to the thousands of Jews massacred in Kiev came to me.

“My mind reeled with the images. My heart wept for their pain. Where did it all begin? Why no end to their suffering? Where would they find acceptance? A place where peace would reign?”

It seemed fitting to end my journey here upon my return from Ukraine.

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Joyce E. Johnson

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