Read Anna’s Story Part 1
[Image courtesy of Worakit Sirijinda/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net]
Anna’s Story Part 4:
The city streets faded behind Anna. Green stood out against the sides of the road and there were buildings with mountains rising behind. When her feet landed on the dusty road, she paused to take a deep breath. She dared to hope this was a breath of freedom. At this place of fragile hope, a woman gently led her to her space in a dormitory-like room, only her bed was not empty. Sitting tall on the side was Valentina. She stretched her hands out to Anna.
“They found you.” Valentina held her tightly and Anna’s tears fell onto her shoulder. “I was sold, they did not even let me say goodbye. The next place was even harsher, but shortly after I arrived there, a raid occurred. After I was rescued, I worked so hard that they might locate you.”
“I owe you everything,” Anna told her, surprised to be loved.
Valentina shook her head, “No, we can be happy together, we are saved.”
Anna slept through a dark night into day, no terrors to disturb her sleep. The sun was shining high when she woke and she sat up, again surprised. She touched her fingers together, pressed her palm against where her heart resided under her chest, alive.
Here in this place: she ate, doctor’s visited and she spoke daily with a quiet woman who helped her understand. When she talked to this woman, shards of ice dislodged from her frozen River Neva and began to float away. The best time of the day was the evening, when they sat in the grass and spoke together. Some girls had written poems, some songs and others were quiet. Anna sat still, quiet and listened. She was not alone. They too had endured and emerged in hope.
[Image courtesy of Hordur Vihjalmsson /FreeDigitalPhotos.net]
News arrived that she had been cleared of the local legal system. There was a room with a telephone. Her hands trembled when she drew it to her ear, her Matuska’s voice and Pytor, Pavel and Petya jabbering in the background. At first there were too many tears to speak. When words broke through the tears she repeated, I’m sorry over and over again. Her Matushka whispered an invitation to come home. They had a surprise for her.
That evening, in the group, she stood up from her quiet. Into the night she recited the story of The Firebird and The Grey Wolf, the story she whispered at bedtime to her brothers in a forever ago time, the story that she whispered into the dark, until hope drained away. Now, when she spoke there were stars above her in an open sky.
…And Prince Ivan lay dead. His brothers took all that he had; the firebird, the horse and Helen. Then the crow brought the water of death and the water of life to the grey wolf. The grey wolf revived Ivan with the water. He regained all he had lost.
“He regained all he had lost. I have regained all I have lost. You have regained all you have lost.” She walked around the circle touching the top of each girl’s head like the child’s game of duck, duck, goose and whispered you have regained all you have lost.
Now, she and Valentina counted the days passing in happiness. Two months passed, and they were cleared by the government to travel home, home. They whispered the word to one another, unbelieving, surprised.
“I have nowhere to return,” Valentina announced to the NGO volunteer who would accompany them on the flight.
“She does, she is my sister,” answered Anna. “We go together.”
The miles they had traveled were below them, moving away, out of their vision.
They were waiting for them, her Matuska, her brothers and Mrs. Belikor. They held hands all the way home. Only home was no longer the little apartment without light, without heat. Their home was now behind the bakery that was once Mr. Belikor’s. He leaned over one morning explained her Matushka and left the world, and with Mrs. Belikor’s help the bakery would become Anna’s. The 1,000 USD stipend she was given, would pay for business school.
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Four years later:
Anna stood at the edge of the River Neva. Spring had arrived, melting the frozen layers, the water ran clear and forward. She turned and stole a glance at her bakery. Valentina swept the front walk and raised her hand to wave toward Anna. They would employ another girl today to knead bread, another girl that might had followed the sign she had years ago. She would add to their number and draw them up safety, to hope.
Where rescue resides there is hope.
Anna’s Story has been part of a realistic fiction series for the Exodus Road. Please consider following and supporting their work. Anna’s story has been one of the most meaningful things I’ve written on About Proximity. She touched my heart because I know her story is one that girls all over the world are actually living right now. We can fight for rescue and offer hope.