Daughters of Warsaw – First Look!

Finally, almost a week after she’d been to the meeting at the Social Worker’s Club, Lina took her to one side.
‘Meet me outside in ten minutes,’ she said quietly. ‘At the back of the building, behind the fire door. We have to talk.’
They were never sure if and when the Germans would pay the Welfare Department a visit, and there were no office windows overlooking the small courtyard behind the building. But before Zofia could ask what she wanted to talk about, Lina had turned on her heel and left. Zofia finished typing the report she was working on, her fingers trembling with anticipation. Was this it? Was she about to be given her first mission? She took the paper out of the typewriter and left the office.
A rare slice of sunlight pierced the gap between the chimney stack that led up the side of the building and the space behind the fire door. Zofia crossed the small courtyard to where Lina stood in the shadows, the tip of her cigarette glowing orange in the dark. She smiled as Zofia approached.
‘Sorry about all the cloak and dagger stuff,’ she said, ‘but I’m sure you can understand why we have to be so careful about everything we do.’

Zofia nodded, and her heart started suddenly pounding. Of course she understood why it had to be this way.
‘I have a uniform for you here,’ Lina said, holding out a small carpet bag. ‘Irena got it for you.’
‘A uniform?’ Zofia stared at the bag as if it might contain a poisonous snake. What was Lina talking about?
Lina nodded. ‘You’ll be dressed as a nurse, so you can enter and leave the ghetto.’ She shrugged. ‘It might be a little big for you,’ she said, ‘but you can pin the waist and it should fit.’
‘I’m going into the ghetto? But I’m not a nurse!’ Zofia said, alarmed. ‘What if they ask me something? Something medical that a nurse would know the answer to?’
Lina put her hand on Zofia’s arm. ‘You’re nervous. And that’s perfectly normal. I’m a bag of bloody nerves every time I go into the ghetto. But—’ She tilted her head to the side. ‘It’s useful to be a little on edge. It enhances your perception.’
A little on edge?!? Zofia wanted to say. You must be joking! But she kept the words to herself and took a deep breath. She could do this.
As though reading her mind, Lina said, ‘You can do this, Zofia, I have absolute confidence in you. But if you don’t think you’re up to it, it’s better to tell me now.’
‘No,’ Zofia said, taking the bag from Lina and hoping her friend wouldn’t see how much her hand was trembling. ‘I can do it. I want to help. Just tell me what to do.’
‘You’ll meet Irena around the corner from the ghetto entrance on Muranowska Street. At three o’clock. She’ll give you further instructions.’
‘But that’s … that’s only an hour from now!’

Lina nodded. ‘It’s a general principle not to plan too far in advance. It helps to avoid information from leaking out.’
They both fell silent as somewhere behind them a door opened and closed. Zofia looked around, but there was no one to be seen.
Lina leaned in close. ‘Irena will be waiting for you. Make sure to put the uniform on first.’ She paused and gave Zofia an encouraging smile. ‘You won’t be inside the ghetto for long,’ she said. ‘You don’t know your way around yet, and I’m sure Irena will be beside you every step of the way.’
‘But what about Mr Wójcik? He’ll notice if I leave early.’
‘Don’t worry about him. I’ll tell him you’re on a house visit. The Bartosz family have just had a baby, haven’t they? It’s standard practice to receive a welfare visit, especially as its their sixth child.’
Zofia bit down on her lip. It seemed a flimsy excuse, but she had to trust that Lina knew what she was doing. She nodded. ‘Very well. I’ll just file the report I’ve written.’
Unexpectedly, Lina took her in an embrace and hugged her tight. ‘Welcome to the resistance,’ she whispered.

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