Emily was a farm girl from a village called Odporyszów. The youngest of 10 siblings, she grew up milking cows, stuffing sausages, and collecting eggs. When her turn came to slaughter the chickens, she asked her older brothers to do it instead. She had trouble being accurate with the blow when she was crying.
There was one dirt road that snaked through Poland's verdant countryside into Odporyszów; this is the way by which the Nazis arrived in the early 1940's. They came and went in a flash, leaving a maelstrom in their wake, as Nazis tend to do. When they checked Emily's village off their to-do list and moved on, the residents of Odporyszów were fewer in number. Those that remained dug graves for the piles of corpses that used to be their Jewish and gypsy neighbors.
After the war, a young man named Frank passed through Odporyszów. He was a year and a half younger than Emily, and he was looking for farm work. He had just made his way back from Austria -- via train, truck, and foot -- where he had been a prison laborer for the S.S.
Frank was a hardy man, and to some degree retained his muscular build nearly his whole life. But his time in Austria had taken its toll on him. When the prison camps were liberated, there was no financial retribution to the captives. "Off you go," was the communication. So like others in his predicament, Frank began the journey to Slavic Europe however he could. Malnourished and underweight, he struggled to find food along the way. On occasion, he snuck onto farms and ate pig slop.
But his life changed the day he met golden Emily -- he just didn't know it yet. Because the village offered little work, Frank came and went thinking he'd never return to the town. All the better, perhaps -- as the youngest, Emily was expected to stay on the farm and help her parents however they saw fit. She didn't have the time for a romance. And her brothers really weren't too fond of that Frank.
Frank found work on a farm about a couple of hours south of Odporyszów. Bit by bit, his strength returned. He filled out. His muscles plumped up.
But Frank had yet another challenge awaiting him: a case of typhus that nearly took his life a few months later. As he lay on his hospital bed, Death patiently counting the hairs on his head, Frank dreamed of his own passing. He was inside a casket, his mother weeping over his emaciated frame, his stoic father staring off into the distance, and hordes of relatives clad in black, their hands clasped in prayer.
That's it, he thought. I'm dead.
Suddenly, someone was at his funeral that had not been there a moment ago. Unlike the others, she was not weeping, but smiling. She knelt next to his grave site and offered her hand, her brown curls grazing her cheek.
"Come Franusz," Emily said. "It's time to get up."
And so he got up: from his dream, from his hospital bed, and from his near death. As he grew healthier, he saw it fit that there was only one place he could go next.
To Odporyszów. And to Emily.