Endre Farkas: Never, Again

Synopsis

Set in post-war Communist Hungary, in the fictional town of Hajdubékes, Never, Again is the story of seven-year-old Tomi Wolfstein, the son of Holocaust survivors who have never told him anything about their past experiences in the concentration camps of World War II. When the story opens, in the fall of 1956, the boy is about to start school.

Never, Again is Tomi’s journey— physically, emotionally and symbolically from innocence to experience, to understanding and freedom. The story chronicles his experiences in the months leading up to the 1956 Hungarian uprising and his loss of innocence during that time.

Although most of the narrative is told from his perspective in his attempt to understand the events unfolding around him, there are, interwoven into the escape story, flashbacks of his parents’ World War II experiences—of labour and concentration camps, of survival and escape. Never, Again is loosely based on Endre Farkas’ experiences during this tumultuous time.

By no means a black and white story, Never, Again is an adventure that takes place on a number of levels. It is about the complexities of being a child during turbulent times. It is about faith, prejudice, ignorance, hate and nationalism, as well as kindness, loyalty, hope and courage.

This is an excerpt from the novel Never, Again by Endre Farkas published by Signature Editions. The book may be purchased in bookstores across Canada or ordered from Amazon. com. To find out about Endre Farkas and his book tour go to his website endrefarkas.net.

This excerpt takes place after Tomi’s family has been refused a visa to go to Israel. Because Békes, is a small town and word got out that the Wolfstein family is trying to leave the country. Tomi is in class and is about to recite a poem that he has been memorizing and is eager to show that he knows it flawlessly.

To put it in context: Tomi has had a previous encounter with Szeles the school bully. Gabi is his cousin, Frog is Roma and his best friend. István’s father told Istvan that the Jews are hated because they killed Christ.

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01-cover

“Tamás Wolfstein.” Tomi’s eyes snap open. He stands at attention. “Come to the front.” Tomi walks slowly from the back of the room. He smiles at his teacher. He knows that he is her favourite. But she isn’t smiling today. She has on her serious face, the one she wears when the class isn’t progressing. Maybe she is angry because of all the problems the other kids are having reciting. Maybe she is worried that they won’t be able to do it well enough for the principal and the parents. He is determined to do it flawlessly. He wants her to be proud of him. He wants to be perfect, for her.

When he turns to face the class, he feels Mrs. Gombás’s hand on his head. She turns him firmly toward her. Her face looks hard, her lips are tight and her eyes make him feel cold.

“So, Hungary is not your homeland? So, you want to leave your Motherland and go to your Jewland?”

He feels as though a thousand bees have stung him. His cheeks feel like they’re on fire. He wants to cry but doesn’t want his classmates to see him. He clenches his jaws and fists.

Mrs. Gombás gasps, grabs him by the shoulder and turns him to face the class.

“Take a good look. This is what a traitor looks like. This class is only for true Hungarians. Now leave at once, you dirty little Jew.”

“ I won’t cry. I won’t cry,” he tells himself silently over and over again as he marches out of class and down the empty, silent corridor that seems to go on forever. The only sound comes from the metal taps of his shoes clacking against the floor.

He doesn’t understand. Teachers only punish you when you do something wrong. What did he do wrong? It isn’t his fault that he’s a Jew. He isn’t a traitor. He wants to play soccer for the Hungarian national team.

The noon bell rings.

Szeles and three of his gang are standing around the bike rack, smiling. Tomi eyes each of them. And then he sees his bike. Its tires are flat. Some of the bright red enamel has been scraped away, the chain is off and coated with dirt and his Superla logo is missing!

“You stupid animal!” he screams and charges, taking Szeles by surprise. They fall to the ground. Tomi fights to stay on top. He hits Szeles as hard as he can. Blood spurts from Szeles’ nose as Tomi hits him repeatedly. He is hitting Mrs. Gombás. He is hitting István’s father. He is hitting the boot with the spiky teeth. I won’t cry. I won’t cry!” he shouts. Szeles throws him off and rolls over onto him, pinning Tomi’s arms with his legs. Szeles’s blood drips onto Tomi’s face as Szeles hits him and spits on him.

“Jews! Jews! Dirty Jews eat dirt!” he shouts. He grabs a handful of dirt to stuff down Tomi’s throat. Tomi tries to twist away but Szeles grabs him by the hair and smears dirt all over his face. “Jews eat dirt.”

Suddenly Szeles is off him. He sees Gabi on top of Szeles. Szeles’s friends grab Gabi, but Carrot, Frog and István grab them. They are all grabbing and tugging at each other. Tomi scrambles up, reaches into his pocket and pulls out his knife. The blade springs out. “You stupid animal,” he screams. Everyone freezes. Tomi charges. He rams the blade of his knife to the hilt into the front tire of Szeles’s bike. Szeles grabs Tomi by his shirt collar and yanks. The knife flies out of his hands as he is thrown back down onto the ground. Gabi grabs Szeles and spins him off Tomi.

A crowd gathers around the boys. “Hit him! Kick him! Punch him in the head! Yes! Yes!” they shout.

“Stop it! Stop it!” It’s Mr. Toth. He breaks through the circle, his slashing pointer hitting everyone within reach.

“Stop it! Stop it!” he shouts as he continues to swing the pointer left and right, forcing the crowd of boys back. “Stand up! All of you!” Then he turns to the crowd that has gathered.

“Leave! Now! Everybody!”

No one moves. “Now!” Mr. Toth shouts, raising the pointer high overhead.

Reluctantly, the mob of boys backs off and disperses. Mr. Toth faces the boys. “Stand up straight! Animals. You’re all animals! Hooligans! What kind of behaviour is this?”

“That Jew tried to stab me with his knife.”
 Mr. Toth turned his gaze accusingly on Tomi. “Did you do that?”

“No. I attacked his bike because but he did it to mine first.”

“No, I didn’t!”

“Enough. I don’t want to hear another word from any of you hooligans. You are all to be at the principal’s office at eight thirty sharp tomorrow morning. With your parents! Do you understand?”

No one speaks. “I didn’t hear you. Are you all deaf and dumb?”
 “Yes, Sir!” everyone replies at once. “Now leave!” he snaps. Szeles and his friends grab their bikes and run down the lane. Just before he turns the corner, Szeles sticks out his arm holding the Superla ornament in his hand and yells, “Heil Hitler.”

Mr. Toth spins around, but by then Szeles and his gang have disappeared. Looking at Tomi and Gabi, he sighs. “Be careful, boys,” he says quietly. Then he turns and, with his head down, walks back toward the school.

Tomi and Gabi wheel their bikes out of the schoolyard, their friends trailing close behind.

“What happened?” Gabi asks. “Stupid Mrs. Gombás,” Frog says. “What happened?” “She called Tomi a dirty little Jew.” “Why? What did you do?” Gabi asked. “Nothing!”

“It was his turn to recite his poem and she just started calling him a traitor and a dirty little Jew.”

“He’s a dirty little Jew now,” Carrot says, looking at him.

“So is Frog,” István says, looking at Frog.

“No, I’m not. I’m a dirty Gypsy,” Frog says, spitting out bits of dust. “Here,” he says, and hands Tomi his knife.

Endre Farkas

One Comment

  1. Child of survivors says:

    Sounds just the way I ( and fellow friends born after the Holocaust) grew up in “lovely” Koloszvar – upon his return from munka szolgalatt under the butchers in Hungary, my dad created a new family a few years later -as soon as I was born, the country turned communist – just as Tommy has, at the young age of six I was bullied and told to ” go to Palestine” that is how Israel was called in these lovely Eastern European towns- it did not help that I had platinum blonde hair – I was bullied every day – until we were able to leave everything behind and leave in the middle of the night for Belgium -leaving behind a 9 family house complete with concert piano and furnishings – by the way anyone out there a good attorney? I’m fighting to get that house back for the past 16 years – I hear the Romanians are planning to give payments starting in 2017 in increments every few years – so that most people of course should be dead by then….

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