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“Daddy, why did you name me Caroline?” “Sweetie, because the name Caroline, represents freedom, peace, and bravery. I met a girl in 1940 who was also called Caroline, and she changed my entire life. Let me read you my diary during the 1940s.”
This is a date I will never forget in my entire life—May 1st, 1940.
May 1st, 1940,
Smoke and fire were everywhere around me. Yes, I arrived in Paris. Last week I received a message that every house in Paris must be looked after by a Nazi captain. We must live with the French citizens to ensure that they do not do anything against us.
My eyes felt so sour by the smoke that was coming toward me with the wind. Uncontrolled tears ran off my cheeks, and I could barely open my eyes. I could not see things clearly. All I saw were the soldiers in their dark green uniforms like me on the street, and people on the streets walking quickly with purpose. In the sky floated the ubiquitous airships, some were round and some were oval with the Nazi flags on them. I heard people screaming, crying, and begging for food and money. I am so proud of my country that we can put the French in such a poor circumstance. The corners of my mouth unexpectedly rose. Paris, France owns this because think about what they had done to us in World War I.
I kept on walking. The ground was covered by gory blood, it was everywhere, even on my new boots. I felt a little bit disgusted by the blood but I did not stop walking and acting seriously like a Nazi captain. I saw a bloody dead body in front of me. I just stepped on it because I did not want to waste time bypassing it. I felt the skinny bones of that person. He smelled like rotting flesh. I raised my head arrogantly, looking for that address. The shelters of the citizens were mostly destroyed by our bombs and every window in the city was taped against explosion. There were only a few houses that were only half destroyed.
I arrived, 7006. Rue Montorgueil. It was such a tiny house with faded walls on the outside. Stepping forward, on the unsecured door, there was a smiley face drawn on it with the word “peace” childly written. Huh, “peace”? French do not own it. Stop daydreaming. I straightened my back, lowered my eyes, and put my heavy gun in a more conspicuous place, hoping I could scare them. I kicked the door and it fell to the left side. Are they that lazy to not fix such a weak door? How can I even live in this poor house?
I rolled my eyes, shouting: “Anyone here?” My voice echoed around the house. It was so dead silence that I could only hear dripping raindrops.
“Mhmm, hi, nice to meet you, my name is Caroline what about you.” A girl with two cute braids suddenly appeared. She was so small and so skinny with two pale green eyes without a touch of hazel, stared with bristly black lashes, and slightly tilted at the end. Above them, her thick brown brows slanted upward, a startling line in her magnolia white skin. Her reddish cheeks were so dry that they were closely cracking. She looked approximately 12 years old. How was she not scared of me?
“I am alexander. Are there any adults here?” I asked impatiently.
“Yes, my mom is upstairs but she is really depressed because she did not receive any letter from my dad and brothers. I also miss them badly but I think they will be safe because they are all strong men who know how to protect themselves and most importantly, God is blessing them. Anyway, peace is going to come.” Her pale green eyes stared at me confidently. Huh, peace is going to come? No, no, no. Not more than a month you will probably die. But...I controlled myself from saying that to her.
“OK, where is my room?” Looking at her eyes, I unexpectedly thought of my younger sister at home. My sister is also her age and even looks a bit like Caroline. They both have those perfect green eyes and the sign of bravery.
“It is upstairs, see? My mom left the biggest room for you. We received the message that every house in Paris was going to be looked after by a Nazi soldier. So, we prepared a room for you. If you need any help, you can come to find me. I do not want to disturb my mom she looks so weak.”
“Ok, shut up, I get it.” She is so mature at her age since she looks so small and young. Why? Why does she look so like my sister? Looking at those familiar eyes that my sister used to stare at me for the past 12 years, I suddenly hid my personality as a cold-hearted soldier. For the first time in my life, I felt indescribably depressed when I faced an enemy. I do not want to hurt her.
May 5th, 1940
France now is already like fragments under our invasion which is a good thing. But why do I always feel so depressed when I look at that girl’s eyes—our enemy’s eyes. I found sadness, hope, matureness, and innocence in those eyes. Such pathos. It is so weird that I feel bad for our enemy but those eyes are just so unforgettable. And her voice is also echoing in my mind.
May 10th, 1940,
Caroline’s home is so poor that she and her mother could only drink water and eat a piece of bread every day. I mean, all French citizens are like that, starving. That bread is totally tasteless and dry. But they are still grateful that at least they have bread to eat since there are still a lot more people that do not even have a piece of bread and are dying because of starvation. But something that really makes me feel bad is that Caroline and her mother always keep bread for me to eat. for me to eat. They think I do not have any food to eat like them. I refused since I am always full; Nazi captains have feasts every day delivered by the soldiers, and we will secretly eat them in our room. But they still put a piece of bread in my bedroom every day. I felt so bad because they didn’t eat that bread even though they were starving and gave that bread to an enemy.
May 15th, 1940
Isabel’s eyes cannot leave the mailbox at all and most of the time when she finishes doing housework she stays beside the mailbox.
“Did you see any letters from daddy and brothers?” Isabel said.
Caroline replied: “Mommy, stop thinking about it. You already asked me eight times today, remember? And, also, our dearest God will bless them.”
Isabel squatted down at Caroline's height and touched her head gently as if she had just changed into another person. “Yes, everything will be all right. When daddy and brothers come back, we can have barbecues together. That is your favorite right?”
Isabel calmed down and Caroline suddenly cheered up: “Yay, I’ll prepare all the ingredients.”
May 22nd, 1940,
During the three weeks I stay at Caroline’s home, I unexpectedly started to feel sad for Caroline and her mother—Isabel. Not only because they give me food. I even feel a bit guilty that I am so mean to them. And this thought becomes deeper and deeper as I stay longer with them.
Caroline has two older brothers and they went to the front line to protect their motherland, France, with their father. Lately last week, the young woman Isabel received a letter from the front line that her husband had died.
I didn’t realize what was going wrong. So, to act as a gentleman I asked her: “What's wrong, Lady. Can I help you in any way?” “Help me? How do you help me? What did we do wrong? What did he do wrong? You killed the person I love the most on Earth. I cannot even live without him. I just do not get it. Tell me, please. Why? Isn't it so unfair for me?” For a month I had stayed in Isabel’s house; she had never shouted like that. And Isabel repeated that in a wailing voice repeatedly. She is such a lady-like woman with polite manners, so how heart-wrenching can something be to make her like this.
I saw her secretly rip the letter with her tears silently coming out and eyebrows knitting into a frown. She sat in the corner of the storage room and buried her head in her arms. Looking at a far distance, she was grieving, crying. She is a young lady with kind manners who never complains about the injustice of life. The pressure of life keeps her out of breath. She put dish cloth in her mouth since she wanted to cry quietly, and did not want Caroline to see her cry and worry. Her shoulders were pumping and she stayed there for a long time. I involuntarily reference her to my mother. All women will feel the same way when their dearest husband, the person they love the most died. Isabel's eyes still remain bloody and puffed up till now.
Caroline is always there comforting her mother and she never realizes what happened. Since Isabel's spiritual pillar-husband collapsed, she started looking weaker and weaker. Poor Caroline still remains hopeful that she thinks her dearest father and siblings will come home soon.
“Alexander, why did you invade us? What did we do wrong? Why do you Germans enjoy killing us?” Caroline is so innocent that she never even realizes that I can bring her to hell easily. She asked me these questions a million times and I ignored her a million times. I ignored her because I truly don’t know how to answer them now.
Should I say because the French are all mean and cruel? No. Then what will Caroline think? She is just a normal child that did not do anything wrong...like my sister.
“Ha kid, you are the only person smiling and laughing in this poor circumstance. How are you not worrying about your siblings and father like your mom.” I said them in a joking way and that’s what I really wanted to ask from the real start. And her answer shocked me.
Suddenly, she looked up with an unexpectedly serious face: “You really want to know why? Because I hide them in my heart. I hide the darkest things in my heart and keep the lights on the outside. Pretend. Life is beautiful only when you’re laughing; even though it’s a fake laugh...Oh but please Alexander, don’t tell these to my mother.”
May 23rd, 1940,
This morning Isabel wandered around the garden, or you can say ruins, as she always does. She suddenly opened the gate and ran out of the garden heading toward a Nazi patrol soldier. What is she doing? Does she not want to live anymore? She grabbed the soldier and shouted to him:
“Where is my husband? Give me back my dearest.” the soldier slapped her on her face expectedly hard. He pointed his gun at her chest and was ready to shoot her.
No, no, no, she can't die. If she dies then what can Caroline do? I immediately opened the window without thinking and screamed down to that soldier:
“Heil Hitler, friend calm down, she does not mean that. She has some mental issues because her husband died. Take it easy, just let her go.”
“Never mind, I don’t want to see you anymore, get the hell out of here b*.” He snarled. He was so mad that he used all his strength to pull himself away from her. Without looking at her, he picked up his gun and stomped away.
“Mom, mom what happened? Are you all right?” Caroline rushed out of the house. “Please, say something mommy.” She stared blankly at her mother’s bloody face and controlled her tears to not burst out of her eyes. I ran downstairs and carried Isabel into the house. She was way lighter and skinnier than I expected.
Lying in bed that night, I kept on thinking about war. What does war actually bring us? For me, as a Nazi captain, I was technically satisfied as we put France in such a poor circumstance. And as a captain, I was enjoying the treatment of being in the high social hierarchy. But, what about these poor French citizens living lives even worse than dying? What did they do wrong? Maybe Caroline and her mother’s kindness is an exception but all the victim citizens are living in extreme miserably. Citizens are the victims of war. I start putting myself in their perspective and I start reflecting on the actions I have done. I killed so many citizens including children, women, and soldiers. And every one of them is only a normal p normal person me and.......my family members......and my friends......and little Caroline.
May 24th, 1940
The next day, I left their house silently and was sent to Dunkirk to prepare for the next invasion. I left a note to Isabel and Caroline in their mailbox:
“It must be dark now but do not lose hope. There is always a light at the end and please don’t give up moving on you will get there. Everything that had a beginning has an end. God will not abandon you. Let God be your light. It may take some time and bad things might happen, but don’t give up hope and pray, stay calm, and everything will be all right.”
I didn’t write my name on the note card, and I really hope this can help them and encourage them to look forward.
“Daddy, did you ever meet Caroline and her mother again, and are they still alive?”
“I generally don’t know because afterward, I never saw Caroline and Isabel again. But they might actually be alive.” My daughter seems so excited. She claps her hands and looks at me with her pale green eyes.
“Yes. I prayed. I prayed every night that they could be safe. And when I saw in Dunkirk that most of the French and British soldiers successfully evacuated, I was so elated. I just know that Caroline’s brothers were safe and they will meet again. There was even a sudden hallucination that I saw Caroline’s smiley face when she saw her brothers. Of course, it cannot be true. Caroline, her mother, and I are just passengers in each other’s lives but they totally changed me. And you know what, my little Caroline, you have those same perfect eyes like that Caroline. And most importantly, the lesson I want to tell you is that always stay hopeful and look forward to peace no matter what happens.”