Maryam Wocizinski was sent to Auschwitz the same time Celina Trent was. She was only seventeen, but was healthy and looked old enough, so she wasn't sent to the crematoriums immediately as were many others. She arrived on the same transport Celina did. Both were without family--Maryam having been taken off the streets of Warsaw. Celina, on the other hand, being Immortal lived her life on her own. They gravitated toward one another, helping each other through the torturous times ahead.
Celina lived under a different identity then--though the people who had worked with her and Duncan for the Resistance knew her real name--to others she was known as Aneta Treyanzaya. The identification she carried showed her as being a citizen of Warsaw.
When Celina was taken by the SS and sent to Auschwitz, she was given a standard striped uniform, with a red triangle on the left breast--signifying her as a political prisoner. Maryam wore a yellow Star of David, being of the Jewish faith.
Whenever possible, they tried to stay together. They had been put in the same barracks, so they tried to get on the same work details. They were only successful a short while. When Celina tried to protect Maryam from the abuses of the guards, she became a victim of them herself. Maryam wanted to do something to help Celina during the weeks of her torture and gang rape, but Celina wouldn't let her, not wanting Maryam to go through it as well.
Once Celina's tormentors ceased their rape of her body, she was once more sent to work with the rest of the women; at least, those who had not been able to find themselves indoor jobs. Celina and Maryam were among those who toiled up to fourteen hours a day in the heat and/or freezing cold on as little as a small cup of so-called tea for breakfast, a small cup of watery turnip soup (with very little turnip in it) and a small crust of bread for the noon meal, and maybe some leftover tea, soup and bread at night. The bread they hoarded for breakfast, or used in secretive bartering for things they needed for everyday survival. When they returned to camp after day after day of exhausting work, they carried with them the bodies of the prisoners who'd died or been killed during the day.
Before breakfast, and upon returning at night, roll call was an added torture. Forced to stand at attention for hours without moving; often made to hold their arms up, or squat with arms outstretched; or forced to lie on the ground, their faces pushed into the mud--many prisoners collapsed where they stood, or if they showed other signs of weakening, the guards would be on them immediately. Too many prisoners to count were shot on sight, or stepped on while face down in the mud, only to smother to death, their skulls crushed beneath the guard's boots. Celina and Maryam helped each other, as well as others they grew close to, whenever possible. Sometimes they got punished for it, other times their help was returned to them in kind.
They had been in Auschwitz over a year when the news came that the war against the Allies was over. Soon after, Soviet troops came to liberate the camp. Having warning of their approach, the SS tried to destroy what they could of the crematoriums and other buildings, as well as killing or sending off on forced death marches to other camps what prisoners they could. Only those too weak to travel were left behind when the soldiers were forced to leave themselves. Maryam was one of those left behind. When Celina was rounded up in one of many groups of prisoners, and shot execution-style, Maryam gave up. She had no more strength left in her emaciated body to fight anymore. When the Americans arrived in what was left of the camp, one of the soldiers saw her, felt his heart go out to her, and did all he could to help her. His name was William Travers, and he would eventually become her husband.
Once Celina was shot, her body was thrown into a mass grave. Weakened as she was, it took a long while for her body to heal enough for her to revive and fight her way out of the pit. When she was free, she made her way outside the barbed wire fence, and disappeared into the trees....
Celina finally felt it was time to face that part of her past, but she didn't quite have the strength or fortitude to do it alone. Even though he was well into his relationship with Tessa, when Celina asked Duncan to go to Poland, and to Auschwitz, with her, he agreed. Tessa even encouraged him to go, knowing he felt some measure of guilt for not having been able to prevent Celina being sent there. Celina invited Tessa to go too, but Tessa declined, understanding that Celina's return to the camp would be traumatic, and she didn't need Tessa there to witness it. Tessa and Celina were friends--and in that instance, Tessa was willing to share Duncan.
The moment they arrived, and Celina saw once more the words above the gate: ARBEIT MACHT FREI (Work Makes You Free), she began to tremble.
Duncan put an arm around her, and softly asked, concerned, "Are you sure you want to do this?"
Sighing raggedly, Celina nodded. "I have to do this." Glancing down at her left arm where her number tattoo used to be until she'd had it surgically removed by an immortal surgeon friend of hers, she looked up into Duncan's eyes. "Come on...let's do it."
The camp was crowded with lots of visitors--many of whom Celina was sure were either survivors, family members of survivors, or others who were connected to the place in one way or another--others who, like her, had been affected by what had transpired there. Many of them were weeping, and those who weren't had varied expressions of horror, disgust, and disbelief on their faces. How could any of them have realized that such a terrible thing could have happened?
Duncan didn't try to carry on a conversation with Celina, allowing her to have the time to deal with all the emotions assaulting her at being faced with memories she'd long pushed aside. Every now and then she'd comment on something, if the memory were one she wanted to share with him.
When they entered the barracks where she'd lived through much of her time there, she stopped as she looked around, mental pictures coming to mind of how it had looked nearly filled to the rafters with frail, weak, emaciated women. Wooden tiers, three bunks high, lined each side of the room, and Celina recalled how, most of the time, three women would be crammed onto each bunk without any kind of padding whatsoever--just hard splintery wood. She walked over to the bunk that she had shared with Maryam, when they could get it. Sometimes, if they were late in getting back to the barracks, they'd been forced to sleep on the bare, concrete floor.
"This is where we slept."
"Maryam and I. We tried to stick together whenever possible. Sometimes, I don't think I could have made it without her. I hope I helped her too."
"I'm sure you did."
"I've often wondered what happened to her--"
When they heard other voices coming from the doorway, they turned in that direction. Celina couldn't believe her eyes--there, just inside the doorway, stood Maryam. A much older Maryam, yes--but Maryam nonetheless. Celina gasped out loud.
Maryam heard the gasp, and when she turned to look their way, her face paled.
Celina knew she couldn't speak the truth, so she said the next best thing. "Maryam?" When Maryam nodded, Celina walked toward her old friend, hands outstretched. "Maryam, my name is Celina Trent. Aneta was my grandmother. I've heard so much about you--"
"Your grandmother? How could--I thought she died here!" Maryam asked, tears streaming down her face.
"She didn't die--she survived the shooting. She escaped, and made her way out of Poland."
"Oh, child! I am so happy to hear that!" Maryam said as she clasped Celina's hands in her own. "I have thought of her often over the years, and prayed for her sweet soul."
"And she you." Celina felt guilty for the half-truths she was telling, but knew no other way to ease her old friend's mind.
"Where is she, child?" Maryam asked as she wiped the tears from her cheeks. "Did she come with you?"
"I'm sorry, but no. Aneta died a number of years ago. After everything I've heard, I had to come here--"
"I'm so sorry," Maryam pressed a hand to Celina's cheek. "You look so much like her."
"So I've been told." Celina turned to Duncan, and introduced him to Maryam. "Duncan came with me as my moral support. I couldn't have come here without him."
"My family came with me," Maryam then introduced her family.
For the next couple hours, Celina and Duncan walked around the camp with Maryam and her family. Celina's heart contracted with the knowledge that Maryam was ill--it was visible to all who saw her. Her grandson Peter kept a steadying hand on her arms at all times, and several times during the course of their tour of the camp, Maryam had to stop to catch her breath. At one point, Duncan looked at Celina, and seeing tears of sadness and mourning fill her eyes, he wiped them gently away. Celina kept a strong grip on his hands as well.
When it was time to leave, Celina and Maryam exchanged addresses, promising to keep in touch. As they watched Peter help his grandmother into their car, Celina and Duncan knew they'd not see Maryam alive again.
They were right. Not long after they returned to Seacouver from Poland Celina received a letter from Peter.
"Dear Ms. Trent,
It is with great sadness that I must inform you of the passing of my sweet grandmother, Maryam Travers. She spoke of you often after meeting you in Poland, and I know she would want me to tell you how wonderful it was for her to hear that her dear friend Aneta survived the war.
Grandmother passed away two weeks after we returned home. She was ill, as I'm sure you could tell, but she felt she couldn't pass on without making some kind of peace with that part of her life. She found that peace, and she died quietly in her sleep, surrounded by her loved ones.
You may not have heard this, but shortly before the war ended and they were separated, your grandmother gave to mine a piece of jewelry, a brooch, which she'd managed to keep hidden from the SS. Just before she died, Grandmother asked me to see that you were given that brooch. I was told that it had been quite dear to your grandmother Aneta, and I know Grandmother wanted to see it returned to your family."
Celina unwrapped the small item which had been enclosed with the letter, and she felt tears fill her eyes once again as she gazed at the silver and amethyst brooch she'd given to Maryam. It had been given to her over 350 years earlier--one of the first gifts she'd received from Duncan. She'd never thought to see it again, and though she was glad to see it once more, she was saddened knowing she had it back due to the death of her friend. Setting it aside gently, she returned to the letter.
"I know she treasured it, for whenever she brought it out, she always smiled, thinking about your grandmother.
I hope this letter finds you well. Don't mourn for Grandmother, please--she had a good life, she often told us, and I know she wouldn't want to be remembered with sadness. She thought of you, and her dear friend Aneta, to her dying day.
May Yahweh bless you, and keep you.
Celina wept. Not so much in sadness, for she knew Maryam wouldn't want that, but in happiness knowing Maryam had died happy, and in peace.
Celina told Duncan and Tessa what she planned to do. "I want to make a donation, in Maryam's name, to the Auschwitz museum. I also want to pay any medical bills her family may have incurred during her illness."
"By all means," Duncan agreed. "May I help?"
"You don't have to--"
"I want to. Please?"
Tessa, holding Duncan's hand, agreed. "I would also like to help, at least in making the donation to the museum."
Celina smiled softly, in thanks. "I'm sure Maryam would love it. Thank you."
So, sending it anonymously, the three donated a sizable contribution to the Auschwitz museum in Poland; and later, to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. Also, Duncan quietly made the arrangements to see that all Maryam's medical bills--of which there were many--were paid in full.
Celina could now put that terrible time in her life to rest, having found the same peace with it Maryam had.