A little spring robin flits about overhead, flying carefree in the blue sky. I stop my work to watch the robin, leaning against the crude pick I hold in my hands. It lands on the fence post and stares at me through one eye. I stare back, not daring to move for fear it will start and fly away. It almost seems like a normal winter day. Almost.

A harsh, biting voice cuts the stillness, snarling at me to get back to work. I enviously watch the robin fly away as I turn back to my work. If only I could have wings and fly away from this horrid, awful place and sleep.

A year ago I would have thought it impossible to be this exhausted—tired of moving, heaving the heavy pick at the frozen, unyielding ground, tired of keeping my diseased skin stretched over my body, over the muscles that ached from shivering—and not fall over dead. Many of us have already. Women have fallen down among the muck and never get up again. They just leave them there and they are trodden on by the living, who are too deadened to care.

Why are They doing this to us? I want to scream and pour out all the pain and agony in my heart. Why does no one help us? What have we ever done to Them to deserve this? We dig our own grave as we starve to death, and They watch on and laugh. They do nothing but laugh cruelly and scorn us. How can They do this? What can we do to stop Them? Nothing. We are powerless.

A flash blinds me and I look up. One of Their guns has caught the setting sun. I turn slightly and see the mountains. It's strange; in all the eternity I've been trapped here I haven't noticed the breathtaking view.

Pure snow, blindingly bright in the setting sun, caps the proud, majestic mountains. It breaks my heart to look at them. I know I can't ever reach them from this filthy, hellish valley, trapped behind the barbed wire. But still I long to reach them. It comforts me to look at them, even for a moment. This hell isn't all that's left. There is still good. Birds still sing, people still dance, lovers still love. It can't go on forever. Surely this must end?

As if in answer to my question, I hear a birdcall overhead and look to see the robin sitting again on the high fence post. It chirps again and I feel the dirt on my face crack painfully.

A shot rings out in the cold air. I flinch, along with half a dozen others who are still conscious of their surroundings. The robin smacks to the cold earth and immediately tries to fly away, but is blocked by the labyrinth of wire it has fallen into. We watch it gravely as it struggles to free itself. It has a small hole in its wing and feathers lie scattered about the ground close by. We turn back to our work without a sound having been uttered.


I wake early this morning. They haven't come yet to slap us awake. I try to ignore my aching body and go back to sleep, but once awake it becomes impossible. Instead, I imagine that I am not here, but free, at home, just lying in the wagon, wedged next to Riva in our bunk, smelling the sweet, sweet smell of hay and listening to Dade harrumphing and stamping about, getting ready for the long days march. It would be before They came to take us away from our wagon and dear old Čačuno and made us move from one stinking, rotting ghetto to another, packed in with other Roma, picking more of us off as we went. Before They packed us away in the loud, noisy trains. Before They took Dade away, before They took little Riva away, before They took Daj away. Back when we could dance and sing and live.

They come, banging on the beds, shouting at us, and everything sinks back into place, into reality. The awful, awful stench of too many bodies crammed in close together, of sweat and dirt and filth and blood and fear and death, fills my nose. I'm back in my cage.


The robin is still trapped in the wire. I see it out of the corner of my eye as I pick at the hard soil. It struggles and rests, beating its wings against the sharp barbs, tearing itself all throughout the day. Is it day? The sky stays gray and indeterminable, like dusk, the end of the day.

I vaguely notice that They are restless. They aren't laughing today, only talking to each other in low voices, as if we can only understand Them if They shout. Another decrepit figure falls next to me. I prod her, but she doesn't stir. I lie down next to her and look into her eyes. They stare blankly into nothing, empty. I envy her.

I hear a harsh shout overhead; They are telling us to climb out the ditch. I simply lie there as the others clamber out, too tired to move, too tired to care. I wait for them to reach down to hit me, make me get up and go with them, but They don't. They think me dead.

I lie still now, barely daring to breathe. If they leave, I might be able to get to the fence! I listen, trembling with the cold and fear. There isn't a sound. Then it starts.

Gunfire, screams and shouts. I bolt up and quickly struggle up the sides of the ditch. Don't think, just run. We are all running. Women cry out and fall in front of me, behind me, all around me.

The fence. I fall to my knees. Scramble back up. The fence. Keep running. I see the robin as I draw closer to the fence. It screeches and beats furiously against its cage, the fence. Keep running. Almost there. Run. Shots ring out above me. I trip and fall, crashing into the barbed wire cage. Pain… Everywhere… Another shot sounds out and the bird springs free.

The End.