For months I hid below the barricades, where the only things keeping me sane were Stefan’s check-ins and the music in my head, which moved my body inside the cell I inhabited. Although I was weak and frail, the strength I had left held together pirouettes and brought peace to a shell of a human. I danced with grief for my mother. I danced with a broken heart for Elida. I danced with hope for Stefan. My legs moved with passion for a nation, betrayed, massacred, and undeserving of pure cruelty. While everyone above me yelled “Heil, mein Führer!” my mind screamed for revenge and a symphony sang in response to the piles of bodys that lay motionless, gone with no goodbye. 

One day, Stefan stopped coming, which to me indicated terrible news. Perhaps he was on an important job — as if anything was important in the camp — or had to deal with business. In any case, I built up enough strength to use the techniques I used to perform in order to get to the theatre and ventured out into the plain of terror above. I knew that if I was caught, I would be shot on the spot, or tortured for information. However, my blood boiled in fear of losing Stefan too. At first, it seemed that I was alone, and I tip-toed behind the walls of the blocks, punched by the smell of death. Somehow, I reached a dead-end where a group of soldiers were rallied around one of their own.

“Du Verräter…Erschieß ihn jetzt!” they chanted towards the traitor ceremoniously.

“Nein, bitte…No please,” the boy responded. I knew that voice, and my heart sank immediately. There struggled Stefan, fighting to remove the noose around his neck, and choking with every breath. 

“Drei, zwei, eins.” After the count of three, the echo of a gunshot hung in the air, and Stefan’s corpse dangled heavily, waiting to be disposed of with the rest. My only redeeming factor was executed in front of my very eyes, and I was the reason why. No! I could not blame anyone but the camp killers that managed to wipe out nations on nations of innocent souls. Tears poured down my face as I ran towards isolation, forgetting any sense of discretion; just running for my life. 

No one heard me that night. It brought back memories of my previous life of innocence and prosperity. However, it motivated me to survive for everyone who had passed before me. So I hid, I danced, I hummed the melodies of great composers. At night, I would rummage through the pantry shelves invisibly, easily collecting the week’s meals behind the band of drunken barbarians. Through the pain, I survived. 

Our Soviet deliverers entered the camp in 1945, and with gratitude, I fled to safety from Poland, to Moscow, and finally to New York, to pursue the universal dream. There I began a new life, working towards the passion I held so dearly, and leaping across the most prestigious stages that I only dreamed of. My name was broadcasted upon flashing marquees, and I overflowed with ballet shoes. With time, I achieved freedom and my dream, not for myself, but for the nation that backed my pursuit; an innocent nation persecuted by hateful hearts. Each performance I dedicated to my mother, Elida, and my love, and I believe they were there with me. My family also grew, as I married a man who reminded me of Stefan’s selflessness and bravery. Together we raised three children, once with the name Elida in honor of my beautiful sister, and educated them in equality and the benefits of having a purely good heart.

Today, I stand back in the walls of Auschwitz; somewhere I swore to burn to the ground. Tears pour from my mournful heart, debating between anger and grief. I turn the corner and see a pile of shoes, overwhelming every viewer with a solemn stench. On top sits a pair of familiar ash-covered ballet slippers. The slippers I had lost so many years ago return with vengeance as an emblem of the courage of passion. 

Photo Credit: