A Light for
This book is based on the play
"The Guiding Light" by
Eva Vogiel and Ruth Steinberg.
First published 1992
Copyright 1992 by
Eva Vogiel and Ruth Steinberg
Library of Congress
Summary: A young Russian girl struggles to
keep her Jewish
traditions alive in a Victorian orphanage in England run by a
FOB 35002 /
200 Airport Executive Park
Valley, NY 10977
Printed in Israel
In loving memory of my wonderful
Their example has always been my
In memory of my dear father-in-law
and in love and appreciation to my
whose strength and stamina sustained
them and their children
through difficult times during the war.
We also dedicate this book to the girls
who took part in our play, "The Guiding
on which we based this story.
THE LONG RAYS of the setting sun cast
rosy glow over the picturesque Russian village.
At such a moment, one could
be excused for be-
lieving that Brodzhynev was a haven of peace and
contentment. People could be seen making their
leisurely way along the main
road, some stopping
to make last-minute purchases as the shopkeep-
prepared to close and shutter their shops for
the night, while others turned
straight into the
winding side streets, to the simple wooden shacks
were their homes. The only indication that
all was not well in the village
was the occasional
anxious look that the Jewish inhabitants threw
their shoulders as they hurried past.
In fact, this autumn of 1877 was a particu-
larly harrowing time for the Jews of Brodzhynev.
Hardly a day went by without
the Cossack sol-
diers marching in and seizing some hapless young
man suspected of evading army service.
manner was brutal and they turned a deaf ear to
pleadings of their captive's family,
who feared they would never see their
In her small, humble home Anya Aronowitch
sat rocking her baby daughter, trying to lull her-
self at the same time
into a sense of well-being.
She had everything to live for. Eighteen months
ago she had married Avraham Aronowitch, a
good, kind, dependable young man,
who had been
one of the best students in the yeshiva. And now
they had a
beautiful little daughter, Miriam, for
whom Anya thanked Hashem constantly.
Every morning Avraham rose at five o'clock
to study Torah with a neighbor before saying his
morning prayers. Then he
would set off to work,
ploughing fields and doing other farm work on
estate of a wealthy landowner in the neigh-
boring village. But before he
left in the mornings,
he would bring in the chopped wood from the
outside and stoke up the iron stove in
which Anya did her cooking.
Now, after a busy day doing her housework,
Anya sat in the shabby old rocking chair her fa-
ther had given her,
cradling her baby hi her arms.
She looked around the room proudly: Though her
little home was humble and contained only the
barest of necessities, she
loved it dearly. There
was a crisp, starched cloth on the table and
the meal she had cooked for her husband
bubbling on the stove. As she sat awaiting his
return, she clung
desperately to the feeling of
contentment she had striven to conjure up,
ing she could control the sensation of fear and
panic rising within
The baby began to whimper. Anya rocked
her gently, singing a soothing lullaby, one that
she remembered her own
mother singing to her
when she was a child.
Sleep, my child
Rest, my child
Though stormy times surround us.
Do not fear
Hashem is near
His protection is all around us.
It's not for us to question "Why?"
Hashem is watching us on high.
Make Yiddishkeit your guiding light,
Keep your emunah forever.
The baby smiled at her and Anya caught
sight of a tiny white speck shining in her mouth.
Could it really be - or was
she imagining it?
Gently she ran her finger along the gum and, sure
enough, she could feel something sharp. Pulling
the baby's lower lip down
slightly, she peered
into her little mouth - and there it was, quite
unmistakably: a new tooth! She hugged her little
daughter excitedly, momentarily forgetting
A knock at the door startled her for a mo-
ment, until she realized it was Avraham's usual
signal - three soft taps and
one loud one. She put
the baby down in her cradle and hurried to the
"Oh, Avraham!" she cried as she flung it
"Guess what! Our little Miritchka has cut her first
tooth! I've just
discovered it this minute. Oh, do
come and see it!"
Taking a minute to hastily bar the door,
ham took off his coat, draped it over a chair and
strode to the
cradle. "Come on, little one," he
crooned, picking the baby up. "Open your
and show your Papa what a clever girl you are!"
The baby gurgled happily and her father
peered into her mouth and smiled. Then he closed
his eyes and sighed deeply.
A feeling of alarm gripped Anya. "Avraham,
is anything the matter? Has something happened
in the village?"
Avraham gently put the baby down and
rocked the cradle for a few moments before re-
plying. "They came for Shimon
Moskov and the
Shulkin brothers today," he said softly, almost in
"Oh, no!" Anya cried out in distress. Olga
Moskov was her Mend and she could not bear
to think of the anguish she must
deprived of her husband after only three
of marriage. And what about old Mrs. Shulkin?
Since she had become a
widow she had relied com-
pletely on her two sons. How would she manage
without them? "Oh, these Cossacks!" Anya's voice
was bitter and her eyes
filled with tears. "Why
must they pick on us? Can only Jewish men fill
"Anya..." Avraham blurted, grave urgency
his tone, "if they come for me, promise me...."
"No! No!" Anya's agonized cry interrupted
him. "They mustn't take you! It just can't happen!
What would I do?..."
"Listen, Anya, we must face the fact that
"No, no, no!" Anya covered her face with
hands and began to weep hysterically.
"Anya! Try to calm yourself!" Avraham said
sternly, hating himself for speaking to her in that
tone but knowing that he
had to. "Time may be
short and we must decide what you should do.
Anya stopped crying immediately. She
gulped and wiped her eyes, a look of guilt and
remorse on her face. "I-I'm
sorry, Avraham. I will
try. Tell me, what should I do if they...if they,.."
she began to sob again, unable to put the terrible
thought into words.
"If the Cossacks do come for me," her
said quietly, "you must not stay here. It can't be
safe for you or little Miritchka. What if
"But where else could I go?"
"I want you to make your way to England."
'"In England!" Anya gasped. "So far away?
might never see you again!"
"On the contrary there is more chance
way. If I am taken to the army I will try to
escape...I don't know
how, or when, but I will
keep trying. If I succeed, I can't come back here
- this is the first place they would look. So, I too
will make my way to
England and with Hashem's
help, I will find you. There must be some sort
of Jewish organization in England, probably in
London, the capital, that
looks after refugees.
Try to contact them - and I will do the same."
"But how will I get to England? I wouldn't
know how to begin!"
"Listen now, and listen well, Anya! I have
it all worked out. Boris Petrov, who works with
me on the farm, lives in a
cottage at the edge
of the forest. You can't miss it - it has freshly
whitewashed walls and the door is painted yellow.
In his front garden you
will see a dovecote - he
is very fond of pigeons. Make your way to his
cottage and he will take you in his wagon to a
"This Boris," Anya asked anxiously, "is he
Jewish? I could only trust another Jew."
"No, but I know him well and you can trust
him. I have already spoken to him and
everything. He knows the captain of a small ship
regularly to Europe. Boris will negotiate
a price with him. It might mean
that you will have
to give away most of our savings, but at least you
little Miritchka will be safe!"
"But Avraham, there is something I don't
understand. Why do we have to wait until - God
forbid the Cossacks come?
Why can't we all flee
at once, now, to England and be safe together?"
Avraham shook his head. "If only we
he cried. "But it's not possible. If I were caught
I would be
shot..." Anya shuddered at her hus-
band's words. "Boris tells me that this
not too fond of Jews - and that, moreover, having
soldier himself for many years, he is very
intolerant of anyone who
tries to evade serving in
the army. However - and this is the point, Anya
- he is always willing to help a young woman
in distress, and Boris suggests
you tell him that
your husband has run away, deserted you and the
and that your only relatives have settled in
England and will be able to
offer you and the baby
Anya frowned. "But Avraham, you know I'm
not good at telling lies or pretending. I'm not sure
I could carry it off..."
"You'll manage," her husband said encourag-
ingly. "And you know, one can do many things
which seem inconceivable, in
order to save one's
life. You can leave most of the talking to
the time he's finished he'll have the old captain
of pity... And Anya, you must never
forget that Hashem is always with you.
not be alone."
Three loud raps on the door interrupted
He turned pale and gazed speechless at Anya as
the color drained from
her face too.
"I-is it them?" she whispered tremulously.
"I think so..." Avraham replied, his voice
They stood motionless, two pale figures
rooted to the spot. The knocking was repeated,
this time with even greater
"I'd better open it," Avraham said in a
voice, "or they'll break the door down."
Anya stood twisting her fingers as she
watched Avraham stride to the door and pull
it open, and she gasped at the
sight of the two sol-
diers who loomed in the doorway, unmistakable
their Cossack uniforms. As soon as they were
inside they drew their shiny
bayonets and stood
erect, rigid and formidable, their faces dark and
"Avraham Aronowitch?" Their harsh voices
"Yes?" he answered.
"You are required to serve the Czar.
Without further ado, they grabbed him
marched him out, leaving Anya, shocked and
stunned, staring at the empty doorway. She
frozen for a few moments as the realization of
what had occurred
penetrated her mind. It had
all happened so quickly that she wondered if she
But she soon began to grasp the fact that
was no nightmare, but stark reality. Hopelessness
swept over her, almost crushing
the breath out of her body. With a weak cry,
flung herself into the rocking chair and began to
soaking the faded old canvas
with her tears. The baby began to cry and Anya
rocked the cradle with her foot, unable to pick
her up. When at last she
managed to wrench
herself out of despair enough to nurse the child,
sobbed over her the whole time.
"Poor...little Miritchka..." she heaved
tween sobs, "your Papa is gone... Oh, what will
become of us?"
As if she understood, the baby wailed
her cries pulling at Anya's heartstrings.
It was hours later that Anya, her tears fi-
nally spent, made some attempt to think ratio-
nally about her situation.
But her thoughts were
muddled. What was it Avraham had said? Boris
cottage by the forest...pigeons...would
take her in his wagon...a ship...tell
The strain of trying to plan was too much
for Anya and, utterly exhausted, she fell into an
When she awoke, shivering, it was still
She shook herself, wondering why she was sleep-
ing in the chair,
and suddenly the memory flooded
back. She fought back tears that threatened
spill out again. She must not give in to despair
now. There were things
to be done, and now she
remembered Avraham's instructions with perfect
clarity. But when should she go? It was not safe
to venture out in the dark.
On the other hand,
if she waited for daylight, news of her husband's
arrest would have spread through the village and
her well-meaning friends and
neighbors would all
come flocking in to comfort her and, no doubt, try
dissuade her from fleeing. No, she would leave
at the crack of dawn, when she
would have just
enough light to guide her, and the inhabitants of
Brodzhynev would hopefully still be asleep.
She began to move about the little house
mechanically, preparing for her departure. The
fire in the stove had burned
itself out, leaving
a chill in the room. Anya shivered and stared
at the pot still on the stove. Avraham
had not even had the chance to eat his
must be hungry. Where was he now? What was
he doing? She
shivered again and shook herself,
trying to push these upsetting thoughts
mind. She peered into the pot. The stew had
dried out. Without appetite,
she forced herself to consume some of it so that
she would have strength for the journey.
she gathered the most important items out of her
and as many baby clothes
and blankets as she could manage, and tied them
into a bundle. Soon she could hear the first birds
outside, beginning to
chirp their dawn chorus,
and parting the curtains a little, she peered out
and saw that the darkness had lifted slightly. It
was time to go.
She picked up her daughter, fed her and
dressed her warmly. Then she put on her own
coat, pulling the collar up over
her ears, and
looked about the room to make sure she had not
anything. Suddenly her eye fell upon
the silver candlesticks standing on the
Her mother's candlesticks! She could not leave
those behind! She
remembered how her father
had given them to her on her wedding day.
"I had these specially made for your
and I gave them to her on our wedding day," he
had told her with
tears in his eyes. "There isn't
another pair like them in the world. Use them
to light your Shabbos candles and you will keep
your dear mother's memory
Lovingly, Anya packed the heavy candle
sticks into her bundle. Then she wrapped the
baby up in a woolen shawl and,
door, allowed herself one last brief look at her
modest little home, where she had hoped to
so happily. Blinking away a tear, she turned and
the door behind her. As she
hugged her child close, she whispered a prayer to
God for safety and protection for them all. Then
she stepped into the street
and began to make
her way toward an unknown destination...and an
return to Jewish
books for children in middle grades
Jewish children's books-middle grades
Jewish children's books-young teen books
Jewish teen books
Jewish books - Jewish