It was 5:21am – 2009 in August, Wednesday morning. I woke up sweating, trying to catch my breath, what a dream! It was very quiet and the only thing I could hear by my window was a grasshopper. As a breeze came through my window, I wiped the sweat off my face, and that’s when I realized what I really wanted to do, what I needed to do……….
I must have been six or seven years old. It was a beautiful winter morning in a very small town called Dunajska Luzna, located in Midwest Slovakia. The town had an abundance of nature, beauty and on this day, snow. My mother, brother, sister and I were outside playing. European winters are amazing and beautiful. That morning the sun was shining after a long storm had passed and it made everything look so pure and innocent. The sunlight made the hanging icicles on the trees look like diamonds. The sky above looked as blue as the ocean waters of Tahiti, and the snow was white, it made the day extra bright. We could barely walk in the snow it was so high but it was so much fun.
I remember the sound the snow made every time I tried to take a step. My brother Peter and I were eating the snow when my mom with a big smile on her face with red cheeks from the cold told us not too. My younger sister Linda was standing next to my mum all wrapped up in winter clothes. The reason I remember this particular day is because it was so beautiful, and I realized how much my mother cared for us. Even though we were very poor, all of us had hats on, gloves and thick winter jackets. My mom always made sure that we had what we needed to survive and feel happy. I felt happy until the day ended and we had to go back home to dad.
I don’t know if home is the correct way to describe where we lived. The apartment was very small, for the five of us. I remember having to share my room with Peter and Linda. My parents shared the other room. That is, when my dad came home and when he didn’t pass out on the floor or the sofa from drinking. There was a small television in the living room that barely worked. The walls and the floor were grey and made from cement. There was one small window in the living room and another in my parent’s bedroom. Now that I think of it, it looked like a prison without the metal bars. It felt like one too, dark and violent like my father’s mood.
When we got back home from playing, my mom rushed to the kitchen to make sure my father had a meal to eat when he came home from work. She looked frantically for something to make since she knew it would not be long before my father came through the door. The kitchen was very small and dark, there were two light bulbs hanging from the cement ceiling. The two bulbs partially lit the kitchen that had a small almost empty fridge and a gas stove with two burners one of which didn’t work. My mother turned the gas on and lit a match next to the burner. The light from the match revealed my mom’s worried face. I helped my mother light some candles for additional light and I helped her look for food in the empty fridge to prepare something for my father. She smiled at me and told me to go to my room and play. She would let me know when dinner was ready. I never understood why she would always send me to my room right before dad got home. But I would soon find out.
In those days Josef, my father, never seemed to be around. For him, friends were more important and drinking was a priority. That bright winter day with my mother turned dark when my father came home and so did my feelings.
I was coming out of the kitchen to go to my room when my father burst through the front door with rage in his eyes, like a crazed animal ready to kill his attacker. He walked right to the kitchen pushed my mother against the gray wall, and put his filthy hand right in the hot pot of food. He tasted it and disappointed with it, threw the hot pot at my mother.
“Te rohadt büdos kurva.”
“You fucking rotten bitch.”
“Mi ez a picsa?”
“What is this shit?”
“Ez zabálni való?”
“You call this food?”
“Adjál elém rendes zabálni valót!!”
“Put a goddam real meal in front of me!!”
I remember not being able to move. I just stood there helpless. I had heard the fights before. But for the first time, I witnessed the hell my mother goes through night after night.
After he beat my mother to the floor, my father went to the sofa, turned the television on and passed out like nothing had happened while my mother cried in the corner of the kitchen drenched in the stew. The flickering flames from the candles that remained lit and the smell of gas stayed with me forever.
How can my mother deserve this kind of treatment?
What did she do wrong?
Did I do something wrong?
How do I make it stop?
That’s all that kept going through my head. The room was spinning and I could feel my blood boiling inside me with anger. At that moment my mother rushed to me like she knew what I was thinking. She wiped the tears off of her bloody face, put on a comforting smile for me and said;
“Hi baby, you know I love you right?”
“You are beautiful, and loved.”
“Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.”
“Is my baby ok, breath, mama is here.”
She grabbed me, gave me a hug that I thought was going to break my bones and kissed my forehead. Her lips felt warm, and I could feel her tears streaming down my face. I felt her pain in my soul and her love in my heart. Damn my father!!
I lifted my head and I saw Peter watching us without any expression in his face. I don’t know if he didn’t understand what had happened or didn’t care. He stood there, not crying or even shocked I would say, just…. there. And seeing him like that made me wonder if he had already witnessed this travesty, and if he had, why didn’t he do something?
Off course I knew we were both too young and not strong enough to take on my father. He would have made stew out of us and throw it at my mother after. There had to be another way to make it stop.
On this day my childhood ceased to exist. From that moment on my life was focused on one thing and one thing only. To find the way out of this darkness.
And even though it wasn’t easy, I made it out.