Lilika Nakos: The dead man, the living, the house; all were smashed to bits
From The Children’s Inferno (1946)
Translated by Allan Ross Macdougall
I was on night duty in the children’s ward. Some of the patients were drowsing, others slept, and some, burning up with fever, moaned. Suddenly, the frightful banshee-wail of the air-raid sirens sounded, shrill and persistent, setting off all the dogs of the neighborhood howling. I thought to myself: The children are going to be awakened, and the tiniest ones are going to be afraid and cry. When the alarm went off we did not take our patients to air-raid shelters for the simple reason that we had none…
“When my mother and I heard the sirens in our district of Botanico,” said Ianko, “we went out to look. If you only knew how we heard the bombs burst over there – the whole earth shook as if there was an earthquake.”
“At Kokkinia, we did the same thing,” said Yorgo. “Nobody went into the shelters. It was a celebration when the English came. How we laughed when we saw that it was the others who were getting it!”
“Why, old Yorgo, weren’t they also people?”
“Oh! The Italians and the Germans. When my mother heard the bombs falling she used to cross herself and say: ‘Dear God, have pity on men and on the mothers that brought them into the world.'”
“Who should He have pity on?”
“On everybody, don’t you understand? My mother felt sorry for all the mothers of the whole world because she lost my brother, the eldest, who was killed at Tepelini.”
Silence. The two children listened to the bombs crashing in the distance. Sometimes the noise was like that of an enormous body being dropped into the water – bombs falling into the sea. Then the noise became louder, changed its direction, and once more the earth shook.
“They are dropping bombs near here,” said one.
“Yes, they can’t be very far away.”
Through the windows, most of which had no blinds, one could see the heavens filled with flashes.
“The searchlights!” shouted a child who was sitting up in bed to see better.
“The noise of the explosions grew louder and came nearer in an alarming way.
“The world’s on fire, old man. Do you hear? You see, they are now beginning to bomb Athens,” said Ianko, not without uneasiness.
“And why not? Must it always be the Piraeus that gets it?” asked a little Pireot, sly as a monkey, who had been wounded in the leg during an earlier raid. “Let them bomb Athens too! The last time they bombed the Piraeus, near Agios-Vassili, they killed a whole family at a wake. The dead man, the living, the house; all were smashed to bits.”