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Copyright (c) 2013, John W. Koenig. All rights reserved.
Excerpt: Chapter 1

Monday, August 28, 1939


Late in the afternoon, a procession of three black carriages paraded through the streets of Stanislawow, Poland, bound for the little chapel by the army camp on the southern edge of the city. Each was drawn by two horses and driven by a soldier in dress uniform.

In the first carriage rode the youngest of the Buczak daughters – eight-year-old Lucia, who bounced giddily up and down on the seat, and 14-year-old Alexandra, who kept ordering her sister to stop embarrassing them. Across from the girls sat their maternal grandmother, a soured Ukrainian widow who would not allow herself to smile, even on a happy occasion such as this.

In the second carriage rode the Buczak parents – Florian and Maria – and, on Maria’s lap, the orphaned toddler Ryszard, son of her late sister. Maria, at least, was smiling, for she was determined to make the best of the occasion. Florian, however, was still grumbling about the disobedience of their oldest daughter.

The oldest daughter, Danuta, rode alone in the third carriage, perched like a princess on the red leather seat. Dressed in a long white gown of silk and lace and clutching a bouquet of white rosebuds, she was sure she had never in her 16 years looked more beautiful.

It did not occur to her to wonder how her fiancé, Lt. Rudolf Gasior, had secured use of the army’s ceremonial carriages when everyone at the camp was preparing for deployment. She knew only that she loved the attention that the procession was attracting. Everyone in the streets and on the sidewalks seemed to be gloomy or tense, but then they would look up and see the young bride and break into smiles. Some waved. Some called out that she looked lovely. Others wished her good luck. Trying to maintain a regal air, Danuta acknowledged the greetings with a slight nod or wave of the hand, but sometimes girlish giggles would overcome her and she would hide her face in embarrassment behind the rosebud bouquet.