The Butterflies of Zaromb

I awake the next morning to a symphony of geese, ducks, and crows. The fields, so Ania told me, have been harvested of potatoes and corn and the soil turned for the planting of the next crop. The corn is animal feed.

Perhaps it was a September morning just like this when the Nazis rounded up the Jews of Ostrova and took them to their execution. I am here on September 10, the 69th anniversary of the round-up. How bewildering—and terrifying—it must have been for them. I wonder now whether the coincidence of dates is no coincidence at all and that I am meant to be here on this day.

There is a pull to this place, and I realize I slept better in this hotel room than I had in Warsaw.

I could stay here forever.

After breakfast, Ania and I meet Ryszard, and together we drive to Zaręby Kośćielne. My heart clangs as we make our way to Zaromb. This is it, this is the day I’ve been waiting for. All I really know of Zaromb is that it had been 80 percent Jewish. According to the memorial book, 1234 of the village’s 1630 residents were Jewish.

“Can we stop for a moment here?” I ask. Ania pulls over to the side and we all stagger out.

I imagined this so many times as I was writing my novel. The town sign. Now here it is, green with white letters, the “Zaręby Kość.” sign. Out comes my camera and Ania snaps a few photos of me next to the sign. A church steeple rises above the morning haze. A field stretches from the sign to the church where some Holstein cows graze.