Background info for “The Clearing in the Autumn,” one of the stories in The History of Soul 2065.
The story in brief
Two young girls, one from Ukraine and one from Germany, meet in an mysterious, magical forest glade a day before World War I breaks out, and swear eternal friendship.
How it was written
“The Clearing in the Autumn” may be the first story that appears in The History of Soul 2065, but it was one of the last to be written. Along with “The Clearing in the Spring,” it’s among the few stories written specifically for this book, and it introduces the two girls whose lives begin this intergenerational saga: Chana and Sophia.
Notes on the people
Chana is loosely based on my mother’s mother, whose name was actually Chana (later changed to Anna after she came to America). My grandmother had four older brothers and a younger sister, and was well educated for a girl in those times — her parents were well off enough so they could bribe the local officials to let their daughter into the regular schools.
As I recall her (she died when I was 21), my grandmother was a sturdy, strong, intelligent, opinionated, radical woman. She did nursing in Russia during WWI, and also lived through a revolution, pogroms, and the chaos that followed. She and her family (including her new husband) emigrated to the U.S. in the early 1920s, just before the door slammed on people from Eastern Europe and other “undesirable” areas.
Sophia — at least, at this phase of her life — is completely fictional.
Notes on the place
The glade where the girls meet has its origins in my own experience. Back when I was a tween, I went to a sleepaway camp where there was little supervision, and where I was badly bullied by the other kids in my cabin. There was a small wooded area on the grounds, and I found a clearing there where I felt hidden, and could sit and read my books without having to deal with any of the other campers.
Notes on the history
Lviv (previously known as Lvov or Lemberg) sits near the border of Poland and Ukraine, and after WWI ended, it was claimed by both countries, resulting in a small war (as if WWI wasn’t enough). There was a large Jewish population; they declared their neutrality, and organized their own militia in defense of the country. However, when the Poles (who suspected that the Jews were actually supporting the Ukrainians) occupied the area in November of 1918, they disarmed and interned the Jewish militia. Several days of violence followed. Accounts of the number of people killed and injured vary widely.
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