This short story from Bozorg Alavi is of particular interest because it has a surreal or even supernatural component, unusual for the famous novelist with Communist leanings who focused often on themes of espionage and conspiracy. The title character, a Polish refugee named Jirinecka, appears and disappears at random and seems to be a figment of the narrator’s imagination. The seven-page story is haunting and lyrical, yet contains an ultimately political message, condemning the SS soldiers who tortured innumerable innocents. Published in 1952 in Nameh-ha (Letters), the story reflects the global response to the horrors of the Holocaust. The word obóz is noted by Alavi to be the Polish term for refugee camp. This is only page 3 of 7. The rest is hopefully to follow.
I was stunned by what nerve Jirinecka had. I got up and just looked at her. She stared back at me. My room was dark. Through the broken door a few golden streaks of sunlight, reflected on the black curtains, carried a little of the day’s laughter into my dark cell.
Jirinecka opened the door wide and let loose a flood of heat and sunshine towards my bed. She drew the curtains, and waves of gold enveloped her. I don’t remember whatever small talk she made. I asked her, “What’s your name?”
“Jirina,” she responded.
I can honestly say I have no idea where she came from.
She tore down the curtains and threw them out. The rays of sunlight blinded me, but I couldn’t look away.
I was alarmed. If anyone else had done this to me I would’ve killed either him or myself. But in her captivating presence, I felt small and pathetic. I got up, took her hand, and sat her down. My smoldering face and red-hot eyes scared her. She was trying to calm me down. Suddenly I pressed down on her hand so hard I hurt her. It frightened her. She cried out, hit me in the chest and threw me on the bed.
I grabbed her hair – black or blond I don’t remember – and pressed her lips to my chest. My whole body was in her grasp. Pain shot through my eyes. It was like a hammer pounding in my head with its monotonous sound.
“I wanted to go to the obóz,” she said. “I was thirsty. I came into the garden. I called out. Nobody answered. And then I came into this room.”
Then she left. Where she went, I don’t know.
She turned up again that night. Normally people make up excuses for these sorts of things. Needless to say, I was waiting for her. I knew she would come.
She’d told me I’d never see her again. She said that today at three in the afternoon she was going to South Africa. She said if she weren’t back at the obóz by three o’clock, they’d throw her in jail. She’d been in prison once for a year; she couldn’t go back again. Nevertheless, I knew she would come.