© Yael Mermelstein 2018. Lovingly handcrafted by Amrita.

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I Promise You

Experience one teen's epic survival story

This is the way that it happens. First, there is no more governess to fasten Maniusia's woolen coat. No more Bronia the cook frying goose livers and cut onion. Then, there is no more apartment with indoor plumbing gurgling under the floor. No food to eat. No warm, crusty bread. No frothy white milk for the baby. Eventually, there is nothing at all.

But in the heart of Auschwitz, when all that is left is the heart still beating inside of her, Maniusia's father begs her to make him a promise.

"Promise me, Maniusia!"

"But how?"

"Promise me."

I look at Tata. At his face waiting for promises, because he has nothing else to wait for.

I think of these words, the most important ones he has ever said. I pull out my own three words. "I - promise - you."

Maniusia's promise binds her to her faith, her spirit, and ultimately, her life.

I Promise You is the painful yet transcendent, true story of Maniusia (Miriam) Adler, as told to her granddaughter, acclaimed author Yael Mermelstein. Through Maniusia's story, you will experience what it truly means to win the war.

Produced for stage by Yavneh Academy

Honored by the FEDCAP organization at its annual gala

Maniusia's promise binds her to her faith, her spirit, and ultimately, her life. I PROMISE YOU, written in verse, through the eyes of 11 year old Manusia, is the painful yet transcendent, true story of Maniusia (Miriam) Adler, as told to her granddaughter, acclaimed author Yael Mermelstein. Through Maniusia's story, you will experience what it truly means to win the war.

Israel Bookshop Publications

I read your book, I PROMISE YOU, cover to cover. I sank into the story, the words had a cadence - I could hear the actual voices, the voices of Maniusia, Tata, Mama and all the others, I cried - when Mama came home beaten after thinking she would have milk and again when the baby died. I could almost feel the cold, the hunger, but mostly the desperate longing to stay as a family. An amazing story and an amazing piece of writing that allowed the story to jump off the page. Congratulations.

Chris McMahon, CEO, FEDCAP

 

Your script is a devastatingly beautiful piece of literature and at the same time a personal labor of love.  It is rendered with such care and craft.  I can clearly see Manyusha's  journey from sheltered child to adult under the worst of circumstances. The script reads as both Holocaust literature and dark, dark fairy tale.  What you've done with language and structure is a wonder. It is seemingly spare but so vivid and heartbreaking that it reads as if we have been with Manyusha for 100 years and do not want to leave her.  It is seamless and reads with urgency and clarity.I hope that we can do justice to your work.

Dominique Cieri  Playwright and Master Teaching Artist

There really aren’t any words I could string together to do this book justice. So let me just say this:  I’m immensely grateful that I had the chance to read this story. If I ever write anything even a fraction as beautiful, heartbreaking, inspiring, and important, then I’ll consider my writing career a tremendous success. I’m deeply sorry that it had to come at the hands of such tremendous pain for your family.

Jessica Vitalis, Pitchwars mentor

I've almost finished I Promise You. It's leaving me breathless from its beauty. Beautiful is not a word that describes Holocaust, yet the way it is portrayed in this book makes it a stunning work of art.

Batya Ruddel, Author, THE VIEW FROM NINVEH

 

I Promise You : An Excerpt

Part 1
Sept. 3 1939 –11 years old
Pabianice, Poland

War
In the midst of my dreams on Sabbath morning
I hear Panna Zussia’s voice
“Manyusia, wake up!”
Her voice has an edge like cut glass.
I blink.
“Huh?”
“Get dressed,” she yells.
“I need to get the little ones.”
I rise on my elbows. Slowly.
All my life, I have never been in a rush.
Tata will be in the Synagogue praying now,
His tall fur shtreimel nodding back and forth, back and forth,
His long, satin coat tied at the waist.
Swinging to and fro, to and fro.
I blink at the yellow light streaming through the window.
Even in grey Poland the sun always shines on me.
“Manyusia!”
Yank, yank, goes Panna Zuzia.
Tugging me out from under my goose down comforter.
“Your father is downstairs calling for you. Get dressed. I must get your younger
siblings!”
Then, knees swinging over the bed,

the hem of my nightgown dusting the floor.
Panna Zuzia crouching down.
Looking into my eyes.
“There is a war,” she says.

Cocoons
What do I know from war?
War is something for other eleven year old girls.
Girls who lives in countries whose names appear in books,
Girls who know a thing or two about a thing or two.
Two weeks ago I bumped into my cousin, Rita Klainplacz,
At the market in Pabianice,
“War, war, war,” Rita said as the adults jabbered.
“It’s all the adults ever talk about. What is it anyhow?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “But let it come and be done with already!”
My parents spin me a cocoon,
I lay nestled inside of it,
Not hearing. Not seeing. Not thinking.
And now, I can smell Panna Zuzia’s fear,
Like burnt bread.

The First Time we Run
I throw open the door to my wardrobe,
Painted white as my nightgown,
Legs thick as an elephant’s.
Outside, sirens moan like babies,
But I choose a frock, anyway,

Pink gingham with a row of fasteners soldiering down the front,
And Panna Zuzia buttons it for me.
We meet Mama in the hallway,
One of her slender arms clutching my baby brother Danek to her chest,
The other hand clenched by my brother Chaim.
Mama has not been well lately,
And I’m afraid she will topple over.
“Sarah!” Panna Zuzia’s voice sounds,
Like she’s swallowed gravel
And she is spitting it back up.
My sister Sarah races into her open arms.
We sprint down the stairs,
Doors opening all around us,
Our building a gap toothed smile
Three floors to the bottom,
To the first floor,
Where the Baruch family lives.
Rush, rush, rush
Feet clomping,
running,
stomping.
Outside the siren is loud as
a baby wailing in your ear - wishing, wishing
it would just stop.
You know how sometimes on a still night,
you can hear your heart beating inside your chest?
Amidst all this noise I can hear it even now

Th-th- thump, th-th- thump, until,
I see Tata which slows my heart to-
Thump, thump, thump
Because seeing Tata feels like finding
The missing piece in a thousand piece puzzle and
Nothing terrible can happen if
Tata is here.

Waiting
We run with Tata
stumbling,
tripping,
running,
frantic,
Tata sings a prayer,
His voice like an expensive violin,
The same voice that wakes me each morning as he learns the holy Torah.
“All is Gut Manyusia,” he tells me,
His fingers pressing against my forehead and
My hand,
Resting on top of Danek’s soft curls.
It isn’t long before another siren sounds.
“That means all-clear,” Tata says.
All clear?
But I have never been more confused.

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