I did not keep my promise

Dezidor Lacko [written by Hana Kozuriková]Jarovnice, Slovakia August 2000
My daughter Darina was very pretty. She had long wavy hair and full lips.
She had her first baby when she was sixteen, and by the time she was thirty she had eight children. She looked after them all. She was also a good housekeeper and a good wife. Two years before our village was hit by the horrible flood, Darina’s two-year-old daughter Mary drowned in the river.At the last minute, older children had managed to pull her out of the water, but she only lived for another two days.
After that, Darina often locked her house so that the children would not run outside: so that nothing like that would ever happen again. She thought she had to keep a watchful eye on them, that they would only be safe with her at home. Darina and her children were at home when the great thunderstorm swept through our village and the river in which little Mary drowned overflowed its banks. Her husband had been in the forest since the morning cutting firewood. When I saw what was going on, I ordered everyone who was at home to leave immediately. Although it was very cold out, I did not allow them to get dressed: I knew that we had no time.
As we ran through the village, the water caught up with us – and it kept rising.
I took my family to a safe place outside the village, and ordered them to stay there while I ran back to the village. I went back because I couldn’t see Darina and her children anywhere. What I could see was a wave of water running down the hill to our houses.
I rattled the handle of Darina’s door, but it was locked.
I went around the house, smashed the kitchen window and climbed inside. But there was no one there.
Darina and her children were locked into the other room. I started yelling: ”Darina, open the door! You must leave immediately!”
But Darina did not want to obey.
I kept yelling for more than five minutes: ”Open the door! Open the door! If you don’t I’ll have to break it open!” I should have broken it right away.
Finally Darina unlocked the door, but refused to leave the house.
There was water up to our ankles, so Darina put her three youngest children on the bed.
She was looking at me, and I saw fear in her eyes.
We were standing in the kitchen. I held her shoulders and promised her nothing would happen to anybody.
Darina believed me. I ordered the children to get ready to go out. The five older children leaped to my side. Darina turned and entered the other room: four-year-old Mary and two-year-old Darina were sitting on the bed; four-month-old David was lying between them.
Then just as I was about to join Darina and help her with the younger children, something happened that normally takes place only in speeded-up action films. The house shook and the part where my daughter Darina and her three children were collapsed like a house of cards. Water flooded half the house before you could take another breath. Take my word for it: when you’re in great danger, nothing occurs to you but to run away.
My five grandchildren and I rushed out of the house and ran as fast as our legs could carry us. We ran to the other side where there was not so much water.
The children were running in front of me, but when I turned back and looked for their house, I couldn’t see anything.
Tears rolled down my cheek as I ran. I did not keep my promise.

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