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Out of the Dark

By: Becky Seitel

When little girls are 10 years old they should be playing with dolls or hosting tea parties.

When Riva Hirsch was 10 years old, she was hidden by nuns in a bunker near a convent in Ukraine. Fearful of frequent visits by the SS soldiers, the nuns were only able to visit the bunker every two or three days to leave food and water.

“When the door was cracked, it was my lifeline. The door separated me from the outside world. Inside that bunker, my life was lonely and frightening,” she recalls.

So fearful were the nuns of being discovered, they often simply cracked the door and hurriedly threw in the food.

“I was living among rats. If I was fast enough to get to the food before the rats ran away with it, I ate. If I was too slow, I was forced to exist on lice. They were all over me. At times, I could hardly open my eyes or my mouth. Swallowing lice helped keep me alive. They were my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”

Riva existed in this dark isolation for two years.

“I don’t know how time passed. Day was night and night was day. I felt more dead than alive. But though I didn’t have even the simple basics of life like other girls, I was safe.”