Friday, February 14, 2014

The Handmaid (excerpt)

Winner of Los Angeles Press Club Award, 2014

Judge’s comment: Theresa Marie Moreau’s compelling story of Catherine Wang, who endured many hardships for clinging to her religion under 1950’s Communist China, is a sobering reminder of the intolerance of authoritarian regimes.

The Handmaid

        By Theresa Marie Moreau

First published in The Remnant, November and December 2013

Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to thy word.

                                                              – Saint Luke 1:38

nside a darkened cattle car, Catherine and Juliana Wang clung to one another, as they looked for a spot to sit on the manure- and urine-stained floorboards. In the elbow-to-elbow crowd of women prisoners, the sisters sat and leaned back against a wall of rough-hewn boards.
Eventually, the locomotive’s engine roared. Metal clanged upon metal, as the joints between railcars tightened. Then the train, filled with convicts, sluggishly rolled out of Shanghai’s West Railway Station.
It was October 1958, a dangerous time to be faithful Roman Catholics in the revolutionary, Communist-controlled People’s Republic of China.
Prisoners of conscience, the Wang sisters – declared enemies of the State for their unwavering Catholicism – were being transported, like beasts, from Shanghai to a prison in Chinghai province, the province of prisoners, the province of banishment, the province of unconquered vast open spaces to be conquered with bare hands and bent backs of men and woman on the wrong side of the Revolution.
Only 13 years earlier, on August 15, 1945, when Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan, signaling the end of World War II, life in the Republic of China had looked promising, especially in Shanghai, the highly cultured, international port city, praised as the Paris of the Orient. On that day of true liberation, planes flew over the city dropping leaflets, the war is over! People ran into the streets, with their arms raised, hollering with joy. Celebratory firecrackers exploded, with bits of singed red paper flying everywhere, covering everything.