The Story behind “Upon the Wings of an Eagle”
Upon the Wings of an Eagle, is a historical novel where a sudden attack by ruthless Cossacks leaves the fictitious village of Krevietsky in shambles. Faigel Friedman, heartbroken and alone, must build her life anew, as she makes one difficult decision after another cutting ties with those closest to her, choosing between two children forging on despite her pain. In this compelling tale, author Chaya Diane Hager takes readers on a fascinating journey spanning cultures and continents—from a close-knit Russian shtetl and frigid Siberian labor camp to the pushcarts and packed streets of New York’s Lower East Side; from the horse-drawn carriages of Buenos Aires and vast green plains of the Pampas to fledgling Eretz Yisrael under Turkish and British rule.
He looked at Mordechai and sighed. “When they arrived at the last railway station, called Palacios, it was the greatest disappointment ever.”
“Why? There were no horses? Was it the tools?”
“There was nothing.”
“What…what do you mean, nothing?”
“It was a wild field with just a few abandoned wagons lying scattered on the ground; no houses, no tools, no cows or horses. This was how they spent their first Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur in Argentina. Those first months were spent lying in wait next to the station, waiting for train passengers to throw them scraps of food from the windows. “Many pondered how in Russia, at least they had had roofs over their heads, homes with stoves and simmering soup, cows that gave milk and chickens that gave eggs. And they’d thought they were poor! They were, but they had not lived in total misery and abandonment as if they were animals scraping for morsels of food. To make matters worse, the cold, damp weather was beginning to take its toll.
Many were becoming ill and they had no way of stopping infections and diseases from spreading. This was how the typhus epidemic broke out, exacerbated by poor hygiene, taking the lives of those children.
“This broke not only their hearts; it broke their spirits, their willingness to survive. Everyone was in mourning, but not only for their loved ones. As they buried body after body, they buried their hopes and dreams for a better future. Before the children died, some thought they would be better off returning to Russia; others thought that perhaps they should leave and search for a place with more favorable conditions. But once the children died, they did not want to abandon their graves to the claws of oblivion. They would rebuild their torn lives on this accursed land, no matter how much they had to struggle.
“The cemetery was the foundation of the Jewish community and bound the immigrants to the land. The first soil the men plowed was for the graves of their children, who had perished because of negligence, egoism and lust for money. The first drops of water that nourished the wild and desolate land were the tears of broken mothers, clinging to the tin cans that covered the graves of their children; the tears of desperate fathers who had been unable to save the lives of their precious ones.
“Before they ever had the chance to build homes, they built the cemetery filled with old kerosene tins with Hebrew words inscribed on them.”