Panem Nostrum

Robert's Thoughts

Comments (14) / April 29, 2020

Panem Nostrum (Give us this day our daily bread…)

Susan and I live in a comfortable, well-run condominium apartment building that is cared for by a superbly efficient Superintendent with a heart of gold.

I call him Le Shériff because he is partial to wearing cowboy-type sombreros in all weather and he calls me Le Capitaine because of my military background. He is married to a very kind woman, Lyne, who bakes bread as a hobby.

During Susan’s turn as President of our condominium association Le Shériff got into the habit of reporting personally to her every morning about the small problems that arise daily in a multi-unit building. This regular contact blossomed into friendship as time passed.

Susan and I are both over seventy and, because of the COVID 19 restrictions, we are not allowed to leave our place.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to Le Shériff this morning, the fortieth day of our confinement. He handed me a small parcel and as he left, he called over his shoulder: “pour Madame et vous, Capitaine.”

A loaf of bread, baked by Lyne.

I placed the loaf on the table and cut a slice. When I bit into it tears welled up in my eyes. I so well remembered the taste of home-baked bread.

In my mind’s eye the picture of a ten-year old boy standing in the courtyard of another condominium apartment house swims into view. He has hardly eaten anything for a month and is starving. A donkey is coming through the gate, pulling a cart heaped high with hay. Its owner is walking beside it.

“Little boy,” the man says. “Do you want to buy some bread?”

“I do, but I don’t have money.”

The man looks at the boy speculatively. “Tell you what. If you give me your overcoat I will give you a loaf of bread.”

The starving boy thinks quickly. It’s early March and the weather will turn warm soon. He takes off his overcoat and holds it out to the man. The man takes it and reaches into the hay to retrieve a loaf of bread. The boy grabs it and runs away.

The place: Budapest, six weeks after the end of the Russian siege. The year: 1945.

And the little boy?

ME.

14 Responses to :
Panem Nostrum

  1. Jacob Potashnik says:

    Give us this day, our daily bread, indeed… love to you and Susan and when this is over, boy, are we gonna party! Can’t wait for L/H/V Night, 2020!

  2. Rick Blechta says:

    Lovely story, Robert. Thank you for sharing it. Glad to hear that you’re both well.

  3. Sylvia says:

    Thank you for sharing this charming and poignant vignette. It makes me smile and gives me hope for a better tomorrow.

  4. Liz says:

    Memories of bread!! Over here in the UK flour is currently in short supply – not quite sure why except everyone is at home and baking – including ourselves. Glad you and Susan are fine as are we. Liz

  5. ronald montcalm says:

    A pertinent story !!! Ciao

  6. Irene Muller says:

    wonderful story

  7. Lincsi says:

    Now that my daughter has stockpiled me with flour, yeast I am making bread also and pizza.
    Nothing like the fragrance of freshly baked bread.

    Lincsi

  8. Zaven says:

    Tell the sheriff to bring some wine with the bread next time around !

    Stay well and safe.

    This is your straight man calling.

  9. Michele Coleman says:

    Great story Bob, thanks for sharing! I’m going to try and bake a loaf myself. Hopefully this will soon be over and we can enjoy the summer.
    Love to Susan,

  10. Ákos says:

    Szívet melengető írás! Hiányoztok!

  11. Erika says:

    Your story touched my heart. I was also a starving child Budapest in 1945. Soviet soldiers gave me pieces of bread because I was so little and so cute. Much has passed since in your life and mine. It’s not an accident that we’re both living in the West. I’m Frank Shatz’s niece, the journalist, in Williamsburg VA. I’m also a published writer, currently finishing a novel about life in Hungary from 1933 to 1956. Love reading your articles. Thank you.
    Erika

  12. Margaret Lefebvre says:

    To this day , the sell of fresh home made bread brings me back to our apartment in Warsaw when I was still in a stroller which my Mother used as a carrier when she went shopping. She would buy a large slice of yeast, another of sweet butter and tuck them in at my feet. To Mother’s consternation, I became addicted to the taste of fresh yeast, and later , to the thrill of plunging my fist into the raising dough – a taste I still indulge in whenever it is available.
    Thank you for your memories, it brought forward happy ones of my own.
    Stay well, keep safe

  13. I would like a slice of that bread, it looks delicious, Olga Connor

  14. Marika Kemeny says:

    What a lovely story, Robi.I have been reading lots about 1944-45 in Hungary lately. Although this time is not really the same (no bombs overhead, no occupying armies), it is a time of trouble and uncertainty. We are also baking bread, more accurately my Robi is, and the results are fabulous. But the best part is the fragrance in our home, truly comforting. Love, Marika

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