Nada, my sweet,
The way in which I received your letter was hardly romantic; us two nurses together with a pharmacist had organized making tea with milk (the women had brought these with them, because nothing can be sent here, neither do any parcels arrive at all) on twelve spirit stoves—and while we were making it, to the loudest din imaginable both inside and out, tears were running down my face because of the smoke and the paraffin and these were joined by the real, sincere and soothing tears that came from reading your letter.
Here it's so—I don't know how to describe it—it's quite simply a huge cowshed for 5,000 people or more, without walls, without barriers—everyone sharing the same quarters. I described the details of this magic castle to Mirjana and I really don't feel like repeating them.1 We get either breakfast or supper accompanied by the most abusive of words—on top of that, one's appetite passes and one's no longer hungry. Over the past five days we've had cabbage four times. Otherwise, everything's wonderful. Especially as far as our neighbours are concerned—the Gypsy camp. Today I went there to shave and grease the heads of fifteen people with lice. Even though my arms were burning up to the elbows from the cresol after this, my work is in vain, because as soon as I finish the second group, the first have got lice again.
The running of the camp is in the hands of people from Banat and is based on favoritism or rather 'loverism,' but we Belgraders are too docile and they take advantage of this, because as soon as one of them chats with a girl, she becomes his girlfriend.2 Every hundred inmates have a group commander, usually some whippersnapper aged between 16 and 20, and up to now they've already picked 100 camp policewomen from the girls aged from 16 to 23. I kept myself well-hidden, because I'm only too aware of my particular attitude towards police of any kind. What their criteria are when they make their choice, only they know.
It's now half-past ten, I'm lying down—I can feel the straw under me (a wonderful substance, especially when it's full of fleas)—and I'm writing to you. I'm very pleased that I've been here from the very start—one experiences so many interesting and unrepeatable things that it would have been a shame to have missed any of them. Even though there are only two faucets for the lot of us, I manage to keep clean as I get up before five and go to wash myself all over. Here we have to queue for everything. It's very good of them to try our patience like this. It would be great if everyone eventually got to the front of the queue. That's not so easy. Today they took all the children (boys)—and grown-ups who were with us because they were ill—off somewhere, we don't know where—but of course monotony would disturb our already jittery nerves. You can imagine how much noise 5,000 people make, shut into a large space—during the day you can't hear yourself speak and at night you have a free concert consisting of children crying, people snoring and coughing and all sorts of other sounds. My work lasts from six-thirty in the morning until eight-thirty in the evening—even longer today—but things will get sorted out as soon as the hospital arrives and that should be any day now. The hospital courier comes here every day, and today it was Hans, and I heard from him the bad news that my family will be arriving tomorrow.3 A weekend like this one is far from ideal, especially for my parents and Hans, who needs a healthy diet. They took all our money and valuables apart from 100 dinars each. The only thing they don't economize on is the lighting—it's on all night and prevents me from having a good night's sleep. My ambitions always have to be satisfied, because I always want everything to be in the superlative. And this is no exception. Ever since I've been here I've been very calm, I've worked hard and with great enthusiasm and have experienced a real transformation. When I was 'free' I couldn't get the camp out of my mind, and now, over the past five days I've got so used to it that I don't think about it at all—instead I think about much more beautiful things, like—you know already that I think a lot about you. In the evening I read. Even though we were only allowed to bring as much as they said we could bring, I've got Werther, Heine, Pascal, Montaigne as well as English and Hebrew textbooks.4 Rather a small library, but I think it will serve me very well.
My Nada, I'm not writing all this simply because I want to, but because of a very strong conviction: that we will see each other soon. I've no intention of spending the summer here, and I hope that They (with a capital T) will take my intentions into consideration. I expect their decision soon.
My Nada, I must get some sleep now, I'll be getting up early tomorrow and I must keep up my strength. Bye-bye, my dearest—I'm hesitant about thinking about you in this filthy cowshed so as not to spoil the pure devotion for you I carry inside me.
Affectionate greetings to you, Mother, Jasna and everyone else, from a very happy volunteer.