Mr Zank was quite short, maybe five three with a wide waist for his size, somewhat wavy brown hair, about fifty, looked directly at you when he spoke with soft remnants of a Polish accent. He worked in the Garment Center, took the BMT subway into Manhattan every day and at weekends had a part-time job at a boardwalk hot dog spot two blocks from where we lived in the Brighton Beach section of Brooklyn. He lived with his wife and young son Robbie in the four-storey apartment building next door to our house. That building was a walk-up with three and four-room apartments. He was a committed and grateful American citizen. During the war Mr Zank was our block captain. When the sirens signalled an air-raid exercise, or possibly the real thing – we were never sure – he would don a British safari hat, the kind Stewart Granger wore in 1940s movies, and walk around the neighbourhood with a flashlight making sure all was dim and curtains drawn. When Germany surrendered on 7 May 1945 people flocked to the streets cheering, car horns honked, neighbours embraced, and Mr Zank’s expression seemed to indicate that he had done his part for the war effort. Over the following months our men started coming home, some on crutches, some in bandages, some totally whole, but all changed from the day when they were drafted or volunteered.
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