Our Shoes Had Wooden Soles; Leather-Soled Shoes Had Been Impossible to Get for a Long Time

Our Shoes Had Wooden Soles; Leather-Soled Shoes Had Been Impossible to Get for a Long Time


Fly Away Home

Our shoes had wooden soles; leather-soled shoes had been impossible to get for a long time. Walking in shoes with wooden soles is difficult. Your feet burn and sting, and you get blisters. When we reached the tramline terminus we sat down on the bench. I took my shoes off and put my hot feet on the cool ground; that felt nice. There was a nail in my sister’s shoe somewhere which hurt her, and my mother tried to get it out.

It was quiet and peaceful here at the tramline terminus. There were no factories and no big apartment blocks in the district, and no bomb ruins either, only pretty villas in big gardens. Not a single villa had been damaged. I was glad to be in a part of Vienna which was too expensive for bombs.

I was just putting my wooden shoes on again when I saw a man limping along the road. The man wore a grey uniformand he looked like my father. “Here comes Dad!” I cried.

My mother was tired,leaning back on the bench,eyes closed.She did not open them.“Dad’s in hospital,” she said “He can’t come today.They’re taking some of the shell splinters out of his legtoday. Perhaps he will come see us tomorrow, or the day after”.

The man in the grey uniform was very close to us now, and it was my father. He sat down on the bench beside us, put his crutch between his knees, rested his on top of it, and said, “Well that’s the end of the war for me!”

We stared at my father. He just smiled “The whole place was upside down this morning”, he went on. “Orders had come for the whole hospital to be evacuated to Germany, because the Russians are getting to close. Everyone had to go, even men who’d just came off the operating table”.

“But what about you?” asked my mother.“Don’t you have to go too? Why not?”

“I ran for it,” said my father. “From the train.The whistle had already sounded and in all the confusion no one noticed.Scuttling around like chickens they were scared to death!”

I sat quite still, trying not to be afraid. But I was not a fool, and I knew very well that a soldier who is sitting on a park bench in Neuwaldegg instead of in the train for Germany is a deserter, and deserts get shot. These days they are getting shot without any trial,or legal proceedings at all- simply shot.

“Let’s go on then” said mother, who was suddenly in a great hurry.

We hardly met a soul, though sometimes we glimpsed someone behind a garden fence. Shutters were down over most of the villas.

“They‘ve all gone off to the west” said mother. “They’re afraid of the Russians”.

“The Russians shoot children, and loot houses, and set fire to everything, and burn it all down” said my sister.

“Who told you all that nonsense?” said my father.My sister shrugged her shoulders, “Well, that’s what everybody saysat school.The gym mistress says so,and the other children,and Frau Brenner. They say so at the Bund Deutscher Madchen too”. The Bund Deutscher Madchen was the Nazi youth organisation for girls.

“Schurli Berger told me,” I said. “And his uncle told him about Russians cutting up some woman into little bits-and they put the bits into tubs of brine and pickle them”.

“What for?” asked my sister. But I had no more idea than she had why Russians were pickling people.

At the junction of Atariastrasse and Neuwaldegger Strasse we came to a Wehrmacht open car with two soldiers on patrol leaning on the hood.

“What now?” asked my mother softly.

“Keep going – just keep going!” said my father.

My sister was still holding my hand.Her fingers were hot and damp, and she held my hand very tight. The closer we came to the soldiers,the tighter she clung.

We were level with the Wehrmacht car now, and one of the soldiers barred our way and asked my father for his papers. My father took out his paybook out of his coat pocket, and the soldiers examined it. Then my father handed them a piece of paper. The soldier looked long and hard at this piece paper,nodded, gave it back to my father,saluted and stepped aside.

We went on. Three hours to go.We reached the garden gate of Number 58, and my mother took the bunch of keys Frau von Braun had given her out of her bag. She tried to unlock the garden gate,but the key was trembling in her hand. My father took it and unlocked the gate.

A small door opened in the big, ornamental iron gate. Before stepping into the garden, I looked back down the street. The two young,thin soldiers were leaning against the Wehrmacht car again, and one of them was lightening a cigarette.

“What made the patrol let you through?” asked my mother.

My father took the paper he had shown the soldier out of his pocket. “My pass,”he said, grinning. “I’ll make myself out another one tomorrow!” He tapped the inside breast pocket of his uniform jacket. “I’ve got all I need in here,”he said. “Enough to equip an office! Pass forms,rubber stamps,thelot!”

An adapted extract from Fly Away Home by Christine Nostlinger, 1976

© Publisher Franklin Watts unable to confirm control of rights.


Section A

Below is the summary of the passage. Fill in the gaps with one or more words .You may use your own words or words from the passage.

The narrator’s family is taking [] (1) when they see a man approaching. He [ ] (2) the narrator’s father, who is [ ] (3). He has [ ] (4) and is supposed to be [ ] (5). It is their father, but he has [ ] (6) the army and is now [ ] (7). If he [ ] (8) he will not survive. The family is stopped by soldiers who ask for [ ] (9) .The family is lucky to reach their destination [ ] (10).

Section B

Place the following events in the order in which they occur in the passage.

  1. They family reach Number 8
  2. The narrator sees an injured man.
  3. The narrator’s father outwits the soldiers on patrol.
  4. The narrator realises that her father is in danger.
  5. The family ate stopped by the patrol.
  6. The narrator’s father explains why his safety is assured.

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6

Section C

Underline the correct answer

  1. Why had the area around the tramline terminus

not been bombed?it was too far from the airport

there were no factories there.

the houses were too nice.

no-one lived there.

  1. Why did the narrator’s mother not believe that the limping man

was the narrator’s father?he was being operated on.

he was in the army.

he couldn’t walk.

he was a deserter.

  1. In the paragraph beginning. “We stared at my father”,

How does the family feel?happy.




4. Why had the hospital been evacuated?

the Russians would take all the medicine.

the Russians would capture all the soldiers who were in hospital.

the Russians said it had to be evacuated.

the Russians would move everyone to Germany.

5 Why was the narrator’s father in danger?his leg wound was very serious

he didn’t have identification papers

he had left the army without permission

he was wanted for being Russian

6. Why the streets almost deserted?everyone was fighting in the army

everyone was hiding

everyone was on the train

everyone had fled from the Russians

7. Why did the patrol stop the narrator’s family?they were looking for Russians

they were looking for doctors

they were looking for deserters

they were looking for money

8. Why was the narrator’s hand trembling when she tried to open the gate?

she was tired

she was frightened by the patrol

she was angry with her husband

she was very cold.

Section D

Underline the correct answer.

  1. In the phrase “…and it was my father “, why is the word ‘was’ in italics?

she is disappointed

she has been proved wrong

she is upset

she has been proved correct.

  1. When the narrator says that people were ‘scuttling around like chickens’, what does he mean?

everyone was waving their arms

everyone was moving fast

everyone was every confused

everyone was shouting.

  1. In the paragraph beginning “I sat quite still…” why does the narrator never refer directly to her father?

she does not want to think of him being shot

she knows he is not a deserter

she is embarrassed by his behaviour

she is angry at his actions

4. In the same paragraph why does the narrator say “These days they were getting shot…”?

deserters are shot on certain days

deserters used to have a trial

deserters used to be hanged

deserters used to be set free.

5.Why does the same paragraph end ‘… - simply shot’?

the use of a short phrase saves time

the use of a short phrase is easier to read

the use of a short phrase emphasises the danger

the use of a short phrase shows how tired the narrator is

6.Look at the paragraph beginning ‘We went on. Three houses to go’.

Why does the author use short phrases?

the author wants to show how relaxed the family is

the author wants to show how tired the family is

the author wants to show how slowly the family is walking

the author wants to use how tense the family is.

7.This sentence has been removed from the passage

“He is not free to do as he likes, he must obey orders”

From which paragraph has it been taken?

“Our shoes had wooden soles…”

“My mother was tired…”

“We stared at my father …”

“I sat quite still…”