"She's my baby sister, younger than me by three years. She was five years old when our parents were dragged out of our house, along with our six other siblings, and machine-gunned. I saw it, couldn't help but watch in warped and terrified fascination, through a darkened window in the cellar of a neighbour's house. Eva was still hiding in a drain when they marched off. To this day I don't know how she ended up there."
Rosa's perfect English is betrayed every so often by a Germanic twang to some of her words, labeling her for all eternity with a past she'd rather forget.
"When it was all done, they were dumped into large wheelbarrows, taken just past the tree line not fifty paces away, and thrown into a mass grave. As a parting gesture, the soldiers fired on them again, silencing the few voices still calling for help. Or praying for the end. Whichever would cease their suffering quicker.
"After they disappeared to look for more fun, I ran out of my hiding place and went to find Eva. We had seen death around us, heard it, tasted it, but this was the first time it hit us directly, and we knew we had no-one left. For a few days we hid where we could, and once a day I left Eva and went to steal any food I could. One day, when we heard more soldiers coming, we ran into the woods, and never looked back.
"For over a year that forest was our home. We even hid in the graves, where we learnt to play dead if we heard anyone coming. Bodies were dumped on top of us, and we'd have to dig our way out. We slept in barns when we could sneak in, found abandoned houses where they at least had a roof, even if no windows. We stole food, ate dead animals that we found, every so often a friendly home owner would give us something small, but they'd never let us stay. The fear in their heads ruled the compassion in their hearts.
"About two years later, we were finally caught. It was a blessing in disguise. We were taken to a camp and forced into different jobs. The Kommandant's wife took a liking to Eva, and decided she'd take her in as a maid. It saved her life. All other children her age were taken away, often literally snatched out of the arms of screaming mothers, and never seen again. I was put to work in the camp itself, anything from scrubbing floors to sewing uniforms and repairing soldiers' socks. Beatings were a regular part of life, but so was a daily slice of bread and clear soup. No more fighting for food, or stealing it. I saw Eva every few days, when one or other of us managed to sneak across the camp.
"We survived so much that others didn't. We were the lucky ones. At the end of the war, after we were liberated, we eventually found our way to London. I was fourteen, and Eva eleven, but our life up until that point gave us a look of several years older. We were taken in by a children's charity and cared for until we decided we'd never again trust anyone else. We worked hard, saved some money, with it we bought our own home, and have lived here ever since. I don't know how I'll live without her here."
Once again, the tears flowed. Rosa's mainly, but we weren't doing a great job of hiding ours either. I sat, pen and paper in hand to fill in the necessary forms, but as Rosa's sobs ended her story, I found that I'd not written a single word.
"I'm sorry", she said, wiping her face dry. "I have more than sixty years worth of crying to do. This is the first time since."
At her request, we contacted a friend who arrived within minutes of our call. We left the room to allow them to talk and grieve together. To comfort each other. To shed those reluctant tears. Whilst they did, we reloaded the ambulance with our equipment, sat in silence as I completed the paperwork that I'd struggled to fill in while in the house, and fought to comprehend all that we'd heard. After writing the empty words that described all that had clinically occurred, we returned to the house one last time to explain to Rosa what would now be happening.
Once we'd finished and offered our condolences, Rosa got up and saw us to the door.
"Don't worry about me", she started. "I've got my friends and neighbours. They'll help look after me".
And as we stepped back out over the threshold, as a farewell comfort from her to us, she called us back again.
"I'll be fine", she said. "I'm a survivor".
I know she is. I just hope I've done her story justice.