"The Midnight Zoo"
As the only survivors of their gypsy encampment invaded by Nazi soldiers, twelve-year-old Andrej and nine-year-old Tomas wander from town to town, dodging falling bombs and searching for freedom.
Finally, the brothers find solace in a still-standing zoo among the ruins of a village. Curiosity gets the better of them and the children peer in at the menagerie: a bear, a wolf, a lioness, a chamois, a kangaroo, an eagle, a boar, a seal, and a llama. Then, the animals begin to talk.
With eager ears, the young gypsies listen
to the story of the abandoned beasts. After leading a rebellion against the invaders, Alice, the zookeeper’s daughter and friend of the animals, has disappeared, leaving her wards behind. After the bombs came and destroyed the village, the zoo was the last place standing. The boys feel sympathetic towards the trapped animals and share what little food they have stored in their packs. Bonding over the meal, Thomas and Andrej tell of their travels on the lam.
As Romanies, the boys have been continuously persecuted by the injustices of WWII-era fascism, sleeping during the day and taking flight in the night. The situations of both the animals and the orphans are similar, as they have no one to turn to and nowhere to go. Andrej, wise beyond his years, sums it up by saying, “I’m not in a cage, but—I don’t feel free. If you are free, you should be safe. And I don’t feel safe. I always feel … hunted.”