MY MOM SHARES A CHILDHOOD MEMORY OF LIVING IN GERMAN-OCCUPIED POLAND

Last week, my mom, read a short story that she wrote, at a workshop at the Crain House.  Her writing was about her life in Poland prior to coming to America at 10 years old.  A lot of the difficult memories she shares at her own pace, in her own way, in her own time with me still pain her greatly. 

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I am so proud of my shy-ish mom for summoning the strength to tell one compelling story publicly.  She has never, ever, shared any of her writing with anyone else before now.  It has been 50 years in the making.

With her approval, I wanted to share her true story with you.  It does not have a title.  I don’t think it needs one right now:

It was early evening.  Zosia (my cousin) and my Aunt Katherine were both trying to tie on the wings of my costume.  I was an angel in the school’s Christmas Nativity Scene.  We were sitting on the bed of what served as the kitchen / bedroom / living room of our small three-room home, located on a farm in Godowa, Poland. 

The Germans had invaded and occupied Poland a few years before. 

I was happy and giggling with pride over my costume.  To a five year old, to be an angel – with a speaking part in an upper class man’s play – was a great honor. 

Zosia and my Aunt shared my joy.  Zosia, a few years older than me, was a skilled seamstress.  She sewed the gown and made the fragile wings.  My costume was beautiful. 

As we fussed with the wings, we were startled by the loud bang of the kitchen door being thrown open.  A man came in.  He was a stranger.  In a small farming town not too many strangers come to visit – especially after dark.

The stranger was in a Nazi uniform – a uniform that I, by now, had learned to recognize. 

The stranger seemed angry and agitated and was shouting at us.  I could barely understand what he was saying; as he was shouting he was pointing to a round object in his hand. 

I realized it was a hand grenade. 

“One of your neighbors reported that you are hiding a Jewish family in your stajnia (cellar),” he said.  “Show me where they are or I will kill you.” 

Again, pointing at the grenade.

My Aunt pleaded with him saying that we are not hiding anyone. 

“Please take all the food you want,” she said.  “Please don’t hurt the child.”

The man kept on shouting not hearing her pleas.  He threw down the grenade into the center of the room. 

We sat there – very still, silent – not daring to breathe. 

The grenade was a dud.  The grenade was a dud. 

The stranger left as suddenly as he came. 

Zosia, Aunt Katherine and I went to the Christmas Pageant.  I was the best angel – I did not forget my lines.

By Sophie Stach Virgilio      

Do you have a story you would like to share with your community?  Email me:  Richard@TheBPlot.com

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