Submitted by Nathan Ingraham
It was September, 1939. It was the Jewish High Holiday season. The place
was the city Lvov in Poland. Nina was eighteen years old. Her parents
were into business. She had just graduated from school and planned to go
to medical school. But she painfully learned that in Poland, Jews were
refused entrance to universities especially to medical schools. It was a
Friday. Her father was at the factory. Her mother had gone out shopping
with the house caretaker. Suddenly, there was a massive explosion. Bombs
started falling and exploding around her. She was extremely scared and
anxious. For three weeks the bombing continued. Finally Poland was
defeated and divided between Germany and the Soviet Union. The part of
Poland where Nina lived went to the Russians. They lived under Russian
rule for the next one and a half years. In July 1941, the bombings
started again. She found out that the peace pact between Germans and the
Russians had been broken.
The Russian army panicked and ran away. The Poles who believed that the
Germans would treat them better than the Soviets welcomed the Germans.
But the Jews were frightened of their future. The Germans put posters on
buildings with the statement – ‘He who helps a Jew is worse than a Jew
and will be killed on the spot’. Some Polish people collaborated with
the Germans in identifying Jews and their businesses and homes. The
Gestapo ordered all Jews to give up their valuables. Nina did the same
but regretted it later. Jews were punished and even killed for the
smallest of reasons. Jews were supposed to wear an armband, which was
six inches wide with an embroidered blue Star of David. Those who failed
to do so were put to death. Nina would sometimes wear the armband and
sometimes not. She was terrified and saw many horrible scenes.
The Germans would let loose large, hungry dogs on Jewish children. The
Germans created a ‘Judenrat’, which was a Jewish city council, set up to
put all Jews to work doing the most horrible tasks. Jewish policemen
were told to collect larger numbers of Jews for ‘work crew’. But when it
was realized these poor people would be killed, the Jewish police
refused to continue. One fateful day, the Jews of the city were
assembled to watch 12 of these policemen hanged in front of their eyes
as a lesson. The Jews refused to cooperate at the risk of their lives.
Afterwards, the Jews were all moved into a ghetto.
Nina’s mother was murdered at the age of 52. After this incident, Nina
was completely unable to function. In 1942, the Jews were relocated to a
poverty-stricken area. The living conditions were unfit for human
beings. The Jews were packed into empty shacks without enough food and
water or sanitation. Nina was forced to hard labor moving heavy bricks
and supplies. She was unable to sleep because of pain and hunger. She
longed for food and a bath that was denied to her. She was sent to
Janowska concentration camp. She witnessed many Jews being tortured and
killed. She somehow managed to escape from the camp.
She wandered through the forest drinking from the streams and eating
leaves. Finally, she encountered members of the Polish Underground. She
was given forged documents. Her new name was Maria Kvasigoch and her
papers stated that she was a Catholic Pole. She worked for the
resistance movement. One day, she was arrested and bought in for
interrogation by the Nazis. The interrogation went on for over a week.
The supervisor whom she was working for her obtained her release by
saying that he needed her for his work. When she was near the Romanian
border, she fled from her supervisor.
She reached Romania by train. There the Russians detained her
disbelieving her claim of being Jewish. She met a Polish man named Josef
there and fell in love with him. He was sent to the front at Berlin as a
Russian soldier. She traveled to Lvov and found it in ruins. All the
Jews there had been killed. The war was over after which she met Josef
again and married him.