Become a Fan
The Poland I Never Knew
By Joe Vojt
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Rated "G" by the Author.
Life created many different circumstances during wartime, some were happy but most were sad. Events in life are never controlled, but the Germans tried and were partially successful in making that statement.
When you target the past, you begin focusing on an area that has no answers, you can only come up with a best guess with the fact that you are able to get.
The Poland I Never Knew © 2010
Written by Joe Vojt
In 1926 Poland was full of joy because the country finally came back to their cherished freedom. Yet at the same time, Germany at its border was not forgotten, no one in Poland took this gift for granted. Years passed with normal activities as the families worked hard to survive. Poland remained free, but no one knew that the country was about to fall into the Germans hands.
Yet life continued for couples waiting the joy of children. This was the dream for many husbands and spouses. Brining a new life to a happy couple always turned out to be a proud and blissful occasion. This created a cheerful family atmosphere yet it did not last. At the end of summer in September, 1939 everything changed as the German army more or less unopposed. The army marched in the country that cherished their freedom only to be over run and turned into slaves of ternary. After Germany incarcerated Poland, it was their policy to move their own people into all the towns. This made it easy for them to govern these new settlements.
Seeing we lived close to the border, we were the first to feel the consequences. The Germans scared people out of Poland under orders to kill if the Poles didnít leave voluntarily. Separating couples without any concern as to what it created. This action effected all the people leaving future of life in chaos. So the question of survival became my parentís main goal and their only thought. They told me how difficult it was with the misuse and abuse they received on the way from the German people.
This was close to a panic condition in that countless people left at once. No one was able to think for anybody else except themselves and their families. Here you are in a new country that forced you out of you own home and country, and yet Germany was hostile in accepting you as tenants. The concept of weakness had power, mainly because Poland fell to the stronger superior force. This is the background of how my life began.
My father left Poland once the war started, it was either by his own will or was forced based on the conditions of the era. He ended in a compulsory labor camp in Germany at the same time many of the men quickly disappeared. Leaving wives and more important the children they had fathered behind. All the planning to give the children their future was lost. Not long after that my mother took me and decided to find my father all she knew he was someplace living in Germany. She had no idea what she was getting into but it did not stop her.
Events in life are never controlled, but the Germans tried and were partially successful in making that statement. They ruled everyone hey wanted and no one could stop the process based on their increasing superior power. Even the people in their own country had little choice. The German population was required to accept and guard the transient humanity or they would be dealt with severely themselves.
When you are a baby growing up in the early years, your life is in the hands of your parents. So from the late thirties, to the end of war, my information came only from both parents (my father disappeared when I was only six years old and I never knew what happened to him. It took me fifty years to learn that he was either killed or died near the end of the war. What was surprising that my father was buried in Germany in a military gravesite. On top of that I also learned that he was considered a German soldier.
At the time there was nothing to know, because the memory in life does not exist at that level. Yet you can never realize what the true impact was. Life has to be based on each human experience regardless of age. Those years living in a foreign hostile country was no different to a young child.
The earliest I remember was when my parents were talking about the war at home. I was about four or five years old. We all lived in a small town with selected houses that ended up being used as labor camps. The small houses were close together leaving you thinking that everything was normal. From a distance the setting was peaceful within rolling hills and trees filling the countryside. As a child there was no way of knowing it was controlled.
I remember most of the time staying home by myself, locked in a vast house with all the windows covered with dark cloth. As a child it was large and it did not give any comfort. I didnít have much to play with, and I canít recall what I did all those lonely long hours. Once when I was sick my mother got permission to take me with her to what work. I remember lying on a cot in a large room. This room had a bulky fan in the ceiling going round and round. Watching this gave me a strange feeling as it moved the stale air all day. That was all I could do so to watch the motion of the fan, because my body was tired and there was nothing else.
Some of the labor camps were nothing but family homes assigned and controlled by the town police or the so called military guards. The houses were crowded with mostly males sleeping side by side in all the rooms. This was justified as the best situation available. Moving from one home to another became normal. Whatever the reason for all this, was never explained but it just kept the emigrants restless. No one ever knew what or where they would end up. Everyday morning the men marched off to different work locations.
As I recall my father wasnít home much. He was a cold frustrated person and I couldnít understand why, because of that we werenít especially close. I did not learn until later in life what his struggles really were and the attitude he had to live with in order to survive. When he came home, all he did was eat boiled potatoes and drink. I only recall that we lived a short time together. My mother told me that the Germans took every man from our houses. Not understanding what was happening, but it didnít make any sense to a child. I think even today about how war produces stress within the family unit. Living under these unusual hard circumstances takes its toll, if and when you survive it does not end.
Having children should have been a joyous event, but livings under strict labor camp conditions with military control, all bets were off. I can still remember stayed at home alone. Being scared, I hide under the bed for most of day, but I said nothing. I recognized early that we were living in dreadful times it war but at that time I had no idea that it was World War II.
The local police were visible and at times invisible but we had to make weekly visits to their headquarters. Again I had no idea it was mandated. My mother was lucky because she spoke fluent German so it was a slight advantage during those turmoil years again I never knew how much it helped.
There were mandatory parades when all the people had to attend. The one day that remains burned in my mind was when the sharp dressed German army marched though what was considered Main Street. Protected in the center was a convertible with the top down. Heads above the massive army stood a sharp dressed man with his small mustache as he passed the crows, all you heard was Hail Hitler! The masses were loud and almost joyous. It repeated until he was no longer visible.
When we came home, I asked my parents while pointing to large hanging portrait of Hitler. Was that the man in the parade? Yes was the answer. Is he an important man? My father and mother both were stunned with the question. Not knowing what to say, my mother responded, he is the leader of Germany. Why did he come with all those men? The reply was, he is an important man for his nation. That was the end of this conversation.
People talked about him in the streets as a hero or even God. He could do nothing wrong. The people living in the houses that were know as the compulsory labor camp feared Hitler and as a child I also had that fright. It was just another day in a country that housed many displaced people. Not until later did I fully understand the importance of this time frame of my life. I canít recall exactly when I came up with the idea that his power of terror spread through many nations. From that instance on, I remembered many events even to this day. When does a child understand that living within a controlled environment is not real?
The war progressed slowly in Europe at the same time Germany slowly became a part of the battlefield. Our life started changing when we had to run into air raid shelters. Existing, as a child should have been fun. But when you wake up during the night with sirens, blearing and you had to run for your life, the fun ceased. Running in any weather into the air raid shelters became a mass exercise for the protection of bombs hitting the region. The air raid shelters were nothing but an opening running deep into the mountains. It felt more like a rough long tunnel leading into a mine shaft.
I remember water dripping and the place was humid and dreadfully uncomfortable. The people packed in like sardines and waited until the all clear. This was normally by voice passed down from the front of the opening down to last person. There had been some limited previsions made for food in case of a long stay and a first aid station was in place.
As the war advanced, this became such a routine that we slept with our clothes on. We only had to get up and run to the bunker. Needless to say the nerves system was somewhat effected. One time I remember running with my parents during the winter time with snow on the ground. My mother fell and hurt her hand, she got up and kept running until we made it to the bunker. The hand swelled up to double the normal size. There was nothing to do but wait regardless of the pain. It took many weeks until my mother could use her hand again. We tried to help her, but other then that no one cared what happen to us.
One night we could not get to the air raid shelter in time, so we went down in the cellar to wait it out. During the night, blackout was common. If your hand was visible or any light showed through your house the patrolling police threatened to shoot all offenders. This was because the houses were considered bomb targets in our area. Seeing no one wanted to die, we had blankets on each window all night long.
I considered my activates normal, but at the same time I never was frustrated more then my parents allowed me to be. A child can never grasp what is going on in your confined environment. Life became harder as I grew up. We had to stay in line for milk, butter, and meat and other less important items. Ration tickets were the only way you could get the necessary food requirements. I had asked why we had to stay in line and other people had to right to be first. My parents explain that the German people that lived here were first. As you can well understand, the German people had first choice of all the food. They tock advantage of this by making sure they got what they needed.
I used to play on the mountains with other boys my age. I could speak fluent German seeing I was brought up in this country. So I accepted the obvious and had a somewhat normal childhood under these conditions. One day a bomb fell on that beautiful hill. An opening larger then the hill once was. I could not understand how anyone had so much power for destruction.
Another day the war came even closer to us, when one of the two factories was bombed a few miles away. The thinking at that time was this building was a cover up for a munitions factory. We ran like crazy and all that we saw were some peaceful walls standing. I learned that my father worked at that factory, but for some reason was not there on that day. This spared his life.
Many people lost their lives that day. I couldnít believe why people had to die for nothing. The war was something that makes kids grow up so fast. I really didnít have a normal childhood. One night my father called me upstairs during an air raid to watch a dog fight. I was especially interested because this was the first time in my life I saw the enemy (It was the United States).
I had no way of knowing that I wasnít a German. In order to protect the family my parents never told me about my birth place and heritage. So I was and acted like any normal German child during the early part of the war. Guarding life of a child is worth all the efforts parents accomplish.
It forms your spirit and mentally you grow with some understanding that war is not normal. Living in Germany I realized we had hard times and we were treated somewhat different. I can remember getting up early in the morning and standing in the milk line with my mother.
The daily times for supplies like milk and bread were more like a game for young kids until you understood that there was no equal disruption of the handouts regardless of age. If you were German it had meaning, if not you were not considered equal. Even with limited food both parents shared by giving without concern of their own health.
Gradually I picked up on the local environment; it was not friendly when we were forced to stay in a limited guarded area's. As you grow older this difference became noticeable and questions why became more frequent. After a while, my parents ran out of answers that I understood. Living in Germany was not so bad until I learned that I was not German. How could that be true I had lived here all my life? Good question.
Strange when your early childhood gets lost during the war, it is never recoverable. The only snap shot of life is in the living and their memories. Only if the survivors recorded these stories and pasted down through the family would it make sense. Some real facts are lost forever in the minds of the past.
When you target the past, you begin focusing on an area that has no answers, you can only come up with a best guess with the fact that you are able to get. Life created many different circumstances during wartime, some were happy but most were sad. Some were never recorded especially when it came down to the stress conditions of survival. As a child, you feel and some time even sense there was wrong. It depended on the method used to convey these circumstances and it was not easy under labor camp conditions.
My daily activities as a child were limited and not much exposure with any other children. I attended German schools and was apart of this country. When I changed from German school to a Polish school during the year, I wondered what was going on. This move added to the confusion of my life.
Kids would utilize anything to pass time. There was freedom to roam even in the labor camps because I never really knew what was going on. Every day events passed and I only knew there was a problem when I heard my parents whisper about some misuse of people. But I never really understood at that time what was going on. The dispute between Germany and Poland was always at best a stress test. Germany wanted domination of any and all other countries to gain and control the world.
Living during the war was the primary objective of all nationalities that were under guard of the Third Reich. Even today, it does not make sense. My only friends were other children that included all nationalities. You speak the language but you never understand that it might not be your heritage.
Never realizing that Poland was my birth place because I was living in Germany and talking German was natural. What I did not know for sure why we as a family were treated different. With both parents working, it never hits you that something was not right. My father left before I woke and came when the sun set. I was around four when I recall, how beat he was. Most of his mood was tired and depresses. He never talked about his forced labor assignments.
A childís life is fragile but also resilient to abuse be it physical of mental. He knows nothing about what is real, eating, playing even if it is under guarded conditions or having limited supplies. Even clothing was hard to get if you were lucky hand me downs were accepted from within the guarded community.
How does a child know the difference when there is nothing else available? The pleasure of toys remained in your mind and that is were imagination played a leading roll. There were many discarded military items that became instant attraction and items of interest and worth playing with.
I sometimes wonder what life would have been for me if my father survived the hell of war. It has been over sixty years to the date of his death. I never knew how or where he past away, but the memory of a young child when his parent is taken only leaves a tragic memory. He might have been forced, but having no choice during those hard times, that will never be known.
Many hardships were required but there was no other alternative. People in other countries that were not connected with the war could not understand what it meant to the emotions of families as days went without the required normal daily diet. The war years can't be fully realized till its over, but the terror leaves a mark that remains permanently imbedded as part of your life. Time can heal and mask, but nothing replaces what you lost during those early years.
Having loving parents that protect and make sure you get whatever they have to give. Food became the main commodity for growth in both spirit and body. I know that I was lucky with what I had. What I did not know while getting older that Germany was losing ground during the war even in Germany. Nothing short of a miracle drove each family. What a parity to live without knowing if war was a good thing or bad. I was lucky that I had my parents until the last year of the war. They took care of my needs and they gave the only part they were allowed and that was love. Both kept working and praying for that magic word, that the trident known as the Fuhrer would be removed from power.
Existing remained the main objective, even a Polish child had to learn what the word freedom repented, even though at the time it felt like a dream. I never knew that the real Poland would again be free. Having lived to learn love and happiness with a family of my own has been the reward of my long journey. The sad part of my life is that the Poland I never knew still remains a mystery. As a baby there are no memories of my birth and that is sad.
Moving and living in the United States of American was a gift seeing it was right after the war. It felt like heaven leaving Germany but it another change. My American family should never experience what it was like during the turbulent history of World War II. Surviving while living under a caretaker madman that had the following of his nation is now a sad part of history. I think about the many families that never made it through this era. No nation and its people should have to experience this type of ternary.
Want to review or comment on this
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!