Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kay

(It has been so busy that I haven't felt a lot like blogging. Sort of being chased from pillar to post. But it is better to wear out than rust out I think. There is a short new post at TradeTheTrend if anyone is interested.)

Some of you know Kay's story. She used to tell it in the schools and sometimes for Firesides. I hope that I don't butcher it too badly because I am relying on my memory for a lot of this.

Kay was born probably about 1930. She lived in Berlin as a girl, on the East side. Her family were members of the Church, and her father was a Councilor in the Branch. She had several brothers and sisters, but I think that she was the oldest. I don't remember what her father did for a living. It seems to me that he had a shop... but it is fuzzy.

When Kay was about 9, Hitler invaded Poland and their world began to change. The war went fairly well at the beginning for Germany, and while the people had some shortages and discomforts, mostly it was life as usual.

Just as a time line, WW2 started for most of Europe in 1939 when Hitler's army attacked Poland with the blitzkreig or lightening war. Hitler annexed Austria, then attacked France. Britain was France's ally and entered the war on her behalf. I don't want to make this post all about the interlocking treaties and how each country entered the war and what happened next. Suffice it to say that soon all of Europe was drawn into the war, and then it expanded greatly when Hitler attacked Russia. At first they seemed to be able to fight the whole world. France was conquered, the German army had marched all through the Balkans and made it all the way to Moscow before being crushed by a combination of the Russian winter, and Russian heroics at saving their city. That was the beginning of the end. The tide began to turn. The Germans suffered massive losses on the Eastern front, and there seemed to be no end to the replacements that Russia could recruit and field. With armies coming from both the East and the West, Germany was slowly being crushed. The Luftwaffe raided Britain and was slowly destroyed by the RAF until the RAF and the USAF ruled the skies.

When that happened, Britain and the United States started a concentrated bombing campaign of German cities. Some were completely and utterly destroyed- burned to a crisp and all of the inhabitants obliterated as surely as if an atomic bomb had been used. Dresden was such a city. No atomic bomb yet existed, but incendiary bombs were almost as effective.

Now, back to the story: Berlin was also bombed heavily and repeatedly. These were terrifying times for Kay and her family. They could hear the bombs exploding all over the city as they hid in their home and prayed for safety. Sometimes the bombs would be on the other side of the city. Sometimes closer. Buildings all around them were damaged, some were hit directly and everyone inside died. They lived in fear for months. 'if I die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take' wasn't just a children's prayer - it was their reality. Finally the building that her home was in was damaged by a very near hit. All the windows were blown out. Electricity didn't work, and there was no running water. I think this was in the late winter or early spring of 1945. They were cold and afraid every day that it might be their last as the bombs continued to fall.

I am not sure of when exactly Kay's dad came back. It seems like he had been gone for some time. I remember her saying that he was so thin that his head looked like a skeleton. Even though they had very little food, he scoured the city to visit the Saints in the branch and do what he could to keep them safe and comfortable.

Germany surrendered on May 2, 1945, and right around that time there were food riots as people were literally starving. Sometime in the early spring a mob of people broke into a military warehouse and ransacked it. I don't think the soldiers cared much at that time, and they didn't shoot anyone in the crowd. People came away with what they could carry, and even though they felt bad robbing the warehouse, they also felt like they needed the food, and had suffered enough for the Reich.

Kay's dad came back to their little bombed damaged building with a huge cheese. That was all. They traded cheese for flour and other necessities for a while, and then the cheese was gone, and there was nothing left to eat.

By this time it was probably about mid-June. The Russian Army had taken over the East side of Berlin, and they were everywhere. It has been said that when the Russian army came to Berlin, and they raped every woman from 8 to 80. While this was not absolutely true, they were a brutal and lawless lot that took what they wanted to, and no one better stand in their way. Everyone, and especially the women were terrified of them.

So it was mid-June. There were Russian soldier everywhere, and there was not any food to be had in the city. Kay's family heard that in the country that some crops had been planted, and that if you had something to barter, you could sometimes obtain something to eat. Kay was the oldest girl, and the only one that could be spared to make the trip to the farming areas. She set off early in the morning on foot and walked East.

After several miles she came to a farm that had some crops in the ground. She had a little money and was able to buy some young bean plants. It was too early for them to be bearing, but she planned to take them home and chop up the stems and leaves and cook them for a vegetable. All was going well until she was close to home. It had been a long trip, and had taken her most of the day to find the farm and collect the beans and return. As she was coming into town she could see that there was a roadblock up ahead, manned by the Russians.

Fear clutched at her, making her want to run but she prayed that she might be kept safe, and that she might return home in safety with the food that her family needed. As she walked and prayed a calm came over her and a voice told her to walk right through the soldiers and not to talk to them. And that is what she did. She said that they didn't challenge her, didn't stop her, and didn't even seem to notice her. She walked right past them. She could hear them talking, could smell the cigarettes and could hear them laugh at each others jokes, but they didn't even seem to see her.

I don't know what all happened after that. She came to the U.S. and settled eventually in our little town where she taught school for many years. She would be about 77 now. I don't know if she even lives here anymore. But she is a great lady, and has been gracious enough to share this story with many of the children of the valley. She was full of faith and had many miracles in her life.

3 comments:

AnnieOfBlueGables said...

I remember this fireside, which we heard about 10 to 12 years ago, but I didn't remember all those details. I am glad you posted on this. It is one of those stories that needs to be remembered and not forgotten. Thank you Sweet Friend.
a

Mike said...

Wow! Great Story. Thanks for the blog. I enjoy your thoughts.

pixiestylist said...

i never thought i liked history, but whenever you tell history, it becomes like a children's tale for me and i am enthralled and glued. wierd. only every once in a while do i need to re-read because my ADD has kicked on momentarily... :)