Most readers have questions for Irene after reading her memoirs. When I accompanied her to a book club (largest I’ve ever been to with 20+ people), I took notes of their questions and her answers. You can leave a comment with your questions and we’ll try to get answers for you before A to Z Historical Treasure ends. (Q&A from notes–not transcription or video.)
Q. How and when did you begin writing?
A. Around 1980 I began. People think only Jewish people died, but that’s not true. A lot of Germans died in concentration camps. I had friends sent to Mauthausen.
Q. Was it hard or helpful to write it?
A. Very hard to write and then 9 years later I felt so much better with it written down. (Like is had been an albatross around the neck)
Q. It sounds harder under Stalin. To hear that 1st hand, well…we don’t usually get that. We hear a lot about soldiers, but to hear about a regular girl…
A. Mama said you go as a boy or not at all.
Q. How long till you came to the USA?
A. (Escape was in 1953). 1959 we moved to Ft. Sill Oklahoma. “I’m in the wild west here,” I said. And my mother said “Oh no. Get out. Get out now!” I brought my hospital reference books in German.
…We were 3 years in Ethiopia then in Paris. So many French people spoke German. At market I tried English and the man at the stand said, “You are German. Speak German to us.”
Q. (People expressed interest in Irene’s German-American Club)
A. We meet in the Lutheran church. We speak German and English. Saxony was Lutheran. At club each told their story and people had a much harder time than I did.
The Hunger Days came up and a women’s mother was visiting. She said, “We were never hungry.”
“Well,” I said, “They were Nazis.”
Q. What was scariest?
A. When we went to Grandmother’s and artillery came in. It goes everywhere. And I thought when my knapsack got hit with a bullet.
We had to take the drugs to make sure the patient was getting the right pharmaceutical. Had to know by taste.
Q. How long were you in the mines?
A. Months. After that I would have died.
Q. What diseases did the miners have?
A. Lungs and for women uterus. I had to have mine removed. And I told my husband and he said, “It’s okay. We’ll adopt, after we get out of the army.” (They never did.)
Q. When you escaped and that Doctor unlocked the window for you, did you ever have contact with him again?
A. No. I didn’t want to get them in trouble. I would have liked to contact the land lady but I was afraid to.
Q. Besides what you wrote, did informants in your building do other things?
One family…he checked if everybody was gone and reported people not in the basement (i.e. bomb shelter). And he said “They went to the roof and sent signals.”
Q. Did you have any writer support?
A. Walter (i.e. husband) pushed me. You have to have someone to push you to write this.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A. People see what happened to me, but other people…like my friend from Luxembourg had a much harder time.
When my local book club read Irene’s book, a couple people had a hard time believing so much happened to one person. Yet, Irene emphasizes repeatedly that hers is only a small portion compared to so many other people who had it worse. She has such respect for these survivors and for being as accurate as she could in her memory. Anne Frank is often held up as the example, to represent the Jewish struggle during the holocaust. Irene Kucholick’s memoirs serve as tribute to other peoples so affected and to the many she knows personally.
Remember to send in your own questions and add Survive Little Buddy to your Want To Read list.
Meanwhile…up next is R is for Russian Accordion.
Kristin King is the publisher of Survive Little Buddy, Irene Kucholick’s Iron Curtain Memoirs. When not doing this A to Z theme, Kristin blogs about life as an expat in Holland, reading, soulful Sundays, and recently began Foodie Fridays.The Best Practices for Blogs say to focus one subject….