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Z is for Zee End #AtoZchat

For a limited time - only 99 cents! Irene's World War 2 Childhood, (teen)Years Hidden As a Boy, and Escape to Freedom (East to West Berlin) Books 1, 2, and 3 in one volume.

For a limited time – only 99 cents!
Irene’s World War 2 Childhood, (teen)Years Hidden As a Boy, and Escape to Freedom (East to West Berlin) Books 1, 2, and 3 in one volume.

Zee end only of the A to Z Challenge for this year. The Historical Treasure of Irene’s memoirs will continue. Audio versions will be released. New covers will be completed. We’ll eventually make it onto promotion lists with wider readership.

Irene herself will continue to swim at the gym, make music with her choir and struggle to hold on to this life and live it to the fullest. Today that means she’s probably throwing the ball for her lab, Rusty, and visiting with friends at church. Tomorrow she might be on a seniors tour bus to a new destination, or sharing with folks at the German-American Club.

As I look over all the work to write 26 blogs in one month, I can’t help checking the results. 200 new followers, 60 comments, 3 times the number of average views, 8 books sold. Gains big and small.

What’s more important in this A to Z Challenge though is the message. The encouragement of one soul. The inspiration of a small kindness. The resolve to one act of bravery.

Irene’s memoirs continue to receive mostly 5 star reviews which is blessing and a problem, since we’ve been told books with almost all 5 stars are “suspicious” to buyers. A new review during the A to Z Challenge says:

Something new April 16, 2016
With all of the books (both fiction and nonfiction) about World War II, I thought that this memoir might say what already has been said. I was completely wrong — it is a new and fresh account of life in eastern Germany, during the war and after, that comes alive and moves at a fast pace. Irene describes her life in a matter of fact way — the reader takes in all of the facts and stories and comes away with new knowledge and new understanding, and the feeling of meeting face to face with a living heroine. To rise to your very best self in the midst of the worst of humanity is a story worth reading. I would recommend this book to both adults and teenagers.

Thanks to each one of you for reading, for liking, for sharing, for each review. Please continue to help us share by joining Irene’s Survive Little Buddy News list. Meanwhile, we pray all of you who joined her journey here or elsewhere find a nugget to hold to in rough days.

A to Z Historical Treasure – Nuggets

A is for Anne (Frank) and Irene in World War 2 http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Xb
B is for Bolsheviks http://wp.me/p8Fvh-X0
C is for Crazy Kids in World War 2 http://wp.me/p8Fvh-YF
D is for Dreams – What inspired ur career? http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Yz
E is for Eating, Cold War Style http://wp.me/p8Fvh-YS
F is for Fear of Rape, Post War Years http://wp.me/p8Fvh-YN
G is for Gestapo http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Z1
H is for Hidden As a Boy http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Z5
I is for Interview Videos – Morgue Normal, Nurse and War Bride – Beyond the Book http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zd
J is for Jews in Hiding http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zi
K is for Kindnesses http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zs
L is for Louis Armstrong http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zn
M is for Music to Survive http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zx

N is for Nursing with Comrades http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZG
O is for ON Vacation Soviet Style http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZD
P is for Publishing Unexpectedly http://wp.me/p8Fvh-YU
Q is for Questions from Readers http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZK
R is for Russian Accordion http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZQ
S is for Spy http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZT
T is for Temptation http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZY
U is for Uranium Mine Punishment http://wp.me/p8Fvh-104
V is for Video “I was a spy?” http://wp.me/p8Fvh-10d
W is for West Berlin Refugee Camp http://wp.me/p8Fvh-10a
X is for Border Crossing http://wp.me/p8Fvh-10g
Y is for YELL ABOUT IT http://wp.me/p8Fvh-10q
Z is for Zee End

What’s next? Back to Living in Holland with a special event we attended last week…The King’s Ball.

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Kristin King is Irene Kucholick’s publisher and friend. She hopes you find the strength to, as the reviewer said, “rise to your very best self.”

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Posted by on May 1, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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S is for Spy Accusations #AtoZChallenge Historical Treasure

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 11.53.24 AMGrowing up in the 80’s, the Berlin Wall was to me a structure seemingly as permanent as the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China. I knew it separated The East from the The West, keeping those who lived under enforced communism away from freedom and choice.

What I didn’t know and somehow missed in my history classes was that The Wall was a quite recent edifice. Prior to its erection in August of 1961 (and excepting Soviet blockade times), people traveled back and forth between the Berlins for work and pleasure (see Iron Curtain Memoirs Book 3).

At first there was no sanctuary in West Berlin for those with identity cards from the east. Many who tried to stay in the west were returned or kidnapped and brought back. Guards were only posted on the eastern side, and some trams continued to run their route across the border and back.

Such was the time in which Irene Kucholick, my A to Z Historical Treasure writer, lived.

I began riding the electric U-Bahn. Although controlled entirely by East Germany, the U-Bahn traveled from Potsdam, through West Berlin, and into East Berlin again. Each time I rode the U-Bahn I watched and learned.

Many people got off the U-Bahn in West Berlin. At all train stops on the East side, people were spot checked by armed Russian border guards….After Russian guard separated out suspected persons for further checking, the German police mustered them into a large room….

Persons in possession of forbidden Western items were transferred to another police station in the city. Each case was punished according to the degree of the offense. Even foodstuff and soaps were forbidden. We had such bad soap powder that it could only be called sand. Western soaps of any kind were welcomed articles for the black market.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 12.04.07 PMConfiscated items were sold in a store run by the government in Potsdam….Few people could afford them. The exchange rate was still five East Mark to one West Mark and four West Mark to one American dollar. That gives one an idea of how little East German marks were worth. Next to nothing.

Persons caught trying to escape…were usually sentenced for ten to twenty years at hard labor.

….This time I was stopped….Suddenly I remembered the Western literature. Ice cold fear gripped my body. There was no place to discard my borrowed material.

…[A scuffle broke out], I threw my magazines to the floor hoping no one would see where they came from.

Too many police and Russians were watching. Everyone saw me!

….I was immediately labeled a dangerous spy, as the papers were considered propaganda material from the West. [Excerpts from Survive Little Buddy. Copyright Irene Kucholick 1996. All rights reserved.]

One of many great images collected on Stacy Andersen's "Berlin Wall" Pinterest page

One of many great images collected on Stacy Andersen’s “Berlin Wall” Pinterest page

Can you imagine being able to cross the border, see the relative prosperity, soak in freedom for a couple hours before having to return? It’s no wonder Irene’s longing to break free from the Soviet communism strangling her homeland was so strong.

I have a short but powerful video of Irene talking about this incident that I hope to have ready for V is for Videos You Requested.

Coming next…T is for Temptation

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Kristin King is an indie author and sole-proprietor of Three Kings Publishing, which released Irene Kucholick’s Iron Curtain Memoirs in 2013, and released the digital edition as Survive Little Buddy in 2015. Irene reminds Kristin of her own grandmother whose strength and convictions have endured from harder times.

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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R is for Russian Accordion

A beautiful Russian accordion

A beautiful Russian accordion

Do you enjoy learning some new, random bit of knowledge? Maybe you enjoy playing Quiz Up or it’s more ancient predecessor, Trivial Pursuit. Those sort of entertainments are up my alley, so when I discover nuggets in a book like Survive Little Buddy I’m all together hooked. Here’s one for you from my A to Z Historical Treasure:

One day while singing and playing in the waiting room at the Riesa railroad station, the Russian patrol came so quickly we could not escape. shouting in Russian that we had committed a crime, they arrested us.

“We have been looking for you two a long time,” said one of the patrol. “You have broken the law. No entertainment is allowed in railroad stations.”

They yanked my accordion from me, forcing us outside and into a truck. It was evening when they took us into the military police headquarters.

….”You broke the law and you will be punished,” was what they repeated over and over….They took our ID cards, the contents of my pockets and Krista’s handbag….They made fun of me for all the girl stuff I had in my pockets, but I did not reveal myself and would not dare, since I always used my brother Ortwin’s ID.

….With nothing left but our clothing…we were forced…through the building….They opened a door and pushed us down another flight of stairs….They pushed us in [a totally black room] and I stumbled and fell down a step I could not see. The door banged shut and someone helped me stand up. My hands were we and we were standing in ankle-deep water….

….My eyes adjusted….The cold water looked very dirty and the odor of urine grew stronger….

Krista grabbed my hand and whispered loudly, “They’ve put us in here until they kill us or send us to Siberia!”

….I touched the wall. It was slippery and wet. Hours passed.

“How long can we stand like this?” Krista asked. “My knees ache and my feet are numb.”

I didn’t answer. We held each other and cried quietly….We counted the hours by the chimes of a church clock we could hear ever so faintly through our prison walls.

[Later]….We were taken through the same passage….A different officer was there now. With much gesturing he said, “You will be put away for good if you are caught in a railroad station again.”

….When I saw our things I knew we were going to be released. I could not see my accordion and asked the officer for it….

“You didn’t even have a an accordion, you little liar,” he bellowed. “If you don’t shut up and get out of here we’ll arrest you again and never let you go!”

….Though we stood all the way home, the train felt very comfortable after the sleepless night standing in water.

….With no accordion there was no way to make money and we had no articles to trade for food in the black market. A few days later, Mama, carrying a large bag of rutabagas for that family, made a visit to Zschopauer Strasse to ask Herr Hillebrandt to make a trip to the Musik and Toy Towns Klingenthal and Zwothal to find a new accordion for me.

….In Zwothal we walked to the factories where they made accordions and other small instruments and wooden articles. “We are not making instruments for the German population, only for Russian needs,” was the disheartening information we received.

Seeing my fallen expression, one of the workers in another factory thrust an accordion at me saying, “The Russians have a different musical scale. Here, try it. You cannot play it.”

….I reached for the instrument and found it difficult to play. The notes didn’t sound right.

….Herr Hillebrandt had heard me play my old accordion….”You want it? Think you can learn to play this one?”

“I’ll learn no matter what,” I promised.

“Okay. You got it.” He turned to the factory representative and said, “Sell it to me. The Russians took her accordion.”

He peeled some money off a roll he carried and with a wink at the factory people I now owned a new accordion. I put it in its brand new case and said a silent prayer of thanks to God. [Excerpt from Survive Little Buddy, copyright Irene Kucholick 1996. All right reserved.]

The Russians have a different musical scale? Really? I love discovering a bit like that. I wonder what their do-re-mi sounds like. I should ask a friend. One of the ladies in my book club might know, and one of them pointed out that the airman taken prisoner by the Russians in the movie “Bridge of Spies” was also put in a cell with standing water. Living in Holland, I can tell you that the Dutch could not abide a room with even a puddle, they are so determined to control every drip of water.

What pluck and determination Irene had as a young teen. Honestly, she is still like that today. A credit to Herr Hillebrandt’s kindness (K is for Kindnesses), she did learn to play that instrument and was soon riding the rails with Krista again. Her next adventure was near the Reisa black market.

Our next A to Z Challenge bring us to S. S is for….oops. Well, not really. But I used my S topic for M, M is for Music to Survive. I’ll dig up another S for you in a flash.Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 9.42.40 AM

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Kristin King is an author and publisher of Irene Kucholick’s Iron Curtain Memoirs which include Books 1, 2, and 3; My World War 2 Childhood, My Years Hidden As a Boy, My Escape to Freedom. All three books are contained in Survive Little Buddy along with photos, a historical time line, and maps not available in the stand alone books.

 

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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I is for Interview With a Historical Treasure #AtoZChallege @AprilA2Z

Beyond the book Irene brought for publication were so many untold stories. The last line said ” I was one of 331,000 people who escaped to freedom in West Berlin in 1953.”

So how did she come to America? Did she ever see her family again? What did she think when she heard the Berlin Wall went up?

Even after we worked together on the Epilogue, I kept learning more about her adventures. Before I moved to Holland, we met in her Maryland home to record the answers to a handful of readers’ questions. Now in production and coming to Youtube one by one, Irene’s Interviews.

To give you a feel for who Irene is in person, today’s post first links to what I call “Morgue Normal” (appx 2 minutes).

Irene’s nursing career brought a young US Army soldier named Walter Kucholick across her path. I smile and laugh every time I watch this video about how they met, how he proposed, and how he pursued their marriage.

Yep, laughed again.

V was supposed to be Vacation Soviet style, but maybe V should be more videos. What do you think?

Meanwhile…

Up next, J is for Jews In Hiding.

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Kristin King is an author, publisher, NGO co-founder, military spouse, mom to four boys, Jesus follower, and such. She is NOT tech savvy at all, and thus owes all the thanks and appreciation for the video production to her eldest son.

 

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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F is for Fear of Rape in Post War Years #AtoZChallenge @AprilA2Z

My Years Hidden As a Boy - 1st Edition Cover

My Years Hidden As a Boy – 1st Edition Cover

You can probably call to mind instances in your own life when fear gripped you, squeezing your chest tight making it difficult to breathe. Most recently for me, being hit by a motorized vehicle while on my bike has changed my life in Holland. Now each time I put my feet to the pedals my heart rate to increases. The dread of what might happen or happen again only worse is the spark of ice-fired fear.

Gang rapes by Russian patrols were a part of the daily life in the Soviet occupation zones for years in post-war Europe. Irene Kucholick’s memoir describes several instances of Russian attacks, some worse than others. In interviews Irene said there were good patrols and bad patrols. On one night in her village four soldiers abducted four women and took them back to their headquarters where they appeared to wait for the commandant to take first pick of the bound victims before beginning their festivities.

“Antony Beevor describes it as the ‘greatest phenomenon of mass rape in history’, and has concluded that at least 1.4 million women were raped in East Prussia, Pomerania and Silesia alone.” I suspect his work probably does not take into account the decades of rebel activities in the mountains of east Congo which is north of where my NGO project operates. Regardless, as recently as 2015 his books were banned in some Russian schools and universities.

This was one time during The Iron Curtain Memoirs that I appreciated the lack of sentimentality typical of Irene’s accounts. At this point, Irene was already “Hidden As a Boy” when she went out.

The Russian solders’ constant search for women was greatly feared by the women in Euba. When the women learned they could not be protected within their homes they left their children and slipped away to sleep in the trenches dug by German soldiers. The trenches were deep and fairly dry. Some trenches had small wooden sheds with straw floors which provided cold but fairly comfortable places to hide. German men were afraid to protect their women from these assaults since they were not allowed to have weapons.

….One night a Russian patrol on horseback came into the area where we lived. One of them knocked on the door. We opened the door and saw a big soldier smiling at us. He grabbed Mama. My thought my heart would stop beating. We knew immediately what would happen to Mama. We screamed as loud a we could. Mama screamed too. Ortwin and Hartmut kicked him….By now five solders were standing in the open doorway… [Irene tells how assault was averted.]

….On those nights when everything was quiet and we heard no “Frau comm, Frau comm,” we would say, “Tonight the good ones are on patrol.”

….One day Mama sent me to Niederwiesa to get a few pounds of oat kernels ground….Ursel and her mother decided to go with me. We walked rapidly and made it to the mill with no problems. We had to wait in line to get the kernels milled. It was late afternoon when we started home….

Working on a 2nd edition cover of My Years Hidden As a Boy

Working on a 2nd edition cover of My Years Hidden As a Boy

At dusk a group of five Russians patrolling on bicycles passed us and turned around to begin following us. We walked faster. they advanced and wheeled around us in a threatening circle from which we could not escape.

There was no doubt as to their intentions. They suddenly wheeled closer, dismounted and grabbed us by the shoulders. Would I be mistaken for a boy? Evidently so, I was to be taken care of first. A hard blow to my face sent me reeling dizzily backward. A sickening kick in my stomach knocked me down. Four of the men grabbed Ursel and her mother, forcing them to the ground. I tried to slip along the wall of the building, thinking the growing darkness would hide my escape. A big hand on my neck shoved me against the bricks. I was warned not to move if I wanted to live. Another blow in my face and stomach left me in great pain and unable to move. I could only lie there and witness the sordid scene of rape. [Excerpt from “Survive Little Buddy: The Iron Curtain Memoirs.” © Irene Kucholick 1996]

According to Wikipedia, “Female deaths in connection with the rapes in Germany, overall, are estimated at 240,000.” Rape-murder was not uncommon. Victims ranged in age from 8 to 80. Yet as recently as 2008 when a feature film was made about this, “it was widely rejected in Germany after its initial publication but has seen a new acceptance and many women have found inspiration to come forward with their own stories.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_during_the_occupation_of_Germany)

During last year’s A to Z Challenge I wrote about my project trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and chose to focus on the brighter side, beauty, and reasons for hope. With this Historical Treasure theme the posts are mostly dark this first week. Certainly there were holidays, fun times, even laughter and little reasons to rejoice throughout Irene’s accounts. A few of those are coming. However…

Next up, G is for Gestapo.

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Kristin King is a co-founder of Future Hope Africa, an educational project in east Democratic Republic of the Congo. Although she published Irene’s Historical Treasure, Kristin is a fiction author, mom to four boys, military spouse, and family travel planner. She thanks God that the man in Czech Republic who tried her hotel door knob, knocked, and called “Come, sex, come” for two hours one dreary night in Prague did not get into her room.

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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E is for Eating Cold War Style Behind the Iron Curtain #AtoZ Challenge

Coming at you all April long, my A to Z Blog Challenge theme is “Historical Treasure”

Image from The Winnipeg Jewish Review

Borscht Image from The Winnipeg Jewish Review

Who doesn’t like the occasional food blog? Living overseas, I’ve gotten to indulge in so many good eats that I ran a foodie series in February. Irene was the inspiration for one of those posts. We got to talking once, and I have no idea how it came up, but she told me her doctor said she had the bone density of a woman half her age. What was her secret? Nettles. She practically had to live on them for a while.

Remember in Forest Gump when they start talking about the many dishes you can make with shrimp? Well, nettles aren’t exactly the same, but when she talks of them it reminds me of that movie. There is nettle tea, nettle soup, nettle mash and so on. If you could make it with nettles, Irene and her mother did. If you’re interested, check out that food post here.

When opportunities came in post-war Germany to eat other foods, you can bet Irene hopped to. These everyday details of life behind the Iron Curtain populate her writing. How many times did her family members risk their lives for the simple things–like a big of bread? Irene’s story isn’t her own, it is the story of so many others. Here’s a slice of it from the summer of 1945, shortly after the war ended and Irene’s family discovered they would be in the Russian sector. [Edited for length]

Since we were so hungry, we said among ourselves, “Russia is closer. They can bring in supplies much faster than the Americans. The Russian zone will do all right.” We had been told for years that Russian farmers had fertile land and worked as hard as the German farmers….No one told us then that the Russians were starving. They were not able to feed themselves. They did not send us food, rather they took what little we had.

Stalin with Soviet Flag

Stalin with Soviet Flag

When Stalin heard that so many people in Germany wanted democracy instead of communism he said, “What, they don’t want to be communists?” He laughed, “We’ll starve them and they will come crawling to us!”

….There were some who had food enough, mainly the farmers and the Russians who came to govern us. The Russians assigned to our village stayed in a villa up in the woods. A large red star on their roof was lit by spotlights during the night. They had their own parties, drinking vodka in large amounts, and playing their music as loud as possible.

….One night, after curfew, Nadja and I slipped through the darkness up to the Russian villa. We were very hungry and thought this might be a place to get some food. We stayed int he shadows of a picket fence and some bushes where the searchlights would not fall on us. Our hunger was greater than our fear of what the consequences would be if we were caught.

Several soldiers were cooking in a large pot out in the open. We could smell the meat. “Borscht” Nadja whispered. When they dumped a lot of vegetables into the pot my stomach cramped with hunger.

….[Later] We heard the men fighting over one of the [abducted] women. It must have been another hour before we were sure the men were sound asleep.

“Now!” Nadja whispered as she climbed out of the bushes and over the fence into the garden. I followed. Slowly, quietly, we crept toward the house. The kettle outside still had some warm borscht in it.

We poured it into a pitcher we had brought, then crept into their kitchen. We took some pieces of commisbread. I saw a box I could carry and took it, not daring to risk the noise of opening it.

A man cursed and we knew a soldier was awake. We held our breath in fear…

[Excerpt from…My Years Hidden As a Boy by Irene Kucholick]

Perfect to end there since tomorrow is F is for Fear.

Till then…a shout out to some very diverse AtoZers:

Regina Martins integrates juxtaposed images under one letter theme.

Get in early on a co-written space opera AtoZ.

Fun to see JazzFeather’s D is for Dixieland because there is a Louis Armstrong tie in to Irene’s life later. (Video will be forthcoming.)

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Kristin King is an NGO co-founder, author, publisher, mom, dog lover, reader, as well as a born and bred Kentuckian. She has a small bag of dried nettles in her tea tin, because Irene hand-picked that gift for her. Unfortunately, nettles is not her favorite flavor.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2016 in Food, Memoirs & History

 

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