Tag Archives: Irene Kucholick

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
B is for Bolsheviks
C is for Crazy Kids in World War 2
D is for Dreams – What inspired ur career?
E is for Eating, Cold War Style
F is for Fear of Rape, Post War Years
G is for Gestapo
H is for Hidden As a Boy
I is for Interview Videos – Morgue Normal, Nurse and War Bride – Beyond the Book
J is for Jews in Hiding
K is for Kindnesses
L is for Louis Armstrong
M is for Music to Survive

N is for Nursing with Comrades
O is for ON Vacation Soviet Style
P is for Publishing Unexpectedly
Q is for Questions from Readers
R is for Russian Accordion
S is for Spy
T is for Temptation
U is for Uranium Mine Punishment
V is for Video “I was a spy?”
W is for West Berlin Refugee Camp
X is for Border Crossing
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.


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.”


Posted by on May 1, 2016 in Memoirs & History


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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.

ALL CAPS IS VIRTUAL SHOUTING, so I’ve been told. That’s sort of what I’ve been doing all month-long with the A to Z Challenge theme “Historical Treasure.” I’ve shared tidbits, excerpts, photos, interviews for Irene’s memoirs in order to convince you her story is one worth sharing.

“Sharing is Caring” is often at the bottom of blog posts. That is what I am asking you to do.


In fact, I’ve marked the digital copy of her memoirs down to 99 cents (or equivalent) on Amazon outlets worldwide, because I want you to have the opportunity to get the rest of the story–and to help spread the word.

If you are a reader, you’ll get drawn in by this book.

If you know a history buff, you could be the one that recommends the best history book they’ll read this year.

If you know someone who likes strong female leads, this is for them.

If you think Irene’s story could do well given a chance, share.

Here are some ways:

  • Share or reblog a post you liked from A to Z (& mention the 99 cents sale)
  • Share one of Irene’s youtube videos (follow the channel to get more)
  • Get the rest of the story for yourself and leave a review for her
  • Give the gift of history (signed copies available)

Survive Little Buddy has what it takes in terms of a compelling story that builds the world of the past for us to see today. I know it! Do you?

I wanna YELL ABOUT IT! That’s what A to Z was for me this year. Only one more post coming at you…Z is for….


Kristin King is a mom of four boys, US Army wife, and currently struggling with a nasty head cold–the kind of thing so trivial Irene never mentions it. Kristin wishes she was as stalwart as Irene.


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X is for Border Crossing

If you’ve been following A to Z, you know X is coming to you one day late. My apologies as I let a spring cold hold me back. Moving forward…

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

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

You also know that Irene crossed the East German border more than once in her years hidden as a boy. The first time, though, was one of the more harrowing at least until she was a young adult and fleeing spy accusations. This excerpt is much condensed, so, as always, I encourage you to get the rest of Irene’s memoirs.

Early in March of 1947 I set out to find my way across the border from East into West Germany [to look for my father]….Snow still covered the ground and an icy wind was blowing. From my hometown Chemnitz I was able to catch a train to…Glauchau….[next train to] Zwickau.

….I must have looked like…the homeless pitiful children who had come from [Poland]….They had pity on me and….gave me a cup of hot water that smelled like bouillon to which I added my two raw carrots Mama had given me for my trip….

“This little boy sure looks like he has come along way.”

“Poland?” suggested another?

I thanked them with a smile and stayed quiet.

….The next train took me to Plauen….Two men in western clothing were waiting on the platform, and I suspected by their speech that they were Czechoslavakians and that they must have been on the other side of the border before. A trail of ragged people, men and women, followed the two men.

….After all that zigzag riding we came back to Plauen and here we regrouped…..We finally reached the last train station, and beyond it was no man’s land, several miles of land between borders where nobody except for patrols were allowed to be. So we had to start walking. The leaders counted 22 people. Among us there were German soldiers who ran away from the Russians and wanted to be a POW with the Americans rather than with the Bolsheviks….Some women were among us but no children.

“Quiet!” whispered one of the Czechoslovakians sharply. “No talking or else.”

…in Lobenstein we came to an iron gate….I was pushed in the ribs….I saw some people arguing. Some woman had talked to a stranger….

As we got in a single-file line our silhouettes were like black shadow in the snow. It was then that I heard a sound that reminded me of someone chopping wood. No one said so, but I knew that the woman who had not obeyed orders was not with us anymore.

….Silently and swiftly we moved along…I began to doubt my strength to keep up. We were told that anyone dropping out would give the others away. I knew they had knives under their jackets and might kill anyone that got in their way.

….The soldier with a small bundle over his shoulder looked back and saw me struggling. Without a word, he grabbed my hand and pulled me a few meters uphill.

Our leaders whispered, “Don’t talk. Sound travels. Don’t step on any wood. It will snap and give us away.”

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.

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.

….My heart was pounding so loud that I felt everyone around me could hear….The snow was deeper here….The stream was a good eight feet wide and too far to jump to the other side.

“Take off your boots. Shoulder them and cross!” was the whispered command….The soldier and i were just behind the Czechoslovakians. They saw how frail and tired I was.

“Look,” one of them whispered in my ear. “Over this mountain in front of us, there is freedom. Let’s go and don’t stay behind.”

….I cried silently, knowing not to show weakness. I prayed silently. As I prayed, I felt my energy return. The icy water was not the worst of it. It was all the sharp stones on the bottom that made it hard to walk through. I knew if I didn’t make it, they would kill me here at the border. It happened every day and Mama and my brothers would wait in vain for my return. (Excerpt from Survive Little Buddy: Iron Curtain Memoirs by Irene Kucholick Copyright 1996. All rights reserved.)

They did not make it across without further mishap, and I laugh to read once more the invention of the Czech leaders. Even so, shots were fired. “Then I heard a bang,” Irene writes. “One of the bullets had hit something in my knapsack. Whatever it was, it saved my life.”

Once again I am struck by a small kindnesses, a a worn soldier lending a hand. A moment of encouragement, a little help, can shine brightly in a dark place. Most of us live so much better today, but we never know who around us might be in a dark place or dark moment of their lives. Our hand, our thoughtful word can be a light today as well (K is for Kindnesses).

Irene does not often reference her faith in her memoirs; this moment stood out to me. This is because in my own dark times, it was clinging to faith and prayer that brought me strength as well.


Kristin King is an author as well as the publisher of Irene Kucholick’s historical memoirs. Kristin lives as an expat in The Netherlands where the past few days have included 3 to 5 hailings amidst spring rain and occasional sunshine. Today she sat in the floor writing whilst her dog stretched out on the couch.

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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Memoirs & History


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W is for West Berlin Refugee Camp

Refugees and immigration are top news stories these days. Last month when I wrote about “Refugees In My Town” that post generated the most buzz until I wrote “Bullies With Bombs.” If we live in moderate safety and comfort, we tend to forget that conflicts, wars, and natural disasters leave other people without safety, without a home, and without refuge.

In 1953 Irene Kucholick became a refugee. Accused of being a spy by the oppressive, high security state that took over her homeland, she fled East Germany as a 24-year-old nurse (Full story in her book, Survive Little Buddy). For many years after World War 2, refugees from the Soviet occupied areas were turned back. When Irene escaped, however, the refugee camps in West Berlin and West Germany were well established.

In her own words, this is a little insight into the refugee process as it was then.

Quite a bit more hardship than the refugees in Holland right now.

Coming up….X is for Crossing the Border.


Kristin King is the publisher of Survive Little Buddy, Irene Kucholick’s collection of memoirs spanning her life growing up under the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, through her years hidden as boy from the Soviet Russians, to her young adult nursing career and escape from the comrades. Kristin is also quite proud of her son who put the production aspects of the featured videos together. He is quite happy to be making real money on a job that doesn’t involve household cleaning products or yard equipment.


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Posted by on April 27, 2016 in Memoirs & History


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V is for Video “I Was a Spy?”

The A to Z Challenge 2016 is nearly complete. Historical Treasure remains after this theme is relegated to the past. I hope Irene’s memoirs inspire you. As you requested, here is another video, this one only 1 minute. Subscribe to our youtube channel, Beyond the Book, for upcoming releases.

That’s the power punch there at the end. “When you feel you are hunted, you cannot think rationally anymore.”

Survive Little Buddy ends with Irene’s flight from East Berlin, but in the interviews you can get some insights beyond the book.  W is for West Berlin Refugee Camp.

Thanks to everyone for your likes, comments and shares.


Kristin King published Irene’s memoirs and continues to try to get the word out about this incredible story and the inspiring woman behind the Iron Curtain Memoirs. Visit Irene’s author page on Amazon for more information.

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Posted by on April 26, 2016 in Memoirs & History


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U is for Uranium Mine Punishment #AtoZChallenge #AtoZchat

Forced to participate in a Free German Youth march in East Berlin around 1952, nurse Irene Kucholick used the occasion to sneak across the border for the first time since her years hidden as a boy smuggling food to her family. Returning to share her dreams of living in the West with her fiance, Volker, Irene faces her worst struggle yet.

I loved Volker with all my heart, but I felt like a bird beating my wings against a wire cage trying to get out.

[At home]….The next morning the door bell rang and I opened the door to see Herr Viehstig, our Cultural Director, and some other Party people from Wiesen. Shocked, I gestured for them to come in.

….”You behaved disgracefully in Berlin, Irene,” Viehstig accused.

The blood drained from my face. I felt cold and shaky. He went on. “You did not know our national anthem and you refused to carry the flag.” He went on reading from list. “You tried to pick up an enemy leaflet and you were seen in West Berlin. Those are very serious accusations and you must be dealt with.” I was stricken by these charges which, for the most part, were true. How did they know I had been in West Berlin?

“You are suspended from duty until further notice.”

“I cannot go back to work?” I was incredulous.

“You shall work at hard labor in the uranium mines.” For how long was not clear.

….I first became a radiometrist. Carrying a Geiger counter, I walked both along the slope and underground in search of uranium….This was an easy job, but unfortunately it lasted only a few days and then I was reassigned.

Lorries brought heavy pitchblende out of the mine where they were put onto elevators and raised three or four stories high….I worked inside the freight cars with three others, mostly men. We shoveled the heavy dirt into the corners and sides so the car would fill evenly. Even though we used large shovels, if we did not shovel quickly enough, we would be covered by the pitchblende.

….I worked frantically to keep my corner of the car filled evenly….Workers not completing their work quota were docked on food rations….We worked feverishly and there was no time to look anywhere except at the hurtling black dirt. Every second counted.

Russian guards, posted in special watchtowers high above us, watched as we worked. If I had not known that I could go home that night, I would have thought I was already in a hard labor camp.

….I prayed, Please God, take me home. I have nothing more to lose on this ugly planet.

I tried mightily to keep up my share of the shoveling but could not complete it in time. Jumping from moving cars hurt my whole body.

….My shifts changed every week. The mines were operated around the clock and at a back-breaking pace.

….One evening Volker came to see me. He was visible shocked to see the weight I had lost. When he saw the difficulty I had standing up straight, he sat me down and took both my hands in his.

“Reni, my Reni, what are they doing to you? This is a enough. [My friend] Gretl, we must stop this cruelty.”

“We had better get her mother to come and talk to the Party officials,” Gretl said. “Irene cannot survive this work.”

….A few days later Gretl and Mama went to the Party officials but they were told that I had to learn my lesson. After many weeks I was assigned to work on a platform sorting rocks out of the pitchblende. The dirt came down with a tremendous noise. I never heard one human voice during the entire eight-hour shift.

…Volker asked Doctor S. to come see me. He came one evening and after his examination he said, “You are suffering from total exhaustion. I’m going to the Party people and see what I can do…” ….Good Doctor S. He really wanted to help.

Sometimes I thought that all the people talking on my behalf did more harm than good.

Once winter comes I will die, I thought.

And yet, she lives today in Maryland. Childless due to uranium exposure, Irene gives the gift of her story to future generations. When I read her memoirs they say: You are stronger than you think. You can face dark days and stand in the sunshine again reborn.


Kristin King is an author, publisher and co-founder of the nonprofit, Future Hope Africa. The closest she’s come to exposure to radiation is under a lead blanket during xrays. Living in Holland, Kristin finds it odd that the Dutch do not cover her sons or ask her to leave the room for xrays.


Posted by on April 25, 2016 in Memoirs & History


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T is for Temptation #AtoZChallenge #AtoZchat

Image from Coach Stacy's Healthy U

Image from Coach Stacy’s Healthy U

Potato Chips.

Chocolate Cake.

Milk Shake.

Many of our temptations are food associated, and doctors may say we’re risking our lives, but Irene’s food temptation (Iron Curtain Memoirs) involved flying bullets. Same temptation taken to a whole other level.

The mission was to find her father, search for him across the border in West Germany. What makes her dare the border patrols again is food for her family, for Mama, brothers Ortwin and Hartmut, and baby Christine.

Near the village of Stockheim I saw a woman in front of a farmhouse washing milk cans. I approached her. After explaining my needs, she faced me, put her hands on her hips and looked me up and down for a full minute. Then she said, “Come in the house.

I followed her.

“I am a war widow. I have a sizable farm and my foreign help has gone home. I grow produce and it is hard to get help….No one will work for so little money.” She poured me a glass of fresh milk then sat down and watched me drink it.

She looked very serious and said, “How about you? Are you interested in work?”

“I’ll have to think about it….I need food more than money.”

“I would let you go home every second weekend or so.”

“But how can I go back and forth safely?”

“I know a forest master well, he may be able to help you.”

“I don’t see how it could work, I mean, to help you on a continuous basis.”

“I’ll give you as much food as you can carry.”

Image from Picture-Alliance/dpa of post-war German refugee camp

Image from Picture-Alliance/dpa of post-war German refugee camp

To get food to Mama was a real temptation. To risk my life crossing the border again was another matter.

I hesitated, then said, “I’ll help for a while. Let me think about coming back after I try crossing the border again. It is very dangerous on the other side.” She nodded, saying she knew the border well.

I hesitated again, then took the plunge. “I must tell you something you don’t know. I am a girl.”

Her eyes widened and she looked at me more closely.

[Returning home after 2 weeks work] ….Everybody cried with joy….

“I looked and looked for Papa and I couldn’t find him.” I was out of breath and very tired. “Mama, I’ll go back to the farm where I worked and bring lots of good food home.”

“It’s too dangerous, I’m afraid you’ll be killed!”

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 1.32.46 PMI knew we could use the food. Everyone look so thin and hungry. With great pleasure, I watched their faces when we opened the knapsack and then the suitcase. A large piece of ham, and so much bacon. They had not seen this much meat since before the war.

Late in April I convinced Mama that I should try once more to cross the border….She hugged me as I left, saying, “God be with you Irene. Be careful.” Tears streaked her thin worried face. [Excerpts from Survive Little Buddy: Iron Curtain Memoirs Books 1, 2, and 3 in one volume. Copyright Irene Kucholick 1996. All rights reserved.]

Temptation. More meat than they’d seen since years before, since World War 2 began. Part of me can dimly understand while another part cannot imagine the risks. For A to Z “X” you’ll see one of her border crossings.

Jump forward with me to Nurse Irene times…U is for Uranium Mine Punishment.


Kristin King is an author and the publisher of Irene Kucholick’s Iron Curtain Memoirs. Baked goods, savory and sweet, are Kristin’s biggest temptations…and maybe one more round of Cookie Jam (think Candy Crush with baked goods).  Living in Holland, Kristin says the food temptations lean toward stroop waffle cookies, fries, and Dutch pancakes.

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Posted by on April 23, 2016 in Memoirs & History


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