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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 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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Y is for YELL ABOUT IT

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.

Share.

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….

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 
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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.

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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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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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Q is for Questions from Readers

2nd Edition mockup cover of My World War 2 Childhood (Book 1)

2nd Edition mockup cover of My World War 2 Childhood (Book 1)

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…

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)

 

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.)

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.

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.

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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….

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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