RSS

Tag Archives: soviet occupation

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.

___________________

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.

Advertisements
 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 7, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.)

______________

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.

 
3 Comments

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,