You can see here how Irene’s childhood during World War 2 inspired her nursing career. She wanted to help those who were suffering. As a young adult living under the thumb of the Soviets, she fell in love for the first time and achieved her nursing dream. Life was precarious even in the hospital where any misstep might lead to being punished or disappeared.
Our political teachers [at the hospital] called venereal diseases the capitalistic diseases. Everything they disliked was labeled “capitalistic.” On the other hand, all technical achievements were invented by the Russians.We secretly laughed about those foolish claims.
The order came that we must meet once each week to learn how to become better Communists. One-fifth of the hospital personnel now wore party pins. They reminded me of the Nazi pins our school teachers wore. Once seated in a meeting, a list was sent around with instructions to “sign your name.” Party authorities checked those who came to the meetings and reprimanded those who did not attend.
….When I returned to work [after vacation] I found more people had joined the Communist Party to put themselves in better employment situations. Even Herr Viehstig, a custodian who only had an elementary education at the time, was advanced to be our second Culture Director.
….It was important to be respectful toward the Culture Directors, and we had two of them. They had the power to send people away for severe punishment and they did. Sister Wally, an RN, and her husband were arrested after her husband was accused of having done some work for the West. Authorities felt Sister Wally must have known about his activities, so she was also arrested…We never heard how many years people were sentenced to serve, and I never saw her again.
How strange life can be. When Sister Wally was arrested some people spoke in whispers about what had happened. They tried to look the other way. Sadly, some of these same people got arrested only a few years later. The heavy hand of communism snatched people from our midst just as the Nazis had taken our Jewish neighbors. [Excerpted from Survive Little Buddy, Book 3, Escape to Freedom. All rights reserved.]
Kristin King is the publisher of Irene Kucholick’s memoirs. She is looking forward to the next time she is able to visit Irene in Maryland.