“Who is the most memorable character in your book?
I did just that, the name I gave was “Gila” who was the heroine of “We Don’t Talk About That” whose story is an amazing story of survival. After several days had passed I went on to post the following on LinkedIn:
I am surprised how much text many of you wrote. For my part I tried to keep my posting very short. Now I may add a bit more of Gila’s story titled “We Don’t Talk About That“:
Christmas 1944 – it was the last year of my childhood but I did not know it then.
During the month of January 1945 the Russians made rapid advances into Germany. For my eleventh birthday nobody came to visit because people had been robbed or even killed by German deserters for clothing or money, everyone stayed safely at home. A few days later our teacher announced that the school would be closed, permanently. The Red Cross would turn it into a field hospital since the front was very close. We had heard the noise of the fighting for days now. Mr. Koenig had tears in his eyes when he, with a breaking voice, said “Good Bye children, may God be with you. We may never see each other again.” As we left he shook our hand instead of looking at the usual ‘Heil Hitler’.
That afternoon the church doors were wide open despite the cold. The organ was played ‘with all the stops pulled’ as the village folks said. And that was where the Russians found him, his wife sitting by his side. ……
It was very dark when some horrible screams woke me up. I thought it was a bad dream, but my dad whispered: “Please, be quiet, be very quiet.” We heard some loud cursing and the house door was opened and closed with a bang. The screams came from Helen and Betty. Several Russians had raped them. Their grandfather had tried to protect them and was brutally beaten. When he was unconscious they just threw him out the door and went on with their business. To our horror we found him dead and frozen in the morning. …..
A couple of days later all men and women between sixteen and sixty years of age were horded together, the unfit and nursing mothers were pushed aside, the rest were taken to Siberia. …..
The first Russians moved on and the next ones evicted everyone. We just followed all the other villagers with no idea where to go. We walked across a field where the mighty Russians had killed the last of the fighting German army. Body parts lay scattered. I pushed the pram with my baby sister. My mother called out “Gila, don’t look to your right.” Tell a kid not to do that! A soldier with his head beside him leaned against a fence. His legs were not attached but on the other side of the pram. This sight became a nightmare for me for many years.
Arriving at a house where about 40 women and children were standing around we asked if we could join them. One woman said “The more the merrier, that way we might get away with just one soldier raping each of us instead of a whole army.” The Russians locked us all into one small living room. One spoke a little German. Asked why the Russians raped young girls as well as old grandmothers he shrugged his shoulders, and said “Woman is woman. Has hole.” …..
The above is just a short part of the book. Gila, her mother and sisters walked on with hundreds of thousands of others alongside the Russian war machinery on their victorious march towards Berlin for three weeks, no food, no water, disease, lice; the dead and dying were just left in the ditch. …..
Starting towards the end of 1945 the rebuilding of some kind of order, school, farm work, the establishment of East and West German States, followed by Gila’s haphazard education to become a PhysEd teacher, kayak sport, escape to West Berlin, an unwanted affair, a confrontation with a convicted rapist on parole became all too much. Gila had just one wish: To get out of Germany, to get away, to emigrate, to be free, to start a new life.
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