Friday, July 7, 2017

Mom's WW2 Stories: Cemetery & Clogs

My mom was born not long before WW2 started. During the war, she lived with her mother and two years older sister in a port city of Poland, in the war port area.

Opposite the house where mom lived, there was a local cemetery ground. It was the place where she and other Polish children from the neighborhood used to play.  More regular playgrounds were usually occupied by German kids who tended to pick on their Polish contemporaries and call them names as well. Therefore, the cemetery seemed such a good area to play - it was quiet and peaceful. Mom and her pals could have fun there, not being assaulted by others. They played hide-and-seek among the graves and in the tombs. The children were neither afraid of the dead nor any ghosts. However, there was something they were scared of. It was the cemetery groundskeeper. The kids found the German man more terrifying than a ghost as he did not allow them to fool around at the graveyard.

When mom stood close to the cemetery fence, she could see the Baltic Sea and the naval crafts. One time it happened that sea was on fire when a hospital ship was bombed or hit by a torpedo. The barrels full of petrol which were on the ship exploded. The hospital was on fire and the burning petrol spilled on the sea waters. Then mom saw people - hospital patients - jumping into the flames trying to save themselves.

One day grandma asked her daughters to fetch some fresh grass for their pet rabbit. Well, the best grass grew in the cemetery so mom and her sister went there to pick some green and juicy grass blades. While the girls were busy with getting the food supply for the pet, the cemetery caretaker spotted them. He shouted at them and started running towards the sisters. When the two little ones realized what was going on, they knew it could mean troubles only.

'Run quickly! Run!' - as fast as they were able to, the girls rushed home. Their hearts were beating strong, the inveighing groundskeeper was approaching them...

Luckily, they managed to hide behind their apartment door. Mom was barefoot, though. She moved her legs so quickly, running back home, she lost the clogs she was wearing.

To your knowledge: during WW2, shoes were not available in stores for Poles. They were for German people only. The Polish could only purchase (if they had enough money of course) wooden clogs. And mom had a pair of her clogs too. She wore them most of the time - all year round - in the heat of the summer and on the freezing winter days too.

And now - disaster - they were gone!

Very soon there was a knocking on the door. It was the cemetery groundskeeper.

Groundskeeper: 'Are your children at home?'

Grandma: 'Yes.'

GK: 'Were they out not long ago?'

G: 'No.'

GK: 'Are these your child's clogs?' He demonstrated the wooden shoes to grandma.

G: 'No.'

GK: 'I will leave them here anyway.'

And he did put mom's clogs on the staircase floor, not far from their apartment door.

What a relief it was - close shave!

The girls not only did not get beaten by the cemetery caretaker, but he also appeared to be not such a bad man at all. And mom got her footwear back!

All in all, it did not change the fact that later, the groundskeeper continued scaring away the kids if they happened to play in the graveyard.

The above photo was taken during the war - the dresses and the girls' sandals were made by their mother, my grandma.

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