Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mom's WW2 Stories: Red Box

Some time after the war officially ended, mom got a new pair of shoes. Well, not from a store as footwear was still not available in regular shops. A lady who lived in the neighborhood presented them to mom. The shoes used to belong to the woman's daughter but the girl no longer needed them. No, not because she grew out of them. She just did not need them anymore.


One day the girl played out together with three boys. They found an unexploded bomb, maybe they tried to move it or just trifled with it, nobody knows. Anyhow, the bomb went off and all the kids were killed. And the girl did not need those shoes anymore.

One day, mom and her friend R, a girl around her age, were walking to a girl scouts meeting. The girls were talking and playing, chasing each other from time to time. Suddenly R noticed something on the road, close to the pavement.

"Ah, what a nice red box!", she cried.

The box looked lovely indeed. It was small, red, round and shiny. Like a cute little gift waiting there to be found.

"Kick it!", mom said to her friend.

And R did. At the very same moment the nice, red, and shiny box turned into a blast - fire, and shrapnel. The former one hit R who ignited the detonation with the kick. Mom got all the shrapnel.

Instead of reaching the girl scouts meeting point, the two girls were rushed to a nearby hospital. R was injured, one of her legs was terribly burned. Mom had pieces of metal stuck in her eyes, chest, legs, and arms.

R's burns were treated but her leg got crippled in the result of the injuries. However, according to the doctors, the disability was possibly temporary if the follow-up physical therapy would be exerted at home. R was released from the hospital. Mom does not know whether the girl's leg was treated/exercised afterward. Probably it was not as R limped since then and her condition never improved.

Mom (a few-year-old girl at the time) spent quite a long time at the hospital. Nevertheless not much was done to help her. The girl's body was powdered every day and covered with paper bandages. Mom says it was toilet paper - well, possibly it was, I guess, the hospital supply was rather poor those days. Anyway, her condition was getting worse, she could not see either - her eyes were seriously wounded. As for the only effective treatment, the doctors suggested removing both mom's eyes and her left leg. The limb - not cleansed but powdered only - was hit with gangrene. Fortunately, mom's mother did not agree to that radical procedure and took her little girl back home.

Not only mom's leg but her entire body, covered with powder, was in a terrible condition. Grandma started treating her daughter on her own. The lady bought kali hyper manganicum in a pharmacy. The tiny purple crystals which are to be dissolved in some amount of water have antiseptic properties (they are still available without a prescription in Poland - to be used on the body surface only).

Anyway, grandma cleansed her daughter's body and started removing the shrapnel pieces from her arms and legs with sterilized tweezers . Mom recalls it was all very painful. Her mother patiently took out a few bits of metal at a time. However, she did not try to touch the ones which were stuck too deep in the girl's eyes and chest. Grandma's care and the kali manganicum washes saved mom and her left leg. Even though the convalescence lasted long. Mom's eyes healed and the vision in her right eye came back. Thanks to grandma her daughter could live and play as she had before the calamitous incident.

What stayed with mom was the shrapnel which could not be removed and the thought which has bothered her all her life: "If I had not told R to kick that box, nothing would have happened to her".

I advised mom to consider something else. Very likely, if her friend had not kicked that red box, attracted by the look of the item, she would have possibly picked it up and tried to open it. The result of that would have been even more tragic then. Possibly, she actually saved her friend's life.

The war was over, life was slowly coming back to normal but such (often lethal) accidents happened almost every day. People who were lucky to survive WW2 died or got seriously injured due to booby traps, delayed bomb, and missile explosions.

Mom and her mom - picture taken during the war

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