Wednesday, December 3, 2008

the Babci interview

If you read my blog about Babci, I finish it with a few paragraphs from a narrative I wrote up from Babci several years ago. I lost the last few pages of it, but here's what I do have. She was the most pragmatic, practical and loving woman out there, and I hope that you see that in her words here...

I am from Poland, from a very small town. Its name is B. I was taken when I was twenty years old to Germany to work during the war. You see, when they took our country, there were not enough workers in Germany for the factories. So whomever had three kids, one went to Germany for six months. But that wasn't true. After six months, the war wasn't over. I guess they thought that the war would be quick. I worked for a little while in a soap factory, for oh, three or four months.

In the soap factory, there are many departments, and I did as many jobs as they needed. Some workers can switch easily, don't take a long time to get used to the new job, and that is what I did.

But then, my boss's maid had a baby. I went to work in his household as a maid. It was June of 1942 when I went to Germany. The war was over in 1945, but I couldn't go home because of the Russians.

There was no mail to Poland. I could not write my family. My family was very persecuted there. It is hard to understand or to put on paper. My father didn't want to submit to the Russian guidelines. They were not right. He believed everyone is free and can live free - just like we do here. But the communists, they have a different system. My father said no. If my father said OK, then the rest of the people would go, too. This is why he was treated so badly by the Russians.
My father was honored by the people: he helped whomever needed help, so the people supported him. He suffered a lot because of this; he gave in at the end.

All this was after the war, though. During the war, the Germans were there and life stayed the same. When the Russians conquered the Germans, they inflicted their rights.
After the war, I couldn't go home because of the Russians. So I became D.P., that's a displaced person. I didn't have anywhere to go, so a good friend took me in. Her name was AW. I knew her from working in the factory. Yes, she was German. I lived with her and her parents and sewed for people. They were very good to me, and I agreed to stay in Germany until it was free for me to get on a plane, or a bus, or a train to go home. But that never happened.

I had an uncle living in the United States, and he invited me to come stay with him. I really didn't want to go. You see, the first time you move to another country, you don't know what to expect, but the second time, you know the hardships you will have to face. And I already had a family in Germany.

But my uncle kept asking me, so I came for six months. I came from the Germany on a boat, the Stuart. That was an empty United States military boat. We didn't have to pay, just clean the boat. We were fourteen days on the sea. Lots of people was seasick the whole time. There were all kind of people on the boat, like me, displaced.

But they were a different kind of displacement. They had to leave the territory for various reasons. Some of them, the Germans have to take them out of their homes because of the war. It wasn't punishment, but they still lost their homes because of the war. Then the Russians came. Before going to the United States, they lived in, where is the military home? If you are drafted, you don't take an apartment, you go to training. Well, that is where the D.P.'s lived, there was lots of room there after the war.

But when I arrived here, I couldn't go back, because I didn't have the money. This was 1952, I was 30 years old. So I found a job at a dress factory. In 1953, I met, uh, Daddy - W. He came to visit my uncle: he is related to my aunt. He asked me to marry him and I agreed. We were married in 1953.

That was another hard decision to be made. He was a sick and he needed the work. But he could speak English. I could speak almost very little English then. I still wanted to go back, too. I couldn't go back to Poland, the Russians don't deal so merciful, they treat the people who come back like traitors. But the Lord showed me if I was to go back to Germany... well, here, I knew I will have many difficulties to overcome, but there are blessings here too. So I knew I had to stay.

We got a little apartment, and we bought a house, this house where we are now, in 1954. Our daughter A was born in 1954 and S came in 1955. Life went on. Going back home was something that I no longer hoped for. I learned more English, God gave me new friends, and a church, and I grew in loving him.

I am still a displaced person. I didn't take U.S. citizenship. People have told me it would be very easy, married to an American citizen. I just never applied for it, though. I don't regret it, I never needed to use it. I never traveled more than to Baltimore to visit S and her family. I feel like a U.S. citizen. And I still could have returned to Germany.

I'm not illegal, I'm married to a U.S. citizen. And I have the, what is it? The pink, no, the green card, l came to the U.S. because I needed a country. I have the privilege to live here. Nobody ever asked me for anything. No, no problem with social security either.

My friends from Germany passed away. One girl is still alive. I can't do the German anymore, I can't keep in touch with them anymore anyway. After a long time, you know, you lose the language. I tried to read it for a long time. A family I lived with here before I married was German, but they sold their house and moved to California ten years later. They were kind of like parents to me, their son is back in Germany. So I lost the German.

I never talked to my sister. We write, but we don't talk. Only my sister is now living. My brother have a three sons. My other sister has three children living in Russia. This sister is living in a small country between Russia and Poland. So you see, they're all in different countries.
The Russians took the two sisters. Only my brother stayed. He was in a different part of Poland which became free, after I was already here.

I would wanna go back now for a visit. You know, from the beginning I worked to go back. Because, you know, there was home. Here, I had to learn everything, the language, the responsibilities.

The Lord gave me three families. The first was when I was born. The second was in Germany, people loved and supported me. Then the Lord gave me the third family which is here in the United States.

He replaced the things with what I needed in life. Here is good, but here is a struggle for survival. People say here is everything, and they are right, here is a everything, but you have to struggle to survive. You have to know how to do something, how to get places. You see, these kinds of struggles, they are every place existing. We have to adapt, we have to know how to conquer.

I love my other two families. You don't lose the attitude, you don't lose the love. I cherish them all. Now I have bigger number of people to love. Yes, I would love to go back to Poland to visit!
But I know in my heart it is impossible for me. It is hard to travel when you are old. I have a husband who is needing care. Someday, when we see the Lord, we will all see each other Just to feel you want to is too much trouble for the people. My daughters would be worried to make sure I get there, that I don't get lost. My desire would be very costly.

In Germany, almost everyone is gone. At home, too. The price would be much too big. Sometimes we have to put our desires behind to do what is right...

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