Friday, January 9, 2009

Babci and the day her life was spared

Babci was taken to Germany to work in a factory near the beginning of the war. Apparently, once Poland was occupied, every family with four or more children was expected to send one child to help with the war effort in Germany. It seems that Zoshka from her teenage years took a self-sacrificial approach to life, so she volunteered for the scary adventure. Her youngest sister was probably the one everyone expected would go, but she was still in high school and there may have been some other reasons why Babci didn't want her sister leaving home. So my Babci worked hard to eventually convince her parents to let her make the move to Germany.

There, she joined the ranks of hundreds of other women on an assembly line - we think they were making soap. The manager of the factory was apparently a bit of a flirt. He was always chatting up the women working in the factory, and may have been quite liberal in his relations with them as well. One day, Babci scolded him, saying, "You're a married man. You shouldn't do that," and from that point on she beligerently called challenged his sense of morality.

So after she'd been working at the factory for a little while, perhaps a year, the factory manager's wife asked him to help her find a new maid. Their maid was pregnant and so was going to take some time off. But she was a good maid, so the manager's wife only wanted to find someone temporary to work in their house while the regular maid was on maternity leave. The factory manager thought through the women working on the floor and remembered the Polish girl who didn't give him a break. He called her in and offered her a job, saying, "Because you won't let me cheat, I know you won't cheat me."

I'm not sure what happened to the other maid, but we know that Babci never went back to working at the factory. Once working for the manager's wife in their home, she kept that job for quite some time. She became friends with a young German about her age named Anna. Whenever Babci mentioned Anna, she referred to her endearingly as her "German spiritual sister." Anna took her to her church, where Babci became quite involved. There were several single women there and they became good friends. They went on outings together: we have a photo of them bike riding. These women became like family to each other. Zoshka was very happy during these years, which extended well beyond the end of the war. She never wanted to leave German. In fact, when she did settle down in America, her closest friends were Germans. She remained a part of the Polish community, because those were her family, but the people with whom she chose to associate were mainly German.

I'm sure there was a great deal of adventure during those years in Babci's life, but she didn't talk much about the difficult memories. There was one story that she shared, though, because God really spoke to her through the way he saved her life.

Apparently, at some point during her life in Germany - maybe during the war, maybe after - she had a job that entailed going to an apartment building daily to turn on the oil burner. She had to let herself into the building, which was right across the street from her, at a specific time and check to make sure the burner was on, or else turn it on. It was a simple job, but it had to be done at the same time each day. One day she couldn't find her key to the building. She searched high and low and couldn't find it. Being a tremendously conscientious employee, she got very upset. She began to worry that she'd be in trouble because she was going to be late. As the hour for her to check the oil burner approached, she fretted and searched, worried and looked everywhere she could think of. Then right at the appointed hour, she heard an explosion. She looked across the street and saw that the apartment building had blown up (been bombed?). A few minutes later, in the aftermath of the explosion, she happened upon the key as if it had never gone missing.

On that day, she realised that God had sparked her life for a reason - not necessarily anything grandiose by human terms, I now realise, but for something meaningful nonetheless.

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