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Helen Rodak-Izso

The Last Chance to Remember




We were liberated on May 2, 1945 in Muritz, a town not far from Hamburg, which the Russians instantly renamed Malchow. The picture of such a place is indescribable. We had won our freedom for which we had longed for such a long time, but it was difficult to handle. We would come and go, then stop and gaze about without a point, still in rags. Our hair started to grow, but we still looked awkward, strange. We didn't have guards anymore, but the whole place was like an ant's nest, swarming and in constant agitation from all sides, uncertain coming and going.

Malchow had a camp too, but we didn't visit there. After our experiences on the roads, farms, all over in barns, finally we were in a city, just walking around not quite aware yet what was going on around us and with us. On our wandering tour we had lived through so much, in the open air, that it was unbelievable to walk on sidewalks among houses, where people lived their ordinary lives, day following day. We were bewildered when we saw the milling crowd, where everybody talked a different language, only Babel could have been similar.

The streets were full with such semi-conscious people like us, who had not yet awoken. People were excited, but everyone reacted differently. Some became very quiet, not knowing what happened around them. Some again were loud, intoxicated with the sudden joy. Others again were distrustful, but tried to believe that all this was real and true.

We were walking slowly, looking around not believing that nobody was behind us with rude remarks, cruelly shouting at us. On our walks we came upon a little house which was abandoned because the people had run for a safer place. The owner was a seaman serving overseas with the navy. His wife and their two children had gone to live with her parents who lived on the other side of the city. Between the two homes was a bombed out bridge which was useless, so for a while we felt safe there. Seven of us made ourselves comfortable in that house. The lice disappeared, because their biggest enemy is warm water and cleanliness. We bathed as often as was possible and could not enjoy enough our clean place, the warm water which we used and used limitlessly. We enjoyed our freedom enormously, nobody was following or watching us, and we took our baths without guards.

We tried to start a new life which was still a big puzzle for us for a long time. We were trying to find ourselves, somebody, something, which unfortunately disappeared, vanished forever. We didn't belong to anybody, to any place. We didn't have papers, we didn't have money and we didn't know what peace of mind meant!

We kept the house clean and in order and didn't take anything. We only used her wood for boiling water or cooking. The wood was neatly prepared, cut up for use in the kitchen range.

We learned then and there that a liberating army has three days of freedom to run riot, which the soldiers used up freely. If they found something to drink, their mood was better and this, their behaviour was our next, constant fear, anguish. We tried to behave civilly and didn't ruin anything. She could have been robbed by others, so in a way our hostess was lucky.

In our "home" everybody helped in some way. Some were able to "organize," to find some food, others did the cooking or cleaning, or just helping in the kitchen. We started to prepare ourselves for the big journey, going home. At first with fearful feelings to face the very truth, that was in store for us

We made inquiries at the station, but there was no information, nobody knew anything. The only advice was to come there and wait, because everything was so uncertain.

During these days we were very careful with eating for we knew how dangerous it can be for a starved body which is still too weak to have much food. Unfortunately many of us were lost in the last days or even after the liberation, which was a real tragedy. In the last days before leaving we made some knapsacks and one of our fellow comrades Mrs. Fodor, knew how to sew. So our trousers became skirts and slowly we started to look like human beings.

I want to remember those unfortunate young and old victims who became ill with typhus towards the end and couldn't live to see the day for which we were praying and waiting all the time. Unfortunately many were lost by eating more than a weakened stomach and body could take.

The day came when we said good-bye to the place which gave us temporary shelter. Here we had the opportunity to try to regain our composure, to try to start a new life as human beings, after our ordeal. It was more complicated than we anticipated, but it was just the beginning, like a baby's first steps! The lady, our hostess did a good deed unknowingly and we think of her and her home with our thanks.

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