Life in Poland

Greetings from Poland!

Hanna (1932)

Before I dive in, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Hanna and thanks to my American friend Veronica Leigh, I am able to relay some of my story to you on this strange place called a blog. Along with the many other things I do, these letters to you must remain a secret… at least from my family and friends, and naturally from the Nazis who have overrun my country. You may share it with others if your country believes in freedom of thought and freedom of speech. Yet in Poland 1942, like my diary (which you will learn more about later) if this blog is discovered, my family and I will face certain death.

Hanna and her friend Celia
The Early Years
Let me begin at the beginning. It will make more sense that way. I was born in 1927 and for the first twelve years, I lived a fairly idyllic life. My Tata was the manager of a factory that produced enamel ware while my Mamusia cared for my pesky sister Marta and me. I went to Mass every Sunday, school during the weekdays, and to the cinema with my friends on Saturday mornings and then in the afternoons we put on plays adapted from our favorite books. When “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” premiered in Poland, I went to the theater three times to watch it. Then through the radio and my movie magazines I learned that “The Wizard of Oz” was being made into a colorized movie! I couldn’t wait to see it. After all, Judy Garland is my favorite actress. I was fascinated by the magical story of a girl transported from her boring life and thrust into a vibrant world. Little did I know that the exact same thing would happen to me, except in reverse. I was ripped from my colorful world and plunged into darkness.

The War
On September 1, 1939, my perfect little world came to a standstill. The Nazis invaded my country, Poland, triggering WWII. Our brave men and boys fought for over a month but they were no match for Hitler’s monstrous force of destruction. Soon my once-free world was swamped with death, endless restrictions and oppression. The Nazis believed that all of the races in the world were entangled in a battle to become the dominate race and that the Aryan race was the purest and strongest. Other races and certain peoples like us Poles, the Jews (more on them later), Gypsies, mentally ill, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses should be either suppressed or eliminated.
"Only For Germans"

The Poles
The Nazis have declared that the Slavic peoples, including us Poles, are “untermenschen.” Translated, that means “sub-human.” As of 1942, they have murdered thousands while turning others into slave laborers. Those of us who remain in what they now call the “General Government,” we must work for their advantage and remain inferior to them. Polish children over a certain age are forbidden to have an education. That may sound fun, not having to go to school, but keep in mind this is only meant to keep us in our place. Everyone fourteen and older must have a job (I am a maid) or risk deportation to Germany for labor. Most that are taken are never heard from again. My Tata lost his high position at the factory and was delegated to work on one of the assembly lines. The Nazis have interfered in our church services and have restricted our religious practices. Ration coupons have been issued; our calorie intake is not even half of a German’s and you can just forget about shopping. Food is hard enough to come by.

Here is a short list of do’s and don’ts:
1. No books, newspapers or other literature- meaning my favorite series, “Anne of Green Gables,” is off limits to me! (However, I own many of L.M. Montgomery’s books and read them secretly just to spite the Nazis)
2. No cinema- in many areas it is forbidden for us to watch movies. It has been three years since I’ve seen a movie.
3. No radio- The Nazis do not want us listening to the BBC or anything critical of them.
4. No music- Forget hearing Judy Garland’s or Billie Holiday’s newest songs or even one of Chopin’s polonaises.
5. No swimming pools- ponds are good enough for us.
6. No Theater- We Poles have a love for the theater and plays. Naturally the Nazis forbid this too, but we have ways of getting around it. Many people my age put on underground theatricals.
7. No Education- Polish children are permitted a few years of schooling, to teach the basics and for them to learn how to take orders. No gymnasium (your equivalent of high school) and no university. Those who are brave enough, study privately in underground classes.
8. That is just some of their crazy regulations. If we happen to break one of these laws, we could be taken to the town square and shot.

9. There is one last rule that I have intentionally left out- No contact with the Jews.

The Jews
The Jews are the most despised of the “sub-human” races. The Nazis have selected them solely for annihilation. To make it easier, the Jews have been relocated to ghettos. What is a ghetto, you may ask? It is a space within a city or village, divided from the rest of the population by walls, fences and barbed wires. The Jews cannot leave the ghetto unless escorted, although some sneak out for food or just to live separately. I’m not aware of all that goes on there, since my parents have forbidden me from approaching those fences and walls, but I’m not stupid. If we Poles do without, the Jews have even less. Disease runs rampant there, as well as starvation. You can’t help but feel sorry for them, but what else can be done? What can I or anyone else do?

The Diary
Yes, I have a diary. It is the only avenue I have of telling my story. It has become a true friend to me in these dark times. As I said before, it must remain secret, from my own family too. They would never allow me to have a keep a diary, because it is far too dangerous. Were it to fall in the wrong hands, if the Nazis ever discovered it, I would face death. They cannot bear any kind of criticism. Though it is risky for me to write, I can’t stop. I won’t stop. I am no different than any other girl my age who wants to keep a diary. Why must I be punished? 

No comments:

Post a Comment