At the age of about nine, in the year 1939, Alexandra Grochowska (my grandmother) experienced the terrors of World War 2. She lived in a town called Lodz with her parents and two sisters, one, two years older and one, two years younger. On the 1st of September (the day that war broke out) it was warm and sunny Alexandra and her sisters, knowing the war was coming, went for a swim in the nearby dam.As they swam they saw a group of german plains flying overhead, heading for Warszawa (Polands capital city), this meant the war was starting. However many things happened that day, to signal the start of the war, being so young, reality did not hit home. At the end of that day, Alexandra and her sisters arrived back at home, nothing happened for the next few days, the last days of her happy childhood.
In the next few days the German Army invaded Lodz, closed down all the Polish schools and introduced curfew hours between 9:00pm and 6:00am. Jews were told to sew 6 pointed stars onto their clothes and some of her best friends were Jews. Alexandra’s parents and all polish people were told to purchase black paper to cover their windows with at night time when their lights were on so that the city could not be spotted by plains flying overhead. In trams, Alexandra, like all other polish people, was not allowed in the first cart which was always reserved for Germans. Her city’s name was changed to a german one (Lizmanstad), as well as all the city street names. Food tickets were brought in for bread, milk,meat etc. All of a sudden the life she had known had completely changed, she had to growup quickly to adjust to the situation.
All Polish schools had been shut down, so in a daring move teachers put their lives on the line to organise secret lessons. Alexandra went to these lessons and one in particular stuck out in her mind. They were sitting in the makeshift classroom learning when, suddenly, the son of the teacher,who was standing on lookout, burst in the door saying that the German patrol is coming,in all the panic and comotion of re-arranging the room one boy panicked and jumped out of the first floor window. In jumping out of the window his ring finger (which had a ring on it) got caught on a nail which was protruding out of the sill. As a consequence his finger stayed on the nail while he fell to the ground and passed out. Luckily the patrol did not notice him and moved on.
Another prominant memory was that fo the “round-ups” in the streets, in which the Germans would block off a full street and sweep every apartment in the street and “rounded-up” men and people with higher education who were not working, and sent them off to concentration camps and working camps. Luckily,at that time, Alexandra’s father worked in a German owned factory(all factories at that time belonged to germans) so, he was not taken.
From the age of 14 all polish children had to work for the Germans. Alexandra worked in a factory which made gloves and socks for the German army. When leaving the factory every afternoon, she had to do something resembling a lucky dip,where,she took diffrent coloured balls from a container,if, she picked a red ball she had to go through a strip search to see if she was stealing any gloves and/or socks, and because she always took gloves and socks she was very lucky never to get caught and was always very posetive that she would never pick a red ball (allother coloured balls except red meant they could go through unchecked).
At the beggining of 1942 the Germans opened a jewish gheto, it was an enclosed part of the city where jews were dieing of hunger and exhaustion because of thr intensive labour and no medical attention. Then in 1943 the gheto in Lodz was closed down and all remaining people were taken to Aushwitz. Alexandra lost quite a lot of friends in this gheto.
The German Occupation was now ending and the people of Poland were very excited about the freedom they thought was coming.
Alexandra’s last memories of world war two were that of when the Germans were leaving,to remove the evidenceof their war crimes, they burned down the prison where they held inconvient Polish people. Most were burned, those of them who tied to escape the flames and jumped out the windows were shot by the Germans who were waiting for the “survivors.” Alexandra is now 75 and she can still remeber the sight of the burned bodies, but the image in her mind is evermore reinforced by the fact that this was supposed to be the beginning of freedom for Poland.
Through Alexandra Grochowska (my grandmother) we can all learn the history of poland through her eyes. Within her story there is a message to the future generations. It is a proven fact that war destroys lives and leaves never healing scars in our memories. And as Alexandra said “i would never like to live through another war again.”