The two girls I was working with came from Russia. Nadia was a bit flighty and only interested in boys, but Katia was lovely. Her home was in Siberia. She was a medical student and had been studying in western Russia when the Germans arrived and she and many others had been brought here to help in the war effort.
She said if only she could let her parents know that she was all right, it would make her very happy. We often talked about her home. She begged me to go with her to meet her parents after the war. I didn't like the idea of living in Siberia. I said it would be too cold, but she laughed and told me I would be dressed in fur, and in her home was a fireplace that reached to the ceiling. It would burn all day and all night. We could ride on a sleigh drawn by two horses. They'd have bells round their necks and we would be wrapped up in bearskins. It all sounded wonderful. For her, life was not too bad apart from being so far away from home. Lots of other foreign people, especially the Slavis, had a miserable existence. They were poorly clothed, very hungry and frightened. I saw a lot of them roaming the streets, hanging around outside shops in the hope of someone kind and brave enough to share a little food with them. One day I went with my mum to the baker for bread. One such person was sitting on the floor just by the entrance. My mum broke the kilo loaf in half and handed one part to me saying to give it discreetly to the poor fellow in the hope someone in Russia will do the same to my brother. I did so, and immediately this chap kissed my feet. After getting home, my mum told me that my brother Günter (the sailor) was reported missing in action. His ship had been sunk and because new ones could not be built, the survivors got sent to the Eastern Front. The Russian invasion was on, and things were getting bad for us.
The Commanding Officer reported that the Russian attack came so sudden. My brother was wounded but they had been forced to leave all the wounded behind. After a while, the Germans retook the place and my brother was not found among the dead. That was all he could tell us. No Prisoners of War were allowed to write, so we could only live in hope of ever seeing him again.
Mum was still sewing for long hours. We lived in a posh house in what used to be an exclusive Jewish quarter of the town. Many had left for America in the pre-war days. Mostly the old. Women and children had stayed behind. One such family lived above us. The husband had left. His elderly parents, two young children, pregnant wife, widowed sister, and spinster sister-in-law stayed behind. My mother and his wife Mrs Blatt, were good friends. She would call on us almost daily, and while my mum would carry on sewing, they would spend hours talking. She never complained, only say "I hope we can keep a roof over our heads". The spinster sister, Miss Spiller, worked in a munition factory. The old people died. One day the SS called for the widow - she was about 35 years of age, and told her to pack her things and follow. She said she didn't need anything but would they allow her to have a bath. They agreed, and after a while when she hadn't come out of the bathroom, they went into the bathroom and found her dead. She was a doctor and had ended her own life. Once a large, happy family, had crumbled to Mrs Blatt, Helga about eight years old, Achim perhaps six and baby Eli plus her sister. Unprotected, and with no rights in a hostile environment. I don't know where her income came from, but this family started to sell off their possessions.