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Rita's Story


Germany was being divided into four zones.  We were allocated to the British and soon we became re-occupied, first by the Scots, then the English, and lastly the Welsh.  Curfew at 2100hrs was our only inconvenience.  Everyone complied and life wasn't so bad after all.  The bakery and the butcher re-opened and food became more plentiful.  On Sundays we would go to church and meet other DPs.  That's where we heard about the Red Cross in Berlin where people like us should register in order to find their loved ones again.

Two years went by before I decided it was time to find out if it would be possible to return home to Wroclaw.  To do this, I would need to take to the road, so to make travelling easier, I decided to go alone.  We all had identity cards and curfew was 2100 hours, after which no-one was allowed on the streets.  With a bag of food and this in mind, I would try and make my way West.

I left my family in the summer, knowing I would have to sleep out in the open and the nights would not be too cold.  I walked miles on my first day.  Lots of other people must have had the same idea because the roads were crowded.  I wondered to myself where they were going.  I minded my own business.  Now and then a car or lorry would pass and slowly the traffic became heavier.  Suddenly, people were travelling in every direction; even begging lifts from total strangers.  I thought a poor ride was better than a good walk and the East was so far away, that I took my chance and begged a lift.  My luck was in.  The driver was a Czechoslovakian on his way to the border which divided West Germany with East Germany so he told me.  Until then I had never heard of such a division. I asked didn't he mean the Germany/Poland border and he said "My dear girl.  Where have you been that you do not know?"  I could have cried.  We travelled on in silence, and all the time I thought "It can't be true".  It was late afternoon when we arrived at the border.  I thanked the gentleman and made my way towards the station.  So many people were there, that it looked like some kind of rally.  There were no trains as yet, but if one should come, then everybody was ready.  The train would be expected to take us all back east and home.  As the night drew near, some people got down on their knees to pray that God would send a train in the morning.  In the waiting room, people were packed like sardines.  On the floor, they lay side by side.  There wasn't even standing space so I crouched down in the porch.  I looked up to the sky where the moon was very bright, and I wondered if the same moon was looking down on my home town so far away.  I decided I wasn't going to stay here but that I would find my own way ....... Somehow.

The following day, after walking a few miles, I sat own by the roadside to rest.  I thought that I must, by now, surely be behind the Iron Curtain.  There wasn't a soul in sight: neither man nor beast.  In front of me there was a tree-covered hill, then as I looked across, I thought I saw a flicker of sunlight.  Past experience had taught me to be very cautious.  As I peered in the direction from where the light had come, I could see a Russian guard, and he had binoculars!  I froze to the spot in sheer panic.  I always thought I had a guardian angel, but now I was sure.  I changed direction and came upon a corn field where people were stacking sheaves.  I pushed up my sleeves and in no time, I was doing the same.  As I was working, I also asked questions like how far it could be to the Russian border.  I was told that I was in the Eastern zone. When I asked whether there were any soldiers, I was told that there weren't.  As soon as I'd worked my way to the end of the field, I picked up my shopping bag and, turning the corner my heart stood still.  On my side of the road was a tent, and outside it sat four burly Russian soldiers.  One more was standing, holding an enamel bowl with mashed potatoes in.  They were as surprised as I was. I kept walking, but on of them shouted "Stoi!".  Now you don't have to understand Russian to understand what that meant.  I had to think fast.  If I didn't stop, they'd have the right to shoot without question, but if I stopped, anything could happen.  They asked me where I came from.  I said I had been working in the field.  They asked me to have some food with them and I told them that first, I would have to go and tell my mother incase she worried, but that I would return later.  That seemed to satisfy them, and they let me on my way. I hastened my steps.  It was a good road for walking.

In the distance I could see a horse and rider coming towards me.  Little did I realise that the rider was a Russian officer till he was in front of me.  He stopped and took a long look at me, then asked for my I.D. card. I had one, but it only allowed me to move within the British zone.  Once more my fear returned because my identity card would tell him that I had come from the West, but I had no choice.  I reached it up to him, and after looking at it, he asked how old I was.  I told him that it was on the card, then he said he could not read.  My luck was holding. I told him I was 17 years old, then he took another look, tore off my photo and put it in his breast pocked and said that I was a very pretty girl, before riding on.  I stood rooted to the spot.  Coming across no-man's-land and the Iron Curtain without a scratch was really something.  Now, as I re-traced my steps back to Berlin, I met many people all on their way back to the East.  Some, I exchanged stories with.  Some were very sad.  I was getting very tired by now, so I decided to make my way to the farm where my family had stayed in March 1945.


Part 7- Return West


A copy of the picture of me which nded up a Russian Officer's pocket!