Very soon it will be the 60th anniversary of my red dress day, which happened two days after my fourth birthday. I haven’t done much to celebrate it in the past. Only occasionally I remembered what happened on that day. Maybe this year I will do something special.
The date was May 8th, l945, V.E. day. Victory Europe. We were living in Checkoslovakia at that time. We had come there as refugees from Poland, fleeing the advance of the Russians as they surged into Poland in January of l945.
We were ethnic Germans, however my families had lived in Poland for many generations. Poland was our home, the land of our birth. We loved the country and the rural peace of our homestead. I have many fond memories of our home in Poland.
All of that quickly changed when Hitler invaded and occupied the country in 1939 and continued on to Stalingrad, Russia. It was his intention to subdue Russia as well. He was soundly defeated at Stalingrad and the Nazi army was pushed further and further back west.
The Russians furiously hated the Germans for their aggression and so did the Polish. Who can blame them!
That made for an awful dilemma for people like us. We loved the land of our birth but because we were ethnic Germans we were in grave danger. It became necessary for us to flee for our lives even though we had nothing to do with Hitler’s regime.
We fled during the night on Dec.22, l944. The next five months were one horrible nightmare after another. In our homelessness and melee, family members became separated one from another. My baby brothers died of diptheria in my mother’s arms. Soon after that I too came down with diptheria. She had to leave me at a hospital and continue fleeing west on foot: west, away from the advancing Russians, away from the hatred of the Poles and into German territory.
I felt abandoned. I know my mother did what she had to in order to ensure my survival, but I felt abandoned all the same.
Meanwhile, the Allies relentlessly bombed all the German cities in order to break Hitler’s regime. My hospital was moved many times. Many times after a bombing raid, I would be packed into a hospital ambulance convoy and moved to someplace else.
It is a miracle of God that my mother found me again. She found me in a children’s ward in a hospital in Auscha, Checkoslovakia. The war was grinding down to its final death throes.
On May” 8th, there was pandemonium in the streets. People were shouting and running and laughing. My mother also ran out to see what else was the matter.
“Hitler had surrendered,” the people shouted. “The war is over.”
My mother ran to the center of town and tore a Nazi flag off from a building. She came “home” with it under her arm.
“Now my dear child,” she told me. “I will make you a new dress.”
She ripped off the black swastika appliqué and pieced it together to make herself a headscarf. Out of the red fabric of the flag, she sewed a very simple dress for me.
I was overjoyed with my new red dress. The nightmare was finally over.
So this year when May 8th rolls around, I think I will wear something red to commemorate the anniversary of my red dress day.
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