Saturday, June 25, 2011

Irene Gut: "Only a Young Girl"

Irene Gut, a 19-year-old Polish girl, took a seat in the church, her mind filled with worries about food and heat, worries that would have been inconceivable to her just a few years before. The German blitzkreig that had rained fire from the sky two years earlier, when she had been a 17-year-old student nurse, had turned her beloved Poland into smoke, rubble, and ash. Irene had fled from the hospital with the other doctors and nurses as they had followed the retreating Polish army amid the screeching chaos of the blitzkreig. They had traveled east for miles and miles with no particular destination; just as far away as possible from the unstoppable German onslaught.

After learning that their country no longer existed -- that Hitler and Stalin had divided Poland between themselves -- they ended up near the Soviet border in the forests of Lithuania and the Polish Ukraine in a desperate struggle to survive. And try and she might, Irene could never forget the worst experience of all; being discovered, beaten, and raped by Soviet soldiers.

Now she was finally back in her hometown of Radom, Poland. But it was not the same town she remembered. Swastikas were everywhere. Jews were beaten and mocked in the streets. Nazi soldiers regularly shot anyone suspected of overt rebellion as well as anyone who accidentally broke one of the numerous new laws. All the Poles were near starvation, eating what little they could get with the strict ration cards distributed by the Germans while the occupiers ate to their fill.

Irene was suddenly stirred from her worries. She could hear German soldiers outside the church, shouting orders loudly . . .

Opening paragraphs from "Irene Gut: 'Only a Young Girl'" from Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue.

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