Vol. 13


A Single Ring

1939; Sokal, Galicia, Poland1"A Single Ring" illustration, by Jasmine Flowers: With mountains in the background, a hand wearing a ring picks a berry off a bush

It was 1939, and much of Europe had just entered World War II, which included the Holocaust. The Germans, having taken control of parts of northern Europe, rounded up Jews from Poland, Germany, and surrounding areas. The Germans took the Jews to concentration camps, death camps, or gas chambers. My great-grandmother Hanna Steichel was forcibly taken on a train to a concentration camp.

Hanna and her parents, Sarah and Aryeh, herded onto a cramped cattle-car train, were headed to a concentration camp. Sarah spotted a crack in the train floorboards. The cattle car slowed as it rounded a bend in the track, and Hanna’s parents begged her to squeeze through the crack so she could escape. It was risky and dangerous. If she were spotted in an attempt to escape, she would surely be killed.

Scared and unwilling to part from her parents, she cried, “No! I won’t leave you!” Her parents knew this was her only chance for survival. In an act of pure selflessness, Hanna’s mother pushed her through the crack in the floorboard, saving her life at the expense of their own.

Having been squeezed through the floorboards, Hanna was released from the train. The tracks were raised on a platform, and as she was freed, she tumbled down a gully. As the train straightened out in its path, it picked up speed. Hanna ran into the nearby forest and hid among the trees for two weeks, surviving on rainwater and berries.

While in the woods, Hanna found a ring engraved with the initials “MK.” Having no physical possessions left to her name, she kept the ring and placed it safely in the pocket of her dress.

Two weeks seemed like a lifetime to a scared and cold Hanna. After wandering the dark, cold woods, searching for suitable hiding places and food to survive, Hanna found a convent tucked away deep in the woods.

Seeking shelter at the convent, Hanna explained she was a war refugee. Hanna pleaded with the nuns to allow her to shelter with them in exchange for her cleaning the convent.

Nazi troops, who were searching for hidden Jews, came through the convent, accusing Hanna of being a Jew.

“No, I’m not,” she fearfully answered.

The Nazi officer accused her of lying and backhanded her, knocking a tooth out. She reached into her pocket, taking out the ring she had found earlier in the woods. “My name is Maria Kostas,” she trembled, explaining that “Maria” is a Catholic name. Believing her, the Nazi officer let her be.

I am thankful for that little ring that saved my great-grandmother’s life, for it is because of that ring that I am here today.

Sometimes a little thing can make a big difference.


Emily Mark; New York, USA

Illustrator: Jasmine Flowers; Missouri, USA

1. Sokal is now part of Ukraine.



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


Return to Vol. 13 Stories page



Built by Hen's Teeth Network