Vol. 11


The War’s Cons: My Great-Aunt’s Story

1939; Warsaw, Poland

“Do not hang on his neck when he comes in,” lectured Miss Helen, Ciocia Basia’s1 father’s maid. “Do not climb on him. Do not shout at him.” Miss Helen was always lecturing her on polite etiquette.

“Remember he just had a surgery,” she further lectured.

Ciocia Basia could hear the elevator coming up. Veronica, another maid, was holding the door open, and her dad was coming in, leaning on her mom’s shoulder. He looked deathly pale.

He rested the whole day. The next day, he explained to Ciocia Basia that the Germans wanted to take over Poland and that there would be a war.

She pictured her dad on a ship saying, “Fire!” and the enemy’s ship sinking down underneath the ocean’s surface. War was glorious!

A few days later her dad came in in a very bad mood. “This whole war is in an uproar,” he said. “We have no equipment, nothing.”

She attempted to cheer him up by saying, “Daddy, this might be a small war, and we must win it. We are Polish and we are the bravest in the world. No one would dare to invade us.”

Yet the radio had said earlier, “Attention! German air forces have crossed the frontier and are heading towards Warsaw.”

Her father gathered all the maids, gave them money, and then sent them to their families until the war was over. He announced that his family would also be leaving Warsaw soon.

The air raid sirens then went off, and Ciocia Basia went with the other children to the shelter in the apartment building. They came with all of their toys, and it was all good fun. They knew that the planes would be knocked out of the sky like dead flies and that the Nazis were stupid to attack Poland, the bravest country in the world.

But the airships came in and killed Little Eva. That wasn’t the way wars were supposed to go. This wasn’t fun at all.

They moved the next day because the whole Polish Navy was going to be evacuated. All the officers’ families were to take only the luggage they could carry. Later they ended up at the train station to take a train to Pinsk. It would be a long journey.

After several days, everyone’s clothes were getting dirty. There wasn’t much food left, and the water was hot and stuffy. To make it all worse, everyone was smelly. Everyone tried to keep the train clean, but it wasn’t much help. The sun was extremely bright, and the train was getting hotter and hotter.

Later they heard planes getting close, which was normal, but this time there was a terrible noise and the train was shaking. Everyone was then ordered to get out, because the train had been hit by a bomb and the train might explode. This wasn’t how war was supposed to go.

Yet this was only the beginning of a long journey to England and then to the United States.


Izabella Kulczycka; Alabama, USA


1. “Ciocia Basia” is pronounced CHOH-chuh BAH-shuh. “Ciocia” is Polish for “aunt,” and “Basia” is a nickname for “Barbara.”



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