Selected Stories from
The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration 2012/2013
— Stories dated 1940–1946 —

1.
Kicked Out of Home

Lydda, Palestine; c. 1940

My grandmother Rose Fawal was kicked out of her hometown, Lydda, Palestine, now known as “Lod Airport,” when she was only six years old.

Rose was one of nine children, and her father was a merchant. He was saving up money to be able to build a big house large enough for his whole family. It took a while, but one day he finally did.

When the war* broke out, Israeli soldiers barged into their house, put guns to their heads, and said if they did not give them the second floor of their house for a lookout, then they would shoot the family. Since her father was unarmed, he gave in. Rose was worried, because “bad guys” were staying with their family and she couldn’t do anything about it.

A week or two later the soldiers came from the upstairs and devastated the whole family by saying, “Give us the whole house, or you’re all dead.” The whole family stood frozen and frightened, watching their father think and worry.

Still unarmed, her father hesitated and said, “Please don’t take our home. We worked so hard for it.”

But the soldiers refused violently.

Rose’s father decided that he would rather his family be alive but have to move, than be dead. He was furious. He went to grab a mattress so that on their long trip they would have a place to stop and sleep, and olive oil so they could cook on their way.

But the Israeli soldiers said they couldn’t take anything. They also said that Rose’s father couldn’t take his truck, because they wanted it. And they didn’t want the family on the highway, clogging up the way.

Rose’s father was so angry that he opened his pocketknife and sliced open the can of olive oil. The soldiers gave him a dirty look. Reluctantly, he got his family gathered and started on the road to Ramallah.

My grandmother and her siblings wanted to stay and build another house in Lydda, but they moved for their lives. They were headed toward the road, but the soldiers said they had to take the mountains.

As they were walking out of the house, Rose was still confused — not positive what had just happened and not sure what would happen next. She walked out and asked her mom, “Mama? Where are we going?”

Her mother sighed and responded, “I don’t know.”

They walked up and down the mountains and passed pregnant women, babies, and elders who didn’t make it. Rose was worried that she wouldn’t make it. My grandmother and her siblings didn’t want to leave, but they did it for their lives.

When they got to Ramallah, they started their life all over. After thirteen years the war got worse. It was time to leave Palestine altogether and go to America. Even though my grandmother would have preferred to stay in Palestine, desperate times call for desperate measures.

* Israelis and Palestinians fought because both believed they were entitled to the same land.

Ella Hartman; Alabama, USA

 

2.
Passing By

Warsaw, Poland; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; c. 1940s

My great-great-great grandfather lived in Warsaw, Poland. He saved up money to send his wife and children to the United States to have a better life, but he did not have enough money to send himself. He stayed behind in Poland and saved up more money so he could later move to the United States.

In the United States my great-great-great-grandma got tired of waiting. She saved up money to visit my great-great-great-grandfather as a surprise. By this time in Poland my great-great-great-grandfather had saved up enough money to move to the United States to be with his family. My great-great-great-grandparents were on separate ships and crossed each other’s paths at sea but did not even know it.

Passing By illustration by Molly Andersen: two ships passing each other in the ocean.My great-great-great-grandma got to Poland and found out that my great-great-great-grandfather had gone to the United States. She could no longer go back to be with him because of the Iron Curtain.*

Before my great-great-great-grandparents had left the United States and Poland, they had written letters to each other, saying that they would be coming to be with each other. However, back then it took several months for the mail to travel overseas, so my great-great-great-grandparents did not receive the letters before they left to get on the ships to go where they were going. My great-great-great-grandparents never saw each other again.

* Iron Curtain is the name for the blocking of contact between people in Communist and non-Communist countries in Europe from 1945 to 1990. It was not a physical curtain.

Makayla Matvick; Minnesota, USA

Illustrator: Molly Andersen; Missouri, USA

 

3.
The Great School Escape

Overland, Missouri, USA; 1941

Helen Meives lived across the street from her school and church. “Presentation” was the name of her parish. I want to tell you a story about Helen — and when living across the street from school had its disadvantages.

Helen’s first day of school was full of excitement. It was difficult to be quiet when she was surrounded by all of her friends.

“Delores! What are you eating for lunch today?” Helen asked her best friend. Sister Justa Marie’s eyes met Helen’s in the middle of her question. Helen froze and then flashed an innocent smile.

“Whew!” thought Helen, dodging that bullet.

Grabbing Jimmy’s flashy new pencil, Helen tried to whisper, “Nice pencil, Jimmy. Where’d you get it?”

A large, but gentle, hand rested on Helen’s left shoulder. A whisper said in Helen’s ear, “Helen, please stop talking.” It was the voice of Sister Justa Marie.

Helen apologized and promised to not talk, but she wondered if Delores would like to walk home with her after school. She would ask her just one more question, and then she would not talk for the rest of the year.

“Pssst! Delores. How about walking home with me?” Delores’s eyes almost popped out of her head. “Well?” Helen continued to wait for an answer.

Sister had been standing right behind Helen the entire time. “Um, Helen. You will have to stay after school a little while for talking too much.”

The class lined up at dismissal with Sister Justa Marie leading. Helen stayed at her desk nervously. When the rest of the class exited, Helen made a dash for the back door, toward her home. Helen zoomed straight to her closet and closed the door behind her.The Great School Escape illustration by Nguyet Nguyen: girl peeking out through barely opened closet door

Ding! Dong! Mrs. Meives stopped her laundry to open the door to find Sister Justa Marie on the porch. “Is Helen here?”

“No. Isn’t she at school?” Mrs. Meives asked in a concerned way.

Ed, Helen’s little brother, came running into the room yelling, “She’s in her closet! She’s in her closet!”

Sister explained to Mrs. Meives, “I’m sorry, but I have to bring Helen back to my classroom. She was a little too chatty today and must stay after. She may look through her books at her desk while I grade some papers and clean up.”

Helen wound up leaving her closet on her own and walked back to school holding Sister Justa Marie’s hand. She realized, on the walk back to school, that living right across the street might not be all that it is cracked up to be. She may be able to get to class faster than anyone else, but her teacher can get to her house faster, too!

Helen Ann Stone, granddaughter of Helen Meives; Missouri, USA

Illustrator: Nguyet Nguyen; Missouri, USA

 

4.
Raining Bombs

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, USA; December 7, 1941

Imagine: It’s a chilly day in early December. The cloudy sky shadows above as you notice the palm trees, wet with dew and rain from the day before. Your pregnant mother is hanging washed garments on the clothesline to dry as you and your two-year-old brother watch with boredom. Your father, a doctor for wounded soldiers at the U.S. Naval Base near your home in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, is getting ready for work. It’s December 7, 1941, a day that changes the world forever, and you are in the worst place possible.

The previous paragraph describes that tragic morning from my grandfather’s point of view — the morning Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and launched America into World War II. My grandfather was only five years old at the time, but miraculously he and his family lived through it all.

On that day, at approximately 7:55 a.m., my great-grandmother looked up from hanging clothes and saw white planes flying above, with large red dots on their wings. Originally from the South, and with poor vision, she mistakenly cried out, “Look, Carl! Some planes are here with some Florida oranges!”

My great-grandfather Carl ran out and saw the planes, immediately realizing they were Japanese. He grabbed his children and wife, and took them inside while the first bomb dropped. There were screams, but he didn’t flinch; he wanted to keep his family safe. He gathered up all the mattresses in the house and piled them onto his family. Also, giving his wife a gun, he said, “If the Japanese come for you, shoot the kids and yourself. It’ll be better than becoming slaves for them.”

By now, my grandfather, his brother, and his mother had all grasped the awfulness of the situation. The young boys were both in tears, and she was shaking.

Carl had to leave, because he knew that the injured needed him, so he kissed his family one last time, knowing he may never see them again. “I love you” was all they heard as he dashed out the door.

Immediately the pregnant mother started feeding her children and herself, because she knew there was a chance they wouldn’t eat again for a long time if they
were captured by the Japanese. Once they were all stuffed, they huddled down into the mattress mass again. They waited there for hours, listening to the screams and gunshots and every other violent sound you could think of.

Finally they heard someone walk in. My great-grandmother shakily reached for the gun and prepared to shoot her firstborn child — when they heard their names being called in a familiar, warm voice. It was Carl!

He was reunited with his family. He knew they couldn’t live in Hawaii anymore, so he moved his family to the safest place possible that he knew of — Huntsville, Alabama. My grandfather, his wife, and some of my cousins still live there today.

Anna Cathryn Brown; Alabama, USA

 

5.
Sugar, Stamps, Bikes, and Metal

St. Louis, Missouri, USA; 1942

I was eight, and it was the time of World War II. This is the story of one week of my life when my country, the United States, was fighting. My name is Al Siwak. If I had written a diary, this is how it might have read.

July 1, 1942

Today my friends and I collected metal. We knocked on doors of the houses in our neighborhood and asked for anything metal: chicken wire, tin cans, or aluminum foil from gum wrappers, which we saved in balls till they were large enough to be collected. Then a truck drove by, and we put all the metal in the truck. The truck driver takes the metal to a collection site, from where it is used to build tanks, ships, planes, and bombs for the war that’s going on. My friends and I plan to do this every day until the war stops.

July 2, 1942

What’s really a problem is that most of the metal our country has is being used for weapons, not for cars, so my parents can’t buy a car, even though they want to. Also, we are only allowed to buy a certain amount of food, because the government is sending most food to the soldiers. We have to use food stamps to buy meat, tea, cheese, and sugar. Once our food stamps are gone, we can’t buy that kind of food anymore.* I am craving a big, meaty, delicious steak. Ugh . . .

July 3, 1942

Today my mom sent me to the store with a sugar stamp to buy sugar. I couldn’t wait to taste my mom’s brownies! I was on my way, skipping, when the stamp fell down on the concrete sidewalk. I didn’t notice that I had dropped the stamp, so I kept skipping to the store to get the sugar. I went down the aisle, pulled the sugar down, and happily walked to the checkout lane.

The clerk said, “Where’s your stamp?”

I reached into my pocket, and it wasn’t there. “I’m sure I had it!” I cried.

But the clerk said no. So I sadly put back the sugar and walked home with my head down. I told my mom my story, and I guess that’s the end of brownies.

July 4, 1942

Sugar, Stamps, Bikes, and Metal illustration by Maggie Morse: bicycle made of spare partsToday is the day I’m old enough to ride a bicycle. It’s my birthday! But all metal is being used for weapons, so I thought I wouldn’t get one. But then Grandpa Dave found somebody to make a bicycle for me out of used bicycle parts. Grandpa Dave is a little worried that it won’t hold up, but I’m not. I love my new orange bicycle, and I’m so excited to get outside and show my friends.

That’s a week of my ordinary life during World War II. Now I’m a grandfather myself, and I just bought my granddaughter a new pink bike. And I told her these stories, which she has written here.

* Each person was allowed a certain amount of each rationed food per month.

Natalie Rose Schuver; Missouri, USA

Illustrator: Maggie Morse; Missouri, USA

 

6.
Saved by the Blink of a Statue’s Eye

Mosciska, Poland; 1942–1944

Close your eyes and imagine having to live in a small, dirty, bug-infested hole in the ground with seven other people for two years.

My grandfather lived in Mosciska, Poland, in the 1930s. His name was Mark Reches. He had a brother named Henry, who is my great-uncle. Their parents, Clara and Saul Reches, were my great-grandparents, and this is their story.

In the fall of 1942 the Germans decided it was time to free Mosciska of all Jews. My great-grandmother knew the Germans were coming and that she had to make a game plan.

She went to her neighbors, who had a farm, and asked if her neighbors’ family could hide them. The neighbors said, “We have to ask our mom, and she will get back to you next week.”

My great-grandmother knew there was no time and that she needed to have an answer right away. She ran home. The next day she layered herself with her furry, warm coats. She was going to use the coats to bribe the people to let them stay.

When she got there, she asked the girls if she could speak to their mother right away. The mother, Rosallia, said, “As a good Christian, I want to do the right thing. I stayed up all night and prayed to the Virgin Mary for advice. When the eyes of the statue blinked at me, I knew that the Virgin Mary was telling me I had to hide you.”

There were two other people, a brother and a sister, who found out that my family was going to be hidden and insisted they come along in order to survive. The brother owned a watch store, and it was going to come in handy.

On the way to the farm they were caught by soldiers. The brother rolled up his sleeves and bribed the soldiers with the watches. The soldiers said, “Go with G-d,*” and let them continue on.

By the time the beautiful sun rose, they had all made it safely to the farm. No Germans in sight.

Rosallia did not know where she was going to hide them. My great-grandmother insisted that she could dig a hole in the barn. That is how the nearly two years in the hole began.

There were eight people that lived in the hole: my great-grandparents, my grandfather, my great-uncle, my other great-grandmother Rivka Gerber, my other great-uncle Mordechai Gerber, and the neighbors who were brother and sister.

They suffered in the cramped, dark hole. They could only sit, not stand. The bathroom was a bucket that was emptied every night. Sometimes it wasn’t safe to empty it, so they left it, and the smell was unbelievably bad.

After almost two years, in July of 1944, the Russians marched into Mosciska and freed the Jews. They freed Mosciska of German control. All eight people that were hiding survived this horrific experience.

* This incomplete spelling is a show of respect.

Yaakov Reches; Maryland, USA

 

7.
Bravery in Battle and Beyond

Germany; c. 1943

My great-grandfather Murray Dronsky was a United States soldier in World War II. He entered the army when he was only eighteen years old, in 1943. He was a foot soldier in the 86th Infantry Division of the army, the Blackhawks. He fought against the Japanese in the Philippine Islands and the Germans in Europe. In Germany he liberated the Dachau concentration camp and captured Hitler’s hideaway in Berchtesgaden, where Hitler spent most of his time during the war. My great-grandfather was awarded the Purple Heart medal for being wounded while fighting and received the Bronze Star medal for bravery in battle.

One very scary morning in Germany, Murray and his fellow soldiers were ready for another dangerous day in the beaming hot sun. The sky was gold with a few blue stripes through the clouds. The men got in their army jeep. Everything was quiet until they turned the corner. Something very frightening caught their tired eyes. It was a fire from a German bomb. Immediately they knew what was going to happen. They saw a German sniper aiming at them, so they quickly jumped out of the jeep to go under it to protect themselves. It was too late, because as Murray got out of the car, he got shot in his behind and suddenly dropped to the rocky ground. He was able to crawl under the jeep so he would not get shot again. A German soldier was sent to make sure that none of the U.S. Army soldiers were still alive. As the German soldier came up to Murray, they locked eyes. Then the German soldier turned around and told his commander that all of the soldiers were dead. Murray thought, “Maybe not all the Germans are bad after all.”

Murray was eventually taken to a safe place, where he waited with other wounded soldiers to be taken to the hospital. They were sitting around a campfire. Suddenly, a German bomb fell in the middle of them and killed all of the soldiers, except for Murray, right in front of his eyes. Luckily, Murray jumped back as soon as the bomb fell and did not get injured. By the time the bus got him to the hospital, his wound was already closed, and the bullet stayed in his body for the rest of his life.

After the war was over, Murray stayed in Germany to help translate for the American army in the displaced persons camps, because he spoke Yiddish. When he got home, he married Marion Davidowitz and had three children. He was involved in organizations that helped Holocaust survivors, and he became a post commander in the Jewish War Veterans.

Some people think that the Germans were responsible for the Holocaust, but Murray felt that the Nazis were the ones who were responsible and not all of the German people. He traveled back to Germany many times in his life.

I am very proud to be the great-granddaughter of a Jewish American hero.

Nili Hefetz; Maryland, USA

 

8.
The Miracle That Gave Me Life

Mannheim, Germany; April 8, 1945

Miracles can happen anytime, anywhere. We can see them if we just take the time to look for them. One miracle can change the destiny of many lives. The miracle that certainly affected my life is the story of how my grandpa survived World War II.

It was a normal spring day on April 8, 1945. My grandpa Bernard Bermel was with the American troops about forty miles from Mannheim, Germany. They were chasing the German soldiers through brush and fields. Grandpa was near the front of the line. He was assigned to carry a “BAR” with a tripod. (This was a Browning Automatic Rifle.) It was heavy, it could shoot many shells, and it could shoot them fast. The Germans always tried to shoot the soldier carrying this gun, since it could do a lot of damage to their troops.

It was around 5:00 p.m. when an enemy’s bullet hit Grandpa’s shell clip. The bullet went through his hip and stomach, and then lodged close to his spine. Grandpa fell to the ground, bleeding to death. A medic treated his wound by trying to stop the bleeding. When the medic was done, he warned Grandpa not to move or he may start bleeding again and could die. He said someone was coming to get another soldier and assured Grandpa that they would get him, too.

Grandpa lost consciousness. When he woke up, the sun was up, and there was a foggy mist hovering around the clearing he was in. Off in the distance he saw several deer. Grandpa thought he had died and was in heaven. It didn’t take long for his pain to kick in and for him to realize he was alive. He figured he had been lying there for about fifteen hours, and he realized that there wasn’t anyone coming back to get him. He had been left on the battlefield to die. Remembering that the medic had told him not to move and risk dying, he had to make a decision. He could lie there and die, or get up and try to find someone to help him.

Grandpa got up, and for three fourths of a mile he pushed himself from tree to tree until he came to a road. He saw people and cried out for help. Thankfully, they were friends instead of enemies, and they got him to a makeshift hospital, where they performed surgery and saved his life. When he was well enough to travel, he was shipped back to the United States. Grandpa was honorably discharged from the army and was given the Purple Heart medal.

It was a miracle that Grandpa didn’t bleed to death on the battlefield almost seven decades ago. If he had, I would not be here today to tell you this amazing story. It fills me with pride to be the granddaughter of such a brave, honorable, and wonderful man.

Megan Trushenski; Minnesota, USA

 

9.
Living with the Enemies

Guangdong Province, China; c. 1946

It was quiet as it had always been. The bright summer sun was shining down on the village in Guangdong Province, China, in 1946. Little Ting Lee, my grandfather, was being a regular infant, crawling on the dirt floor and babbling in baby language. Suddenly, screaming and yelling sounded from the village, and Ying Jung, my great-grandmother, peered out of the wooden door. Fear and worry flooded her face as she ran to her son, gathering him in her arms. She ran to a corner of the small four-roomed house and heard muffled shouting occurring again in Japanese.

With an unexpected blow the door burst open, several soldiers standing in the doorway. They each wore a long coat with a cap and dirt-covered leather boots.

“Spare me and my son!” Ying Jung shouted with panic and terror. The Japanese soldiers looked at her and my grandfather Ting Lee intently, a soft expression crossing their faces as they scanned the mother and her child. Expecting a punishment for her outburst, Ying Jung cowered, protecting her son — but instead, the soldiers walked towards the two and bent before Ting Lee, reaching out to his pint-sized face.

“Look at his little face,” one said in Japanese. They laughed as he rolled out of his mother’s arms, crawling towards them. Ying Jung shouted for her son to return, reaching out for him, but he just kept crawling to the soldiers, who were viewed as dangerous and deadly by his mother. The soldiers continued to laugh, picked Ting Lee up, and turned him back to his mother. Ying felt relief wash over her, but at the same time, confusion. She questioned why these soldiers were so amiable towards her and her son, as they were supposed to be the hazardous invaders. With Ting Lee in her arms, she slowly walked to the kitchen, aware of the soldiers watching her every move. They followed, their weapons clinking at their side, and filled the small home.

They cooked for themselves, respected the furniture and the house, and wondrously, didn’t harm Ying or her son. For approximately a month, they did the same thing: cook, eat, and play with little Ting Lee, while occupying the home. Maybe the soldiers weren’t really as murderous as people implied they were, or maybe it was luck. Although nobody in my family knows why the soldiers acted the way they did, they are grateful.

Melina Huang; New Jersey, USA

 

Read additional stories from the 2012/2013 celebration:

Sneak a peek at Grannie Annie, Vol. 8

 

 

Grannie Annie, Vol. 8: Historical Family Stories Written and Illustrated by Young People
Sneak a peek at
Vol. 8

Order Vol. 8

 

Passing By illustration by Molly Andersen: two ships passing each other in the ocean.
Scroll down for "Passing By,"
written by Makayla Matvick
and illustrated by Molly
Andersen.

 

Notes:

Individual authors
retain the copyrights to
their works, which are
published here with
permission.

The setting of each story is
noted below its title. In
cases where the exact year
is not known, “c.” (circa)
indicates that the year given
is approximate.

 

Return to main Vol. 8
Stories page

 

Stories on this page:

1. Kicked Out of Home
(c. 1940)
Ella Hartman
Alabama, USA

2. Passing By
(c. 1940s)
Makayla Matvick
Minnesota, USA

3. The Great School
Escape (1941)
Helen Ann Stone
Missouri, USA

4. Raining Bombs
(December 7, 1941)
Anna Cathryn Brown
Alabama, USA

5. Sugar, Stamps, Bikes, and Metal (1942)
Natalie Rose Schuver
Missouri, USA

6. Saved by the Blink
of a Statue’s Eye
(1942–1944)
Yaakov Reches
Maryland, USA

7. Bravery in Battle
and Beyond (c. 1943)
Nili Hefetz
Maryland, USA

8. The Miracle That
Gave Me Life
(April 8, 1945)
Megan Trushenski
Minnesota, USA

9. Living with the
Enemies (c. 1946)
Melina Huang
New Jersey, USA

 

Click here to read additional
stories from the 2012/2013
celebration as well as stories
from previous years.

Looking for stories on a
particular topic or theme?
Consult our Index of
Stories
. (This year's stories
will be added to the
index in the summer.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


Built by Hen's Teeth Network