- Contributed by
- Elizabeth Lister
- People in story:
- Elizabeth Knight
- Location of story:
- Background to story:
- Article ID:
- Contributed on:
- 21 July 2005
This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Berkshire on behalf of Elizabeth Knight and has been added to the site with his/her permission. Elizabeth Knight fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.
My first recollection is of German soldiers walking into my grandmother’s house where I lived with my mother and maternal grandparents in Bernowa suburb of Warsaw. My father was in the Polish Air Force. He escaped to England with his squadron. An army captain — a doctor — and a young officer lived in the house. These German Officers were very kind to us and made sure I had milk — I was 18 months — and my grandmother who was not well had medicines. No male members lived in the house except my grandfather. All others were fighting or were killed. The young officer was so kind he took me on his knee but he hated the war and shot himself in our garden which bought in the Gestapo and all our family were due to be shot but the German doctor forestalled this.
The entire front moved east and food became scarce. I remember a red ball in the sky and my mother told me Warsaw was burning. Life now was very hard. We grew our own vegetables and fruit. A horse died up the road and in no time at all there was nothing left!
By 1942 /3 the Germans were retreating — a very good sight. The Germans became ruthless — they burnt everything in sight — arable land — so the Russians could have nothing. One evening there was a bang on the door and 3 Russian soldiers walked in. We were marshalled into the cellar and the house was ransacked. They walked out. They were dirty, had no respect for anything, urinated everywhere. They were a rabble.
September 1945 a lady came to our house and wished to speak to my mother. They talked a lot and then left. Many planes came over and dropped what looked like balloons — Red Cross food parcels — UNETRA — predecessor to UNICEF and I had my first taste of chocolate. The significant lady who had called was a guide who had brought the message from the Red Cross to say my father was alive and sometime in the future we would be leaving for England. We were told to take one large handbag, one or two changes of clothes and as much money as possible and our documents. My mother took our photos of the family as we wouldn’t be able to communicate. We were told we were going out for the day. We caught a bus to Warsaw, a train to the border. Our guide was there and a dozen families. We left our families, our home, our country. From then on we travelled only by night- walking right through to the British sector in Berlin. We arrived in January 1946.
My mother was a wonderful mother. If I was tired she carried me. Our guide was English. We were in a displaced persons camp, where I met my father again — who I couldn’t remember — he frightened me. We lived in Germany and eventually we arrived in England (Tilbury) 7th March 1947. My father’s squadron was stationed first at Thetford (Norfolk) then Bovingdon, Herts where he was demobbed.
I would like to thank the late King George VI and his beautiful queen for sanctioning the guide to lead us to freedom and our lovely life in England.
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