Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Waves were fierce. For my little Aurianne. Exciting for Ethan. I just was happy to be in the sand and waves. Helicopter dropped 10,000 eggs for the kids and we had our own visit from the Eastre bunny all over the lawn underneath our balcony. Ethan even shared the eggs with Aurianne, kindly stating “You can play with these Aurianne but they are all mine. The Eastre bunny brought them for me. You little cutie baby”. So it was ALMOST like sharing ūüôā Don’t forget the wondeful Gulf storm that roared in just as we were leaving the beach.
Happy Eastre!
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Aurianne and Ethan World

Posted: March 28, 2013 in Photography
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I started out in the business of traveling and photographing the United States quite awhile ago. I first moved to West Virginia where people slow down to merge onto a freeway and where everything is super green and trees everywhere. I got honked at quite a lot because, from the area I was in, it appeared I was the only one who did p90x, took daily showers, and practiced oral hygiene. This was great for my self image =) 
Onto Cherry HIlls, New Jersey…Land of the peeps with Attitude (Capital A). Any smiles i shared at the local market were met with “Pft…what the, are you smiling at?” Philli was right over the bridge and I got to drive past the museums (Wishing I could go in without my little toddler) and instead running to the zoo where people are fine with us running a million miles per hour around every cool attraction.
Onto my favorite eastern city…Pittsburgh. I lived across the street from the Pirates Stadium. Yes, baseball reviews are correct, It IS one of the three prettiest stadiums in the United States. The city’s buildings and yellow bridges a perfect backdrop for the game. I loved the Marriott hotel and living amongst the hustle and bustle of tourists and game night events that happened atleast weekly. Ethan running down to flirt aka…weasle his way into candy and goodies from the staff. The only downside being the ticks. I didn’t even mind all the traffic because I loved the bridges and the city so much. The green of the land was fine…but MEH…all I saw was TICKS TICKS TICKS. I was fine leaving for Chicago.
Chicago had a feel all its own. I loved how fast people drove. But they were sane. The city really didn’t drive, they all just rode public transport. Which was awesome. More room for me when I drove for SUSHI!!!
Michigan had fantastic fantastic lightning storms. The kind that light the entire sky and make you feel as if you are a part of something extremely powerful. I didn’t get to see much of it because I was on bed rest most of the time i was living there. And their food at restaurants was awful….Not that I could eat anything twice (some babies are pretty picky in the womb..aurianne was one of them)…but still. AWFUL. I was quit glad to get back to SLC.
Green land is awesome and all but seriously can’t compare to my desert. The majestic mountains of Utah are one of a kind. My personal postcard living. They are my streets. I had my Coffee shop, My crazy drivers that won’t let you merge, that flip you the bird if you do something they don’t like, and the ‘I need a sign I am just that plain stupid and mean’ drivers. But meh, it was and is home. Familiar streets I grew up on were a welcome site to have my daughter.
Fast forward to the now. I reached my countdown for Texas.
Miles and miles of new…yet it all looked the same as most of the United States. I will say that Navajo land is beautiful and their culture fascinates me. Further south we got the more plain the land…flat…reminding me of all the westerns I used to watch with my dad growing up. i wised up around the oil towns with no hotels rooms empty at 1am ‘I want to quit driving and sleep time’ that there is a new way of driving in Texas. Big Semi Trucks have deadlines as urgent as New York City people take their daily tasks…They weren’t going to slow down…they will plow you right over or risk hitting oncoming traffic to shoot around you (yes I narrowly DIDN”T get hit or see an accident to the side of me atleast 5 times)…New rule learned. Big trucks pull over to let other cars/trucks go past. They don’t slow down and pull over, they just move onto the side of the road and keep their speed expecting you to drive by. Interesting. smart. Slightly loco.
Then we get into Texas cities and realize there is no such thing as a speed limit anymore. Move your butt. Expect to be tailgated. speed up and waste all your gas at the starting line…er, I mean green light. Only cops to be seen were for wrecks (Yep, there are signs announcing the Texas death toll on the roads is already up to 464…shocker). They don’t give tickets unless you are extraordinarily stupid or insanely fast (clocking over 100 I am sure). So that is refreshing news. i get to be crazy chica driver! I am such a bad butt ūüėČ
This place has a FEW palm trees. Almost paradise…It is working its way to how cool Florida is. It is a mix between Florida and my memories of my cabin at Lake Tahoe with tall beautiful forest trees. The roads are fun. There is a nice highway of sorts following both sides of the freeway so you can hit all the stores along the way or just avoid traffic if you want to…I like that. The ocean in Galveston isn’t too far away and it is a lot of fun to be near a big body of water again. I am a water child in every way. So my family is now burrowing into Texas. Lots of changes. I have lots of goals. Tons of fun pictures. Enjoying the new culture. Americans from coast to coast really are quite similar. The same ideas attacked in different ways, expressed vastly differently, but all making this a beautiful wonderful country to live in.
Namaste!!!

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You can be 100% real and complete without covering up or repressing. I own my sadness & heartaches but do not broadcast them because I am ok with letting them not be the most important part in my life. If there is even 1% happiness, .02% Joy I choose to spend my time on that part because that is what is most important to my soul. Dark can only be part of the picture if there is a focus on the light ♥ Be yourself and love all about yourself but choose to find and move into your light. that is the most real and powerful move that can be made =) Smile. Do no harm to others. Let them learn from your travels and your hardships but do not throw the darkness around to suffocate others by feeling it, or to get sympathy. Live 100% up to your own standards and share what you learn and feel. 

The land of cactus’s. Spreading out as far as the eye can see…a terrain of ‘don’t mess with me’ I will survive rain and cold and hurt you if you touch me. Small Cacti, Large Cacti…a wilderness of them staring back at you as you drive. “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty”¬†Image

ImageThe Earth has music for those who listen. Image

One minute, just like life, you are driving along in the heat, getting used to cactus land and the next you find snow covered hills, getting colder and colder by the mile…wondering why it is always necessary to be in places you don’t want to be…Image

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
call to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting ‚Äď
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things” You simply belong no matter where you are.¬†Image

You are free to be silly. The world expects you to be the one and only ‘you’.¬†The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troublesImage

Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winterImage

 

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I like this place and think I could waste my time here.¬†A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor ‚ÄĒ such is my idea of happiness…Leo Tolstoy ¬†Image

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This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happyImage

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Gwendolyn: Discovery of the meaning of the light of the otherworld. White Ring. Welsh

Who is she?She is an energetic, resolute and determined woman who could appear calm, reserved, strong and self-assured. She is actually quite straight-forward and authoritarian, and although she tends to doubt in herself and her abilities at first, deep down she aspires to the acquisition of a certain power. She is active, industrious and capable of taking on and assuming responsibility. She is a passionate person who needs to fully invest herself in a venture that motivates her, where she will prove to be efficient, organised and practical as well as extremely hardworking, shrewd, realistic and quite the perfectionist; this is an individual who is apt to manage and direct others.¬†Gwendolyn ¬†¬†is capable of sound judgement and possesses an analytical mind that makes her inclined to ¬†split hairs, and is endowed with qualities that are more readily attributed to men than women. She is bold and resourceful, and it isn¬īt easy to pull the wool over her eyes or take advantage of her. She cannot tolerate injustice and could react in a violent manner if she suspects iniquity of any kind. More or less hot-tempered anyway,¬†Gwendolyn ¬†¬†isn¬īt the most tolerant of characters (especially with her loved ones), although she tries her best to be open and conciliatory. She is generous and possesses a profound sense of friendship so she is always there when you need her, and willing to help if she can. As a little girl she is amiable and responsible, albeit a little timorous and insecure. She isn¬īt necessarily all that into dolls and playing house, and could even be a bit of a “tomboy”. Because she is anxious to please and be loved, she will make a lot of effort to maintain a harmonious relationship with her parents. She loathes conflict and aggression because her natural inclination is to love and serenity. She is actually much more sensitive and emotional than she seems to be, and her abrupt attitude often conceals great tenderness.

What does she like?
She is a perfectionist and could even be rather obsessive at times because she believes that a job worth doing is one that is worth doing well. She aspires to peace and harmony above all else and appreciates beauty, esthetics and art. In love,¬†Gwendolyn ¬†¬†is highly selective and demanding. ¬†A successful and fulfilling relationship is essential to her emotional equilibrium while having a family of her own is very important to her. She would make an attentive partner and a caring mother.¬†Gwendolyn ¬†¬īs fulfilment depends on her professional achievement, as she was born for effort and action. She won¬īt be indifferent to the lucrative side of her chosen orientation, however she will choose her path with her heart rather than her head. On the same note, she is quite capable of putting her home and family life before her career. Occupations that are liable to capture her attention are those in connection with the giving of advice (teaching, psychology, social worker…), those in relation to the medical, paramedical or social domain (notably justice)

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Aurianne: Very Holy One. Breeze. (My like the wind child) Greek and French

Who is she?

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Aurianne ¬†¬†is a secretive, internalized and determined woman who advances in life slowly but very surely. Cerebral and intellectual, she tends to think and analyse things a lot. Because she is of a somewhat anxious nature, she is inclined to pose both big and small existential questions… Her motto might be “I think, therefore I am.”¬†Aurianne ¬†¬†is rational and has an analytical mind. However, we observe two antagonistic tendencies: the Cartesian tendency, which gives her a sceptical mind that is capable of sarcasm, mockery and even virulence towards those who dare to choose a different path to her own. She is likely to be attracted to science with a capital S or to reason with a capital R; her irrational, mystical and intuitive tendencies are great strengths, and could lead her to explore esotericism after much intense forethought: psychology, spirituality or astrology … The intimate master number 22 stimulates her, and could lead her onto royal roads… Don¬īt assume, however, that¬†Aurianne ¬†¬†is asocial and spends her life with her nose in a book, because in fact she is warm and very friendly as well as quite talkative – especially when a topic interests her – and she is always looking to meet more people. Her charm is undeniable, and she¬īs actually really nice, to boot. As a child, she tends to be inquisitive and a bit of a chatterbox. Her parents had better be up to scratch on the subjects that interest her, to be able to answer her many questions and help her to quench her thirst for knowledge. It would be wise to promote her socialization, sense of sharing and exchange because she could quite happily be self-sufficient. With the 7 and 4, one observes an intimate feeling of being apart. But in general, she will focus on her studies which could continue well into her adulthood, the eternal student…What does she like?

She enjoys research and analysis – preferably in a context of peace and quiet – and is fascinated by all that is original and cutting edge. Her love life isn¬īt always plain sailing, because¬†Aurianne ¬†¬†can be rather disconcerting and elusive, as she tends to suppress her innermost feelings and can come across as being much more frosty and indifferent than she really is, often feeling that she is misunderstood. She is highly selective in love and would much rather be alone than with the wrong person. She could therefore experience more or less prolonged periods of celibacy, or indeed a more independent or less conformist romantic lifestyle. Tough as nails. What will she do? She will simply be Aurianne.

 

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Ethan: Solid. Enduring. Determined. Will not be removed. Stable. Hebrew
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Who is he?

Masculine and endowed with a certain magnetism, Ethan emanates an air of strength. He is courageous and assertive, although he is also quite wary. This is undoubtedly related to his shyness and emotional fragility – a real Achilles¬ī heel which affects his mood and level of enthusiasm. This can occasionally result in outbursts of anger if he doesn¬īt feel that he has been fully understood. Fiery and passionate, he conceals a sweet gentleness behind a firm, even curt and abrupt demeanour. Nevertheless, Ethan is a friendly, affectionate and likeable soul – once he has decided that he trusts somebody. An ambitious young man, he isn¬īt indifferent to material comfort. He is particularly efficient and capable of great diplomacy when he feels motivated, whereas in other circumstances he may prove to be lacking in tact. Ethan is confident and self-assured; his energy, celerity and his realistic and practical approach are extremely valuable assets! He remains nonetheless quite an impatient and irritable character, and could also prove to be something of an opportunist – his desire to succeed is that strong. However, at the same time he is rather proud and conceited, loathes flattery and deceit and possesses an acute sense of justice… He could sometimes feel torn between his desires and his principles. Born to be in charge, he is capable of assuming responsibility, as much in the family sphere as in his professional life. As a child, this is a little boy who is very attached to his family who he is ever eager to please and who therefore have a considerable influence on him as. Furthermore, he is a sensible and responsible child from an early age and his parents know that he can be trusted. Conscientious and quite a perfectionist, he is of an above average intelligence which means that he is apt to continue his education as long as he chooses. However, his well-being and development remain heavily dependent on a harmonious affective environment and the karmic 6 could mean that he experiences upheaval in his family environment. In this case, Ethan could react in one of two ways; either he will feel overly implicated and take care of the others, or he will flee his responsibilities completely.

What does he like?
Ethan is anxious to please and seeks peace and harmony above all. A lover of perfection, he is sensitive to beauty, esthetics and comfort. He could occasionally be indecisive and excessively perfectionist because he has a real eye for detail. When it comes to love, he is passionate and possessive, and capable of ferocious jealousy. Loyal, frank and intense, he has difficulty forgiving disloyalty on the part of his partner.

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Mick: One who resembles God

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Who is he?

He has a strong character and tends to be quite impressive, as much due his magnetic personality and reserved appearance as for his need to be admired and respected. Sociable, though both introverted and extroverted at different times; he is an endearing and rather charming man who wants to please others and be liked in return, although he is quite self-involved, all things considered. Often courteous, he is very tactful but he can be known to slip up at times… He is elegant and refined, and possibly an esthete – unless he settles for tasting the pleasures that this world has to offer. Voracity is one of his foibles. Feelings occupy an important place in his life, and he is often influenced by his family – for better or for worse. Mick doesn¬īt shy away from his responsibilities, and is strong-willed even though he is prone to hesitation. Once he is driven by something that motivates him he is capable of great tenacity in order to see things through to their completion. Demanding, authoritarian and bossy, Mick can also be known to experience outbursts of anger if the realization of his desires is hindered or if he is treated unfairly, despite his calm and composed demeanour. A proud creature, he appears to be very self-assured while he loathes mediocrity and baseness. He is also very image-conscious, and doesn¬īt permit himself to fail, always seeking to excel and surpass himself – and be the best. As a child, he is active and independent with an exacerbated need for freedom. He hates restriction and can be quite unruly and confrontational if one tries to impose this upon him. It is therefore necessary for his parents to be firm, but flexible while he is growing up, and encourage him to socialize in order to tame this little tearaway. It would definitely be preferable for him to have siblings, and take part in a sport or physical activity in open air, especially those where he can be part of a group or team…

What does he like?
A lover of change, he likes to be on the move more than anything else, to travel and be free to explore the world as he pleases. He craves experiences that he can feel passionately about. Emotional, masculine and resourceful all at the same time, Mick could easily be a man of conquest (especially if he was born on a 5th, 14th, 23rd, or if his life Path Number is 5). He feels his instincts and desires intensely which makes him very attentive to a woman¬īs needs, however he is not necessarily a very sentimental man, nor is he always faithful… He is quite selective and could experience indecision when it comes to romantic commitment. The chosen one should effectively be perfect in every way, otherwise he is likely to quickly become jaded with the relationship.
There are a few possibilities that are likely to appeal to him, and he is inclined to choose a career that is exciting and varied, preferably out of doors and involving physical activity (especially if he was born on a 5th, 14th or 23rd), or in connection with the earth

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If there is one thing I wish to say in this, is that you can make it no matter what!! Even when you cant go on. Even when you strive with all you have and it still feels like you are alone and fail, you just have to let it burn. You just have to keep going. Find your direction and stick to it no matter what. God loves you. He has a specific plan for you. You sometimes wont think that you can survive. I honestly dont know how you do sometimes. I dont think I ever will. But you do,and God will make emblazen every evil and sad thing with brilliant purpose and light. Peace will be yours one day. Be the heroine/hero you know rests inside. Feed that above even the impulse to breath, eat, or stay safe. God made you with a specific purpose. He knows you aren’t perfect. He knows you are hurting and you have struggles. No matter how bad things get he has made a way for you to make it. Have faith in those who have made it before you and hang on. In the end many will glorify your name and you will be the name they rely on, as the simply lady or gentleman who made it!!!!

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Every Journey has a message, a hardship, a joy, a tear, and a story. Most people I fear choose to look too long at the pain. The¬†mosquito¬†bite, the trial, the flat tire, the fear of failure. The happiest I am, the best stories I can write and be proud of are when I choose to simply let your soul just ‘burn’ and keep going.¬†
The soul is a unique element. It is not made of earthly material and cannot be destroyed without our personal permission. It can hurt greater than anything physical known to man, it can comprehend more than our brains, it senses beyond our 5 physical senses, and it cannot be destroyed. It CAN however burn. It can burn with yearning, with desire, with hopelessness, with fear. It can burn with love, courage, hope, faith, and light as well. It can change our bodies. It is the greatest true form of alchemy in the universe. If we want to change our surroundings and have a good story to tell we have to be willing to simply let it burn away the hard times and keep focused on the good we want to create. Learn to control it. 
The biggest lie our minds can tell us is “When you are in pain you can be destroyed”. You simply cannot. You will not really drown. Not without your permission. You were always immortal and always will be. Choose to be happy”.
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Sometimes you are stuck unhappily in a car for far too long. Aurianne shows well how much she loves this experience. She is not a car person like her brother. Sometimes heartache and tragedy strike…

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 Sometimes we have to introspect and accept that we need internal change. Sometimes no matter what we think was right, turns out to be wrong and we simply must follow our hearts. Life is not simple. The sphere of our influence is also designed to grow. Our first influence is over self. As we exercise authority over our own thoughts, through diligent study and meditation, we receive from God the energy and substance to influence others in ever widening circles. Let the energy of the soul stay still when it feels like it is on fire and keep focused on creating good. You are the only person in charge of what remains after a fire. Be the alchemist. Breath and keep going. You cannot be destroyed. Make a good story and become something. You are the main character after all.

I left Colorado. It was a dark night and it took me a few days to write this down but I sat down and just wrote and wrote until her entire story was finished. Her life gave me hope. It changed my entire world. If she could do it, anyone can overcome. Her daughter Jeannie told me she used to say “Pain and trauma are like learning a foreign language. If you don’t learn it you won’t be able to communicate with those who are speaking it”. I want to be able to reach anyone and that is why my own pain is worth it. Indeed it is the ONLY reason to keep fighting.¬†

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Irene Gut Opdyke is a heroine from poland  =) from whom we can learn the resilience of the human spirit. This young woman, subjected to cruelty, assault and multiples horrors of a Europe at war not only did what it took to survive but to serve others and live without bitterness at the same time. This is the story of the girl with many names. Take the time to read. Its worth it!!!!

” Perhaps when we left our heavenly home to fullfill our divinely appointed mission here on earth we were known by a name we’ve long since forgotten. At birth we recieved what is called our given name by which we are normally called throughout life. After death, in the world to come, we may yet be given another name that will be ours through eternity. In this progression we are the same person, but with each name comes a new level of experience. Each experience is like a totally different life, yet it is the same life in the process of maturity- from premortal to mortal to eternal. There are those, here and now, who are given a new name- a life saving name; often without realizing it they are given a new heaven-sent purpose. Their past seems like a distant dream and like another life.
       This is the story of Irena, Iruska, Rachel, Irene, Mala, and Sonia. Each name is a life, but it is the same life of the same girl from Poland, and to each name was given a purpose from God. 
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Irene Gut was born on the 5th of May, 1922, in the picturesque village of Kozienice in eastern Poland. She was the eldest daughter of a young architect, Wladyslaw Gut and his wife, Maria. Maria was an extraordinary mother endowed with that intuitive sense that exceptional mothers possess. AS the mother of the unborn babe sees and feels for the life within her womb, so it is that after birth such mothers continue to see beyond their childs sight and feel beyond their childs grasp. maria, fondly called mamusia, knew that Irena possessed a God-given destiny of great import. Mamusia relayed the story to her again and again of how Heavenly Father had saved her life when she was a toddler. It was stringtime; the river just below their home was swollen fromt he melting snows. The laughing sound of the white capped water through the open window enticed Irena to go exploring. She obviously had been born with the spirit of adventure! While her mother was distracted by household chores, tiny Irena toddled from the home, across the fresh grass of spring to the beckoning river. The family doog, Myszka, dutifully trotted beside the child. As maria swayed precariously at the very brink her tiny shadow cast on the swirling and rumbling white water, Myszka bit down into the diaper of the baby and started backing her away. Irena tried crawling forward, but the determined dog held firm. Dazzled by the sparkling river, the stubborn child, over the next minutes, wored to overcome the opposition of the little dog, gradually creeping closer. Then that voice which silently whispers in the hearts of mothers caused Mamusia to look from the window. “Irena!” She rushed out, snatching her child from the very edge of the torrent. Maszka, exhausted, sank to the ground as the grateful mother praised her.¬†
Myszka became a local hero, praised by the villagers and proclaimed as such in the headlines of the town paper. But her mother saw their little dog as an instrument of a higher power. She would always conclulde the telling of ther story with “God saved your life, my dear daughter, for a reaon. He has something special in mind for you”.
Certainly our faith in ourselves and our sense of purpose in life increases in proportion to that faith and trust our loved ones show in us. Irena was inspired by her mothers presentiments and felt truly she was put on the earth for a righteous cause. Her premonitions wer further reinforced through an old holiday custom. At Christmastime Grandmother Rebies would gather the girls around the stove to melt candle wax. Then each girl would pour some of the wax into ice cold water- instantly solidifying the glob into a fortune telling composition. They would hold their enigmatic creation up to the light and analyze its shadow. Irena’s looked like a ship upon the sea and from its prow a crucifix. All felt that this signified that Irena was destined for a life of righteous adventure.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Maria and Wladyslaw were dearly and deeply in love and this loe blessed their marraige and home with wonderful harmony. They taught Irena and her four younger sisters that happiness was joy earned through faith, service, work and love for all life. Children naturally love living things until they are taught otherwise or unless they are not given the early opportunity to discover the wonders of creation. In the Gut home the inherent natural affections of the girls together with their innate sympathies were nurtured by Maria. The girls and their mother had expecially tender feelings for animals. They lavished affection upon wounded cats, dogs, birds; any creature that was afflicted became a part of the household. Mamusia’s care was expert and their home became a sanctuary. One baby blackbird, that had fallen injured from its nest, was healed and raised by Mamusia. When it was well and turned free, it nonetheless always stayed close by their home. When mamusia would whistle, it would return to her, flyinig through an open window. Not all of the injured animals could be healed, even with mamusia’s nursing. Those who died were lovingly buried in the backyard.
      In sucha home Irena grew into a young woman of compassion and empathy. She had been raised to be protective of that which was weaker than herself and possessed a talent of caring for the ill and a yearning to become a greater healer. In her mid-teens she became a red cross volunteer and in 1938, at the age of 16, left her family to enter nursing school in Radom. Irena loved to learn and immersed herself in her studies. When the other student nurses left eh dormitory to socialize in the evenings, Irena was happy for the quiet hours that followed and would use them to her full advantage. However, she was anything but a wallflower and could have filled her nights with youthful romance. Irena was simply beautiful- blonde hair, blue eyes, striking features, crowned with a sparkling intellect and a persona of kindness. such Aryan features and attributes would prove to be both her sorrow and salvation.
¬†¬†¬† Many of us have suffered trauma from a sudden shock- an unexpected violent upheaval. We may have experienced something such as a terribel automobile crash or lived through the devastation of an earthquake; we may have lost the love of our hearts or have just been told that we have a terminal cancer. Possibilities are numerous, but at such times we are thrust from our comfortable world of security into a new world of chaos. In the aftermath we are dazed, dumbfounded. We know that it is still our life that we are living but it is foreign- so completely detached from our former life that we can scarce believe the new reality. The new experience is to us a new existence. In anguish so many have cried their remonstrance to the heavens, often in a single word containing a single syllable: “why?” And so often the answer cannot be understood (no matter how hard we try) in the present life or in the experience then in progress. Mortal life is designed to teach us truths that are eternal in nature and forge godly attributes in our souls that we will possess forever! sometimes we only truly and lastingly learn from trauma.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† However difficult our lives are in such circumstances, only those who have experienced Blitzkreig can say that they know what Irena felt on September 1, 1939. After a thoroughly enjoyable first year and a delightful summer vacation with her family, Irena entered her second year at nursing school. It was a clear, warm day; the first bright sunny day after a spell of steady rain. Irena, walking to the hospital, suddenly heard the drone of aircraft engines, followed by the deafening roar of explosions. The blue skis of Radom were blackened by row upon row of bombers- German bombers flying in formation. At that moment, the earth beneath Irene’s feet shook from bomb blasts. Before her very eyes the wall of a building directly across the street crumbled away revealing the furnished apartments within. It now stood like a surreal dollhouse.
       Irena, shocked by the horror, was unable to think or move. She did not know where to run and so she just stood, stunned, as billows of smoke rose all around her. Sirens wailed as the screams of more bombs filled the air; blast upon blast in every direction! Radom had suddenly become one huge, searing torch! the panic stricked inhabitants ran in every direction; parents screamed for children, the cries of the brutally injured added to the growing pitch of hysteria. One little naked child sat sobbing upon a doorstep; behind him nothing- his home instantly gone. The scene was of sheer madness which increased withe every pulsating moment.
       Irena would have probably been killed in that instant had not a hospital intern dragged her into a ditch. Although debris rained down upon their heads and Irena was cut from flying wasonry, they were otherwise unharmed. The days that followed were endless for Irena who worked around the clock at St. Mary Hospital along with every available hand. Overflowing with wounded, a hospital bed became a luxury. The sufferers were everywhere- on the floors, in the hallways and on the stairways. The priests, administering the last rites to the dead. were as busy as the doctors and nurses. It was impossble to know if her family was still alive and there was no way to go to them.
      While the german ground divisions, the lightning war machine, rolled every closer to Radom, the Polish army was forced to rapidly retreat. As their forces hastily pulled out of Radom an officer asked for volunteers fromt he medical staff to accompany them. Without hesitation Irena raised her hand. There was no time to even pack a suitcase.
      All she had were the clothes on her back as she stepped from the hospital. For the past four days she had only seen the injured, the dead and dying inside. It was a shock for Irena to see blue sky, the warm sun and clouds lightly billowing. As she climbed into a Red Cross ambulance filled with injured soldiers, Irena wondered how- with her beloved Poland being brutally murdered- how could the sun still shine?
¬†¬†¬†¬† The roads were in complete pandemonium- a terrible runoff from the flash flood of war. Every possible highway and byway overrun with evacuees. The Nazi advance was so rapid that there was no time for the appallingly outgunned Polish army to regroup and counter the offensive. Despite the frenzy, Irena’s unit arrived at a train station where by rail they could more swiftly retreat to meet with reinforcements. They would go east northeast towards Kovno and Russia. As Irena was assisting the wounded board the train, suddenl the sound of aircraft filled the air with horror. Incendiary bombs fell from the sky. Irena felt the burning heat steal the oxygen from the air At the same moment the roof of the train station and tress that lined the tracks burst into flame. She could not even fill her lungs enough to scream. Incredibly, she helped another nurse push a wounded soldier into a carraige. A moment later the train lurched forward- the noise of its engine drowned out by the din of the German bombardment and the piercing cries of the dying.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The journey to Kovno was a long one and while traveling they were cut off from all news of the war. When they arrived, they learned that poland was no more- their country had been divided between the germans and soviets. The Polish army had formally ceased to exist except in small leaderless remnants. Irena had no possible means to return home and could not know if home still existed. Consequently, she shayed with her ‘ragtag army-without-a-country.” There was no real commander and no organization. All were zealous and patriotic but lacked even basic equipment, such as tents and coats. To surrender to the Russians would mean incarceration as prisoners of war so they lived in the forest and did their best to barter for food with villagers. They had left fall weather in the south for winter cold in Kovno. Now, they tried to work their way southward to Lvov, some 500 kilometers away. Without shelter, sufficient food, and winter clothing, most became sick. Irena also became very weak, barely surviving. After 4 months their group was finally near Lvov. They were an army without purpose, witho no means of retreat or refuge.
         One night in January Irena went into a small town to try and barter for some exxentials. Suddenly she heard the sound of a truck and before she could hide, she was caught in its headlights. She fled as fast as her malnourished legs could carry her towards the forest. The Russian soldiers had no difficulty running her down in the snow. She pled for ercy but there was no humanity left in these wolves. She struggled and was beaten senseless. They laughed as they tore her clothing and her body. Irena, who had never been with a boy, was raped, brutilized and left in blood stained snow to die. Impossible as it seems, on that dark winter night, another patrol found her. She awoke in a warm hospital bed miles away in Ternopol. Her wounds had been carefully dressed.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† When she was capable of speaking, Irena was questioned by a Russian woman, Dr. Oga, chief of staff of the Ternopol Hospital. Irena told how she had been stranded by the war, had scavenged for food in the forest like an animal and had been visciously molested¬†by the soldiers. Dr. Olga was well aware of this last humiliation. It was she who had treated her, not as a prisoner of war, which in fact she was, but had carefully tended the wounds of this nearly frozen patient. Dr. Olga’s voice was ind but her appearance was sever. Irena wanted to believe that her apparent benefactor was good and noble. Was she as kind as her soft words or was she as dark as her countenance? It seemed the former was true, for after she recovered she was not sent to a P.O.W camp. Dr. Olga had her move into the nurse’s dormitory and her skills were once again put to use. Irena’s name was Russianized and she was now called Iruska. Her new life required a new language. A nurse named Maruszka, a girl near her age, took her under her wing and taught her grammar. The cheif of surgery, Dr.David, was sensitive to Iruska and she soon felt drawn to him. Her skills rapidly improved, both in terms of her medical expertise and in her ability to communicate with the soviets. As a ‘prisoner’ she was restricted completely to the hospital, which was fenced and under guard- but she was working, regaining her health, serving the afflicted and was learning. Therefore she was becoming happy again.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Dr. Olga would at times single out Iruska from the other nurses, complementing her on her Russian or her profieciency at her job. At these moments she could feel the other girls stare at her. Were they jealous or was there another meaning to their glares? By now she was better physically than she had been in seven months. The sheen had returned to her golden hair, which when let down, fell softly upon her shoulders. The almost manly Dr. Olga had even pronounded Iruska “beautiful” and favored her as her companion for dinner. Although she ahd been through the horrors of war, the seventeen year old girl from POland was still naive. However, after repeated attentions that were unnnatural in character, Iruska had a terrible nightmare. It was horrible and she willed herself to wake up, but could not- her sleep was so heavy. The dreadfulness of her dream centered around Dr. Olga. When she awoke she felt bruised and very confused. Nonetheless, when she became immersed in the normalcy of her work she shook off her growing dread of the doctor and dismissed her fears as childish. Then one evening Dr. Olga invited her again to supper. As they dined she explained that she was about to be transferred to Moscow and wanted her to come and live with her. This by itself could have been an offer of freedom from her prisoner of war status. However, Dr. Olga continued with her scheme, with an innuendo that was revolting, telling Iruska that men are course, brutal, and merciless- while woman are kind, gentle and empathetic. “Trust me, my sweet little one”, she whispered.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Now the light dawned completely on Iruska’s mind. She knew she had been drugged before by this perverse wretch- a demon in reality. it was not just a nightmare! Even as she resolutely refused the aweful proposition she felt herself being drawn once again into the blackness of oblivion. It was a long while before she regained consciousness.
¬†¬†¬†¬† When she awakened, Dr. David was there. He explained to Iruska that Dr.Olga had informed him she had been treating Iruska for an illness. Olga claimed that the young nurse had suffered a violent reation to medication she had beengiven and had lapsed into unconsciousness. She said she had to leave immediately for her new post in Moscow and told him to continue treatment. Dr. David looked at her sympathetically, “you gave us quite a scare, Iruska”. Oh, how she wasnted to tell him the truth but she was so ashamed and filled with self-loathing. Now she knew shy the other nurses acted the way they did when they saw her with Olga- and it was certainly not a matter of envy. This time the outward signs of abuse were minimal but she knew that she had been violated and had been nearly murdered. How she needed consolation! How Iruska needed someone who would tell her that a girl sexually victimized is not the sinner-that a mongrel dog cannot steal virtue-that she was still clean and holy before God! How she needed a true friend and how she prayed for such an ally and for deliverence from this hellish prison called a hospital. Her prayers were answered and she was given a friend in the person of Dr. David. But she was not to knw this for sure until after one more ordeal.
         The new chief of staff was Dr. Ksydzof, a vulgar man whose eyes followed her whenever they were in the same room. Now she knew well what a certain gaze meant! How dark eyes, eyes without light, are the portals to a dead soul. She avoided him as much as she possibly could. She had learned that it was not her skill as a nurse that had been her ticket to such a comfortable life style in a time of awful war. Polish doctors and nurses were indeed used by the Russians- to care for those with deadly contagions such as the bubonic plague- they were expendable. No, Olga had favored Iruska because of her beauty which she lusted after, as did Dr. Ksydozof. Her beauty was indeed her deliverence and her distress.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† One night she retired alone to her bedroom. Her roommates were having a loud party next door. She turned¬†out the lights and wearily¬†slipped under the covers and immediately fell asleep. Suddenly there was the smell of lisquor and awful smothering of someone crushing her under his mass. A crude warning hissed from Dr. Ksydozof’s mouth, “dont make a sound- you are mine now!”. Not again- please God, not again! He seized her right wrist as she struggled with all of her might, but her left hand caught¬†hold of a milk bottle filled with cold tea. Down went the bottle upon his head with a crack and¬†instantly he was dead weight. She fled in her nightclothes down the hallway and down the stairs to¬†Dr. David. He did his best to calm her.¬†Then he left her in the comparative safety of an examination room while he went to investigate. He found her room vacant!¬†She had not killed Ksydozof but Dr. David knew as¬†did Iruska, that she must escape and escape soon. Not many days later Iruska’s slender figure slipped through a loose board in the hospital fence, on her person a train ticket¬†for Swietlana, a gift of life from Dr. David. In this small village near Kiev Dr. David had a friend, a woman who ran the town infirmary. She had answered his plea to provide safe haven for Iruska. As she fled for her life she knew that Dr. David had risked his own to save hers.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† There are fiends in this world, “whited sepulchers”, who look human on the outside but within are death and misery. The Russian soldiers who had ravished Iruska, along with Olga and Ksydozof, ha djoined the fallen race of¬†devils. They had once been created in the image of God but now in their depravity they bore the image of their¬†adoped father-he who had fallen in the beginning. All of this poor girl’s suffering to this point in¬†her life was¬†but an inoculation for the epidemic that was spreading the disease of war around the world. The¬†loathsome center of the infection was in her country and growing ever more deadly. She would yet face horrors that would make these past crimes pale in comparison.¬†
         There are also saints in this world!!! Born in the image of their Creator they not only retain their humanity but through charity, which is pure godly love, become increasingly more like their Father in Heaven. These follow the opposite path and choose to assimilate divinity instead of devitry. Such were Dr. David and Miriam. 
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The train slowly came to¬†a stop. Iruska opened the door of ther compartment and, stepped onto the railway platform, she heard, “Rachel! Its me, Meriam!” She¬†felt herself being embraced from behind and turned to see a dark haired woman wrapped in a shawl. Before Iruska could speak, Miriam loudly commented on how good it was to see her young cousin and how much she had grown. Then taking her arm, and reassuring her that they would soon be home where she could rest after the long¬†journey, mirium nodded to the ticket agent, “goodnight comrade.”
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Iruska had become Rachel and along with her new identity would lead a new life, and for a while, a happy one. Often, in the middle of awful tribulation, God grants¬†a temporary repreive- a time to rebuild one’s strength and one’s faith. We may think our trials are over when in truth there are far greater battles still to fight. Swietlana was an oasis for Rachel in the scorching desert of war. Dr. Meriam was the antithesis¬†of Dr. Olga. She was¬†genuinely good, benignant and was very lovely. Yet she was effiecient, intelligent, a skilled general practitioner who truly provided care to the people of the village- often refusing compensation. Rachel assisted¬†Meriam in setting¬†bones, giving vaccinations, stitching wounds, pulling teeth, and caring for the ill. Midwives generally delivered babies unless complications arose- then they sould send for Dr. Meriam and her nurse Rachel. Their days were filled with work, the best work- that of helping others. Rachel felt safe and knew she was needed. For the first time in a long time she felt true joy.
       Meriam was beloved in Swietlana and was in fact loved by the town magistrate who hoped to woo her into marriage. Soon after her arrival, Rachel noticed that she too was held in this same high regard. She was treated with respect and admiration by the villagers. In the sumer of 1940 Rachel willingly exposed herself to typhoid fever to care for a family stricken with the life threatening disease. For six weeks she and meriam were quarantined with them in three primitive huts on the outskirts of town. THe grandfather and mother died of the fever, but their stronger children and their grandchildren survived. The ghastly disease was checked and a possible outbreak prevented. When it was finally safe to return to their infirmary they were greeted by greateful neighbors with gifts such as they had to give- vegetables, fruits, and chickens. On another occasion, a midwife saw that her patient was about the deliver breech. Quickly Meriam was summoned and successfully brought the child into the world. It was the first birth the 18 year old nurse had ever witnessed. She excalimed to her benefactor and mentor that she had witnessed a miracle and was transformed by love.
       The following January they received a letter from Dr. David in Ternopo that filled Rachel with the hope of reunion with her family. It read:
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ‘The germans and Russians have agreed to allow Poles¬†who were seperated¬† from their families by the invasion, to cross the battle lines in¬†
the spring. If you know of anyone in that situation, you should tell him or
her, to go to Ternopol, when the time comes for processing’
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Rachel had now lived in peace,¬†far from war’s devastation, for twelve months. The awful afflictions she had borne seemed so distant and although she was truly happy living and working with Meriam, she needed¬†desperately to know of her familys welfare. How she missed them and longed to be reunited! Meriam tried to reason with her. Ternopol was the very place from which she had fled as a fugitive only a year before. Prior to her escape from the hospital she¬†was known to have been a member of a faction of the illegal Polish army. If she were caught she could endanger the lives of Dr. David and Meriam herself. But Rachel was so determined. After all Dr David had sent the letter and he must beliee that she would want to try and would most likely succeed. When¬†Meriam bid her adopted cousin Rachel a tearful goodbye she admonished her, ‘I wish I could persuade you to stay here, where you are safe, but I know that is impossible. Keep your wits about you at the border. Anything can happen.”
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Rachel found that it was a far easier thing to travel to ternopol than to leave¬†Ternopol. When she arrived she found lines of people, stretched for blocks, Poles who had been¬†waiting for days to be “processed” for repatriation to their homeland. She feared the worst. But once again her blonde hair and blue eyes directed her destiny. There were both Russian and German officers at the gate¬†that allowed entrance to where train tickets could be purchased. A¬†German lieutenatnt smiled at her and said “Guten Ta, Fraulein” and authorized her¬†immediate passage. In a short time she held a ticket in¬†her hand for Radom! Fearful lest she might lose this most precious piece of paper she hid it in her brassier. She couldn’t believe it- it was one¬†o’clock in the afternoon and her train was scheduled to leave at 4 am the next morning. I have hours to kill, she thought to herself. That was where she made her mistake.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† She strolled down the streets past shops, now nearly empty. She walked through the park, then dined at a little cafe. It was as she started back towards the park that Rachel was recognized as Iruska by two¬†Russian soldiers and arrested. She was taken to a¬†detention center and interrogated again and again.¬†“What subversive organization¬†are you with now? Where is your gun? Who are your connections? How did you escape from ternopol hospital? Where did you go? How did you live? How are you plotting against the U.S.S.R?” They would leave her to fall asleep in her tiny cell¬†just to awaken her and once again begin the same line of questioning. She tried to pray but her mind could not form thoughts. She was searched and her purse emptied. But they did not have her remove clothing and her ticket remained safe. This continued all through the night. With the coming of dawn she knew¬†she had missed her train. The commissar continued his¬†interrogatories at regular intervals throughout the day. Most of what she told him was true- how she had been raped by the Russian soldiers and¬†how Dr. ksydzof had attempted the same crime. This, she said, was¬†why she had fled. In all that she confessed she said nothing that would incriminate Dr. David or Dr. Meriam.
         It was dark outside when she was questioned for the last time. The Commissar seemed to have changed his attitude or at least his approach. He told her that she was young and pretty and he wanted to help. During this entire ordeal she had not eaten and was famished. He gave her tea and bread. He asked if she knew someone in the area with whom she could spend the night. She lied and told him she did. He arranged to have a young Ukrainian guard escsort her there, extracting a promise that she return by 8am the following morning. If she did not return exactly at the appointed time she would be in far more serious trouble. Had he really softened towards her or was he hoping that she would head him to her confederates?
             It was well after curfew and the moonlit streets were empty as she walked wit the young soldier to where?- she had no idea. It was all a bluff of course. She knew very little of Ternopol. The Ukrainian seemed to enjoy her company more than his mission which, most likely, was to simply see where she would spend the night. Arbitrarily she wound her way through the city hoping to see something that would suggest a plan. At length he asked if she really knew where she was going. She responded by saying that she certainly did but had to get there along the route in which she was familiar. He must have laughed to himself how a simple girl did not possess the interal compass of a soldier.
         Then she suddenly saw the answer to her prayers; it was a building on the next street corner. There was a fence along one side which was missing a coupld of slats. Irena turned to the soldier, thanking him for the excort and shaking his hand. Then she stood in front of the three story building and watched him round the corner. When he had disappeared she ran to the space in the fence, squeezed through and ran free.
       Irena put as much distance between herself and the corner building as quickly as she could. We will never know the motives of the Commissar- why her released her. We will never know if that night, or when she missed her moning appointment, the building was raided. certainly the Soviet official did not suspect that she would try the train station. They did not know she had a ticket and would suppose that if she tried to obtain one they would easily apprehend her in the ong lines or at the gate. She in fact did have a ticket, hidden as we have said, for a train that was to depart the morning after her arrival. That seemed so long ago! Irena was filled with anxiety; what would she do? She was lost. She couldnot just knock on a door and ask directions. Would anyone even open their door to her after curfew? If they did, would they help her or betray her to the communists?
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† She prayed for a miracle and a miracle¬†is exactly what God¬†gave her. As she ran down the streets of Ternopo, she came across a kindly old Polish man making a atrip to the outdoor privy. She suprised him by her sudden appearance and had nothing to lose now that he had¬†seen her. Quickly she pled with him, “where is the train station?” He was no informer and recognizing her plight, gave her the needed directions. Later that night she arrived wearily at Ternopol¬†Train Station. Nothing had changed. People were everywhere. She pushed her way through the crowd to a german officer and told him that she had been ill and had missed her train. Being alone, with no luggage, she did not know what to do. The young officer looked at her¬†transport card and told her that luckily, because of mechanical trouble, her train had not been able to depart. She had not missed it after all!
          In a quiet corner of the depot she knelt and gave thanks to God. When it came time for her 8am appointment with the Commissar she was already three hours down the line heading for Radom! she rode, not in a coach, but in a cattle car, crammed and standing with the rest of the passengers. But it did not matter- she was going home.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Irena peeked through the slats, watching for the glimpses of her native land. Spring had come, the woodlands, villages and fields were all freshly dipped in vivid greens. With delight, she noticed that lilacs, her favorite flower, were budding- ready to burst into sweet, soft lavender in time for her birthday, may 5th. Now all these reminders¬†stirred up beautiful memories of her idyllic past; a time when Irena’s world¬†was filled with peace.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† At lenght, Radom’s skyline appeared. Somehow the green of the countryside had lulled Irena into the past and she was shocked to see that there were ruins everywhere- the aweful wake of the Blitzkrieg. Suddenly, the joy which had been building inside Irena began to fade as she saw the vast destruction of the city. She hoped that somehow Aunt Helen would still be in Radom and would know the whereabouts of¬†her parents.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† It had been nearly two years since irena’s hasty departure with the¬†Polish army from Radom. Everything had changed including the names of the streets. These new¬†labels were an¬†affront to the love she bore her beloved Poland- names like Hermann Goring Strasse. The skeletal remains of buildings were the only remnants of once familiar landmarks. She was completely overcome and lost. Suddenly she¬†felt a genial hand upon her shoulder. She turned and looked in to the quiescent eyes of an older¬†Polish gentleman. He said to her that she¬†looked bewildered and offered to take her wherever she needed to go in his horse drawn buggy. She explained that she had no money to pay him. He simply responded that payment was not necessary and as an afterthought mused that she was about the same age as his own daughter,¬†Zofia. He knew¬†his way through the city by the old names and in no time he reigned his horses¬†down the street that led¬†to her Aunt Helen’s home. Excitedly¬†Irena recognized houses of old friends. Then to her abosolute delight she saw her Aunt’s house still standing. She gave the magnanimous driver a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek and few from¬†his buggy.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† There at the gate stood¬†a young girl. Irena did not recognize the pretty, black haired youth.¬†For a moment, the two stared at each other. Suddenly the girl turned, running into the house hollering, “Irena! Irena!” Instantly, the door was flung open and in the doorway stood her beloved parents! Behind them was her sister, Maria. The young girl was little¬†Bronia.
      Irena had survived life-threatening peril when she escaped the Blitzkrieg in Radom with the retreating Polish army. She had survived the bitter cold of winter living in the forest without protective clothing or shelter. Somehow she clung to life after the brutal attack by the Russians. Twice she ahd escaped incarcerataion in Ternopol. She had traveled many hundreds of kilometers by train, truck and on foot with little or no money, led by faith and surviving by her wits. She knew these were indeed miracles- but not as miraculous as finding, in this hellish time of war, her entire family intact and well. Irena writes in her biography:
¬† ‘Tell me the happiest you have ever been, and I can say¬†that on that day, I was happier.”
         Imagine that tender scene of reunion; tears of joy, embraces, laughter, expressions of love, gratitude for each other and to God above! The Gut family was blessed with elan, the love of life! Gone was their beautiful and spacious home in Kozlowa Gora. Gone were their fine clothes, furnishings, and possessions. Gone were their cherished photographs of family and friends, Gone were there beloved books. All the material goods which make up a house were gone. However, they were blessed, because all that makes up a home remained- Father, Mother, children- all joyously together again.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† When the younger sisters were in bed, Irena sat with Janina at¬†her side and told her parents all that had happened to her since the day the bonbs first fell on Radom in 1939. She relived those fearful days of near starvation in the forest and then she whispered the horrible truth of the brutal rape. Amid tears of painful memories, Irena’s father tenderly counseled his beloved daughter, telling her that war makes beasts of some men. However, she must not allow these heinous crimes against her to ruin her life.¬†No¬†doubt she could have died, but God did not let that happen. He told iRena that God had preseved her life for a great purpose.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† This testimony of a righteous father to his eldest daughter was unquestionably true and prophetic. The Talmud declares: “whoever destroys one life is as¬†if he destroyed a whole world, and whoever preserves one life is as if he preserved a whole world”. There is no hyperbole in this statement. Look at the nations which look to abraham as the progenitor of their world. His descendants are numberless- miliions¬†upon millions. Waht if the King of Gerar¬†had slain Abraham¬†before he had begotten his sons Issac and Ishmael? In that one act of¬†muder worlds would have been destroyed! The kind, however, spared Abraham and resotred his wife unto him.¬†Over the course of¬†4000 years worlds of posterity have been born both in Islam and Israel! Each life is designed to beget more life; generations of the yet unborn are dependant¬†upon the now living.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† To this point in her life Irena had striven with¬†all of her heart to serve others. She had administered relief to the sick and injured and had done all that she could to save life. Yet when it ame to survival, her primary responsibility had been to save herself. To save one’s¬†self honorably in times of extreme duress can be the most difficult challenges of life- how¬†much easier it is to give up, to abandon the fight, to die. But¬†Irena did not desert life and in this process of enduring she learned how to trust in God and she learned how to be led by¬†Him. Thus schooled she could now be instrumental in¬†His hands to save many others. She would shortly be given the opportunity to preserve the lies of innocent Jews who, without her protection, would certainly die. She would soon¬†be presented with choices that would¬†appear contrary to self preservation. To choose the right would require that she risk her own life daily and do so against¬†impossible odds.¬†“God has plans for you” her father had said¬†and he might have continued “God wants you to save worlds”.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The peace and delectation of Irena’s reunion with her family was but the eye of the storm. Out of war’s fury had come a moment of calm. In this breif respite she¬†had found healing, profound fatherly guidance and renewed familial love. She was now strengthened for the¬†return of the hurricane.
¬†¬† Without warning the Nazi’s tore Wladyslaw from his wife and children. He was compelled to return to Kozlowa Gora to oversee factory equipment that he had formerly designed which the Germans did not have the knowledge to operate. Although his position was¬†vital, it was a condition of fslave labor and he was given next to nothing on which to live. After it became apparent that he would not be allowed to return to Radom, Irena’s mother took the younger children and¬†joined him. Irena and Janina stayed with their Aunt helen working wheverever they could to eke out a living. Several weeks later as Irena attended church, the sanctuary was suddenly violated by a papanka, a German round up. There was a fearful confrontation between the German soldiers and two priests. The armed soldiers, of course, prevailed. All were ordered out of the church and the physically fit were loaded into trucks. These civilians¬†became conscripts of the Reich.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Some of the newly forced laborers were¬†sent to Germany,¬†but Irena was assigned to work in the ammunition factory¬†right in Radom. It was absolute subjugation. She worked standing endlessly ensconced in a toxic atmosphere of gun powder and slept in cold over-crowded barracks. Her lungs tried to expet the noxious dew and she coughed constantly. Day y day she became weaker and fought over growing vertigo. To complain to the German guards or to faint was to be taken¬†away, never to be heard of again. One day her struggle came to an end. The chief officer who ran the plant, major Rugemer, was inspecting Irena’s department. As he approached her station, she was overpowered by fumes and lost consciousness.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† When she awakened she was suprised to find herself resting comfortably in the Majors office. He askedher for her name and she responded “Irene Gut”. Even in her¬†weakened condition he was obviously attracted by her Nordic good looks. Her name sounded Germanic but she admitted she was¬†Polish. He was impressed by her commond of his language and her frank honest manner. She begged him not to send her away, pleading she had a younger sister in Radom- and that¬†she was normally strong and fit for hard work. He was silent for waht seemed an eternity. Her fate was totally in his hands. Finally he spoke. He toold her that she was¬†wasted on the¬†assembly line and hat her ability to wpeak both German and Polish could be very useful to Herr Schultz who¬†ran the officers kitchen. She would be allowed, he explained, to live at home as long as she reported to work every morning at 7am. She couldn’t believe her good fortune! She was literally starving and in the ammunition factory she was being poisened by chemicals. Now instead of filling bullets she would be preparing aromatic food fit for the commanding officers.¬†When she arrived home that evening her Aunt Helen and her sister, janina, could¬†scarcely believe they were once again reunited.
     Herr Schultz was a good man who immediately took a fatherly liking to Irene. He was rotund and of a happy disposition. He fed her generously and even allowed her to take food home to her sister and Aunt. Weeks passed quickly and although they had not heard from their parents, Irene and Janina felt very blessed. They had each other and their Aunt. Winter was approaching, they had a comfortable, warm home- and because of the kindness of Herr shultz, they had plenty to eat. Irene knew that any were not nearly so fortunate, especially the jews who were forced to live in the ghetto. But she had no idea of how desperate the plight of the jews had become.
       The Officers Mess was an elegant old four- story hotel. Irene had only worked downstoairs where there were no windows that faced the back of the bulding. Behind the hotel was a high wooden fence topped with barbed wire. Beyond the fence was the Glinice Ghetto, the prison of the Jews. One day Shultz asked Irene to set the tables in the fourth floor ballroom which was located at the rear of the hotel. This room had windows that afforded an excellent view into the sad and blighted world of the banished race. Irene parted the velvet drapes and gazed upon the melancholy sight.
      The ghetto at first glance looked abandoned, dark and empty. But as she looked, she began to graduallyl see that there were people here and there in the shadows; one woman crossing the vacant street, a couple of children moving carefully through the snow, an old man standing near a shop door. Cautiously, Jews moved in the dismal streets. irene felt somehow guilty for being well-fed and safe.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† As she went back to work, Irene mused upon the scene of quiet fear. Then suddenly the silent winter afternoon was rent by the sharp sounds of gunfire! She raced bakc to the window. The dark streets had¬†erupted “like an anthill kicked to pieces”. There,¬†before her very eyes, Jews were running for their lives. Children, men, woman, young, and old- all fleeing from the horror of¬†deadly SS¬†men leaping from their trucks and openly¬†firing upon the crowds. Bodies fell, police dogs attacked those who tried to run, the snowy streets were covered¬†with blood. Irene stood¬†stunned, unable to move or breathe. As the bullets flew, she¬†felt¬† that she herself was being pierced. She opened her lips to scream, but suddenly a hand pressed over her¬†mouth. It was¬†Shultz. Irene began to struggle, but he held her firmly and his own face was shocked, white, and covered with perspiration. commanding her to be still, he pulled her from the wondow, the heavy drapes closed over the agonizing scene. Shultz made Irene look up at him. Then again and again he told her she¬†had not seen this; she must never¬†ever speak of it or even cry. For they would think she was a ‘jew¬†lover’ and terrible things happened to ‘jew¬†lovers’. He said she could go home and he would¬†cover for her, reporting that she had become ill. “but” he said to her, “you must come back tomorrow at the usual tie. and you must tell yourself that you never saw this.¬†Now go”.
     What can one person do? Certainly an army can fight an army. But what could Irene do-a young girl, only 19 years of age, against the storm troopers of hell? Most people would have tried to follow the sane advice of Shultz. He was a german, but he was not a Nazi- he was a good man who also had to leave his family behind and was compelled to serve the military. He hated the atrocities but he had resigned himself that there was nothing he could do the prevent the death and misery beyond the fence; and if he could not ameliorate the plight of the poor jews then certainly he felt that little Irene could do nothing. By now he was very fond of this vivacious blue-eyed pole. For her own well being he said that she must forget the truth that she now knew.
¬†¬†¬† Irene was not ‘most people’. We¬†would say that Irene was faced with two choices: should she risk self or save self?¬†According to the Nazi overlords it was a capital crime to help a Jew in any way. We would reason that not only her life was dependent upon the choice¬†of self-preservation but also the lives of her sister, her Aunst and her Aunst’s children. She did not personally¬†know these Jewish people- should she not look to saving herself and her own kin? But for this Polish Heroine there was only one choice¬†open to her.
¬†¬† ‘I did not ask myself, Should I do this? But how¬†will I do this?¬†
    Every step of my childhood had brought me to this crossroad;
¬†¬†¬† I must take the right path, or I would no longer be myself’.
      The following day Irene took what appeared to be a pail of garbage out into the back alley. She looked around and could see no one. She removed from her apron a large metal spoon and knelt at the base of the horrible wooden fence. Soon she had dug a small hole beneath the fence the size of a loaf of bread. She pushed aside potatao peelings in the garbage pail and withdrew a tin box filled with fresh food and slid the tin beneath the fence- then dashed back into the kitchen. The next day she found the tin in the hole- empty. Irene asked Shultz if her sister janina could work in the kitchen, telling him proudlly of her culinary skills. He readily agreed. Every day the two sisters smuggled the life saving food into the ghetto- Janina would stand watch while Irene splaced thee tin box full of apples and cheese under the fence and later retrieved the empty container. They never saw the beneficiaries of their courage. Did any German know of their conspiracy of mercy? Probably Shultz did- finallyl he too could do something- he could keep silent.
¬†¬†¬† Months passed and the Germans advanced their eastern front towards Russia. Major Rugemer’s ammunition factory was moved to Ternopol, of all places- now held by the Germans. Shultz and his kitchen staff, including Irene and janina were moved to the new headquarters. The new facility, which¬†also was a converted hotel, was much largere and served enlishted men, many officers and their secretaires. Irene’s responsibilities were expanded to include the laundrey and the cleaning of the officers suites and¬†the secretaries’ quarters. In¬†Ternopol the ammunition factory and the laundrey used Jewish slave labor imported daily from the Arbeitslager, or the work camp. Like Radom, Ternopol also had its own heavily guarded Jewish Ghetto. It was a place where exiled Jews were banished until they were rounded up and sent to the u ltimate horror of the death camp. Not that the ghetto was free from murder. The elite emissaries of Apollyon, the SS, killed indiscriminately wherever their shadows fell. Only¬†the ghettos did not see the wholesale muder that was the daily occupation of the death¬†camps.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† In Ternopol the battalion commander of the SS, the Sturmbannfuhrer, was a young man, about thirty years of age, named Rokita. He possessed the face, features and build of a Norse god with blonde hair and deep blue eyes But¬†those eyes were frightening-deep blue orbs of death. He wore the black uniform of Hell with the Swastika upon his sleeve and the skull ring upon his finger. Under Rokita, the SSwere continually searching for Jews who were still at large, hiding. When found, they were incarcerated in the ghetto. The ghetto was the Africa of Jewish slavery-the hunting grounds for the SS where they would round up the ablest men and woman to labor in the work camps. Because the jewish workers for the Reich had a brief life expectancy and as the expanding war required increasing numbers of slaves for the Empire’s war machine, the lapankas in the ghetto were frequent. The eventual destiny of the ghetto, according to official policy was its obliteration-literally. Each¬†town and city was to become Judenfrei, free from Jews. The¬†Nazis did not just seek dominion¬†over¬†Judah, they sought to completelly exterminate the race. When their ‘success’ had been realized in a city- when every Jewish man, woman and child had been murdered and its ghetto bulldozed into oblivion, the Nazis would post sadistic triumphal signs everyhwere which reads: This Town is Jew Free, Rokitas SS zealouly¬†accomplished their lapankas in the ghetto, therefore, not just to supply the work¬†camps, but also to fill their quotas for the death¬†trains.
      Sense and reason are found only in Heaven. Hell is nonsense. Even when organized, dark forces conjure conflicting strategies. Ultimately the end of all sinister schemes is chaos. On the one hadn, Major Rugemer was required to deliver an enormous supply of ammunition to the german soldiers battling the Russians on the Eastern Front. The bullets were made in his factory manned by Jews. On the other hand, Rokita systematically was responsible for the extermination of the Jews, including the labor force of Rugemers munitions plant. The inane policiies of the Reich, however, are far more vacuous when examined under the light of morality.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Irene marveled at the differences between her enemies. The Russian soldiers had been crude, raw and cruel- killing without hesitation. Yet, the Nazis were meticulous and courteous, but devoid of feeling. She called them, ‘muderers in white gloves’. Killers, like Hitler, Stalin and other ruthless leaders, she reasoned, had been able to obtain power because the sleeping populace had not heeded clear warnings. Hitlers book, Mein Kampf, had been widelyl read in Europe and American, but was not taken seriously by the the masses. Over 80% of Germany had voted against Hitler, yet he still rose to power and was bent, through brute war, on enslavement and annihilation. Irene, her family, and her polish countryman were literal slaves to Hitler. She marveled at the incomprehensibility of war, of marking the entire Jewish race for extermination. It was apparent to Irene that this was ‘not just war between members of the human race’ but that ‘the devil himself had engineered this debacle, and was in control of our sad world’.¬†
    Irene looked and sounded German to the Jewish workers in the laundry and at forst they did not trust her. But she made it clear to them from the very beginning that she was Polish and would do all she could to help them. Like the rest of the Jewish workers, they were malnourished. She smuggled food into the laundry hidden in the large wash hampers. They had no warm clothing. With the help of Shultz she brought them blankets from which they sewed winter coats. Never knowing when or where a lapankas might occur she helped them build a fake shelved wall in the alundry with a hiding place behind it. Over time they not only trusted her, but looked to her as their protector. She was at this time twenty years old. They confided in her their sufferings back in the Arbeitslager- and insisted that they, because of Irene, ahd it better than any of their fellow-Jews. If only she could expand the help she was able to give!
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† While she secretly gave continual aid to her Jewish friends she was the epitome of organization and management in her assigned duties. Major Rugemer was extremely impressed with Irene’s skills in the kitchen, keeping the quarters, and supervising the laundry, which included mending and tailoring. She explained that her success was due to her ‘good help,’ reffering to the Jews. She mustered the courage to tell him that it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain her high standards with the growing demands on her staff. She had to have more helpers- which meant more Jews. The Major looked at Shutlz who readily agreed that Irene had too much to do without more workers. Rugemer smiled at Irene and gave her permission to increase her staff immediately by ten.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Whithin a couple of days a truck pulled up to the hotel, delivering a young married couple and eight girls. Not knowing what would happen next, they literally trembled with fear. The sight of those poor creatures made Irene want to cry herself- for as yet she didn’t even have a plan how to really help them, except to temporarily give them a safe place to work and food to eat. On her young shoulders, in addition to her work responcibilities, the food she was smuggling into the ghetto, and caring for her other Jewish workers- now there were ten more people she must comfort and save from starvation.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Major Rugemer and the hotel grew ever more reliatn upon Irene. The Major treated her well and Shultz treated her as an equal. Even Rokita liked Irene, although she gave him no occasion to become familiar with her. Rokita spoke freely of the extermination of the Jews and abolishing the Poles, but boasted that they would make good Germans of the ‘northern types,’ the ‘blue eyes blondes, like Irene’.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† Irene had kept her sister hidden, working in the kitchen, whenever Rokita dined. But one day the inevitable happened and Rokita expied the beautiful and tender Janina. Irene was horrified. Immediately she spoke with major Rugemer and frankly told him her fears for Janina’s well being, considering Rokita’s obvious intentions. The Major, despite his faults, was cut from an entirely different cloth than SS Chief. He agreed with irene and promptly transferred janina back to Radom. When Rokita learned that Janina was gone he cornered Irene in the kitchen, tightly gripping her arm, demanding to know where Janina was. Irene looked into those ice-cold eyes and lied. She told him that Janina had contracted the highly contagious and deadly disease of tuberculosis. Fearing others might catch it the major had Janina sent away. Instantly Rokita dropped Irene’s arm and grew pale. It was hard for her not to laugh at the frightened look in his eyes. So, she thought, the great Rokita could also be afraid!
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† As time passed Rokita increased the lapankas, thinning out the Jewish population. Irene could see the mounting terror in the faces of her friends in the laundry.. Although she was younger than they-she now regarded them as if they were her children. Some wanted to attempt an escape, but there was little chance of that. How could they get out of a town that was the military headquarters of the Reich’s eastern offensive with soldiers overywhere? There was ten kilometers of open land before the protective cover of the forest could be reached. How could they travel so far without being seen? Irene told them to wait just a little while and she would find a way to help them. Several days later Irene asked Shultz for permission to visit a friend in the country. He not only granted her leave but gave her cookies and chocolates to give to her ‘friends’. She left Ternopol driving a horse drawn wagon she had borrowed froma trusted friend. In the back was a small load of hay and a good size sack of potatoes. Beneath the hay was stowed a precious cargo, and for Irene a dangerous one- the Morris brothers and their wives. When the road narrowed beneath the shade of the towering pines Irene stopped the wagon. She cried as she left them in their wilderness haven- she knew how difficult it was the survive in the forest! A week later she made the same journey with Abram Klinger and David Rosen hidden under the straw. Her friends joined with others who had successfully excaped into the woodlands. Their homes were dugouts, covered with pine boughs. Food was extremelly hard to come by. Irene continued to risk her life for these refugees- taking them food, medicines, and whatever supplies she could steal from the Nazis. She accomplished all this while continuing to provide for the remaining six who worked in her laundrey.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Often Irene overheard officers discussing¬†critical information while they ate.¬†She was a familiar sight to them and knew how to blend into the background. One hot summer night, while they dined, Irene observed Major Rugemer and Rokita involved in an intese conversation. There was irritation, if not anger, written all over the majors face. She worked her way towards their table, feigning some task. She heard Rugemer exclaim, “What am I supposed to do now? How do I find more workers?” Rokita responded with great calm that his purpose was to warn him in advance, so that he would have time to¬†conscript and train replacements for his Jewish workers. Irene was stunned. She knw this had happened elsewhere, but why here where the slaves of Judah were so needed in Rugemer’s munitions plant to fight the Russians? The tray she was carrying crashed to the floor. She excused herself complaining that she had twised her ankle- but her mind was swimming-¬†Rokita’s cold stare pierced her heart as with double daggers. So¬†Ternopol was to be made Judenfrei, she thought. All the Jews, including her dear friend, were to be liquidiated!
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† That evening Irene knelt by her bedside, praying, crying, pleading to God in desperation. In dismay she cried out, “oh God, where are you?” Then she felt ashamed of herself for questioning HIM. The night passed with Irene on her knees, her eyes filled with tears. At last she succumbed to sleep. She awoke, still¬†in the obeisant posture,¬†aching and stiff. AS the day dawned, frigid and steel gray, the full impact of what she had heard broke upon her sober young mind and she¬†knew what she had to do.
          Irene could not conceal the awful news from her friends in the laundry. A young man named Lazar, put his arms around his young wife Ida, as if to protect her from what they had just learned. He looked desperately at Irene, imploring her to help them. She told her dear friends that she did not know what she could do. There might still be a chance, she said, to get them to the forest. She was determined to not let them die!
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† A week later Major Rugemer summoned Irene to his office and explained that the hotel was becoming quite crowded with new officers and that he had decided to move into a house. He would still do most of his work in his office at the plant, but he would netertain officers¬†at the house instead of the hotel. He wanted her to limit her time¬†at the kitchen and laundry, keep his house and oversee his social functions in his new residence. A thought leaped into¬†Irenes mind. That afternoon she excitedly excused herself with Shultz for several hours and checked out Rugemers soon to be home. It was¬†a fenced off estate in a quiet part of town surrounded by large trees. The house was two-stories above ground with servant’s quarters in a below-ground-cellar. A perfect hiding place; imagine sequestering Jews in a German Major’s house!
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† She couldn’t wait to share her plan with her friends in the laundry. Lazar knew the home and said that it was designed by a Jewish architect and was even rumored to have a secret hiding place in it. No doubt this plan was extremely risky but it¬†presented by far the best¬†possible solution available to them. Clara, a young Jewess, exclaimed that this was the hope that they had been praying for. They had¬†faith in God and confidence in¬†Irene!
       There was more that Irene felt compelled to do-she could warn the worker Jews in the factory. She borrowed a bicycle and during lunch rode around the perimeter of the complex. Whenever she saw the star of David on a jacket she would put herself into a position where she could whisper a warning without being noticed. She had become skilled at nondistraction. Softly, without displaying emotion, she would tell them to escape-to hide- that Ternopol was to be Judenfrei. 
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† One serious obstacle arose that threatened her plan to hide her friends in Rugemer’s basement. The home was currently occupied by¬†illegal occupants, war-squatters. The Major had arranged for them to move into an apartment complex on July 22nd. Then she¬†overheard Rokita tell Rugemer that the 22nd of July was the very day that he would sweep through Ternopol, the complex, the hotel and in one grand lapankas send all the Jews to the death camps! Irene was beside herself! She couldn’t move her friends into the¬†Major’s home until the squatters had moved out. Oh God, she prayed-all she needed was one day, one day!
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†The fateful day appproached and she told her six friends to hide¬†behind the false wall in the¬†laundry on the evening of the 21st-and not to depart with the others back to the work camp. The fake wall could only withstand a cursory inspection and she and they both knew it. It would never fool the trained eyes of the Gestapo!¬†But they did as she directed. All of their hearts stopped beating when the soldiers came later that night- the head count was down in the transport trucks and they had¬†been ordered to¬†scrutinize the entire complex. Irene’s legs were like rubber when the Germans entered the laundry; but to them everything looked in order. They all knew if was a narrow¬†escape. What would they do when Rokita’s elite conducted the search?
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† By 6pm the office staff left and Irene went about her usual duties of straightening the majors¬†suite. She knew it was too dangerous to let her friends remain in the laundry closet. Nor could she take them to Rugemer’s new home until the squatters had moved. As she worked, she prayed, “Oh God, what wil I do now?” Trembling with fear, she tried to¬†force herself to think of an answer, but there seemed to be no solution.
    AS she went into the bathroom, she gazed about. Suddenly, her eyes fell upon a square screen, a vent in the ceiling. Irene grabbed a chair and climbing up, was able to remove the cover. There was an air vent at least two meters in length. Could it possibly be large enough and strong enough to bear six people? She felt this was her answer and her only hope. imagine hiding Jews in the Majors Bathroom!
¬†¬†¬† The majority of the officers and secretaries had left their rooms to socialize in the theatre, bu there were still¬†enlisted men in residence and two officers with colds who remained in their¬†quarters. Irene took them hot tea and medication to ‘help¬†them sleep’. At 9:30 Irene crept quietly into the laundry room. First she led two, then one at a time from the laundry, down the hallway, and up the three flights of stairs to Rugemers bathroom. By midnight they were all packed like sardines, hidden in the vent. at 2am the officers began to return from the theatre and with them Major Rugemer. He went to¬†his bed whispering under his breath, “Stupid! Stupid war!” AS he slept fitfully six silent guests heard the moans of¬†this troubled aging commander- ony a few feet away!
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The next day was equally dramatic. Irene had opened an entrance into the hiding place in the laundry and ha dplaced buckets and mops there- giving it the appearance of an odd storage closet. Not long thereafter the Gestapo arrived and swarmed over the place “like ants on a hill”. Irene avoided them and went up to check on her fugitives. As she entered the major’s suite and turned towrads the bathroom her heart stopped completely- she came face to face with an SS officer! He had been using the majors facilities. Excusing himself, he laughed and swaggered past her. Irene was not the only one terrified by the close call. Hoping to see Irene, when the bathroom door opened, the cramped Jews were horrified at seeing an SS officer standing below them! When Irene arrived, they urged her¬†to put an end to their misery, turn them in and save herself at least. Irene was firm as she responded that her life was not worth more than theirs. She told them to be still-they would not give up, they had already come too far. She promised them they¬†would be safe that very night. However, she sounded more self-assured than she felt.
       The day dragged on mercilessly slow while the Gestapo performed with exactness this final round up. They found enough victims to satisfy their bloodlust, for the awful silence that prevailed was frequently shattered by the repercussions of gunfire. Everyone knew that each shock wave was an execution.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The major did not go ou that night but retired at ten o’clock! What were they to do? Again Irene prayed¬†fervently. As he bid Shultz and Irene good night he muttered that he was exhausted, probably from his short¬†fitful sleep of the night before and the strain of the appalling events of that endless day. He asked Irene to bring him some hot milk and mumbled that he was going to take something to help him sleep. His confession was music to her ears! She waited¬†a while, then cautiously entered his room. If he awoke, all was lost! She went to his bedside and from the nightstand stole his keys- she would need them to unlock the backdoor of the hotel. She led her frightened comrades, two at a time, past the sleeping¬†major, down the three flights of stairs, past the dining room, down the silent streets to their “safe house,” then helped them down the coal chute into the cellar. At two in the morning her incredible feat was completed and she quietly returned the key ring to the major’s quarters. Then ghostlike, she crept to her own room and finally rested.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†Besides the original six from the laundry, four others joined Irene’s family hidden in the cellar. One was the Jewish husband of¬†her dear friend Helen. The others were men she did not know, but sheltered nontheless. Shultz provided Irene with enough food to supply her guests and food for her continued trips to the forest, never asking¬†questions, and always reassuring her that she could have whatever she needed. On one of these sylvan trips she found Herman Morris terribly distraught. His wife Meriam was feverish, her lungs weak with possible pneumonia. He cried to Irene, “She will die and I will die with¬†her.” She knew it was true if Meriam remained in that awful dugout. Now Irene smuggled Jews into Ternopol! meriam and Herman Morris joined her subteranean guests bringing the total to an even dozen.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The rumor that lazar had heard regarding the secret hiding place in the major’s house porved to be true! Ingeniously hidden¬†behind a removable coal chute was a tunnel that led underground to a room fashioned below a¬†gazebo. There were air¬†vents that were built into the stone facade that were nearly invisible when looking at the gazebo from the outside. Soon their bunker was stocked with food and water. Rugemers movements were predictable and he never ventured into the cellar but whenever he enetertained, the twelve Jews hid safely underground beneath the shaded structure. The challenges, however, were continual. clara approached irene one day with the news that ida was pregnant and matter of factly¬†asked her to help her end the pregnancy. What else could they do, she argued for the group, a baby’s cry would doom them all!
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Irene answered emphatically, “No!” They should not even concider abortion as an option. Hitler had killed too many children already and they¬†must not let him destroy this child as well. As they had pled for their own lives, Irene pled for the life¬†of this unborn baby. “please, let it live!” She promised that everything would turn out fine and even foretold that they would be free before before the baby’s¬†birth. Although Irene was very young, she was not naive. She had already experienced a lifetime of sorrows; yet, because of her incredible fiath, had witnessed manytimes the miraculous intervening hand of God. She believed this pregnancy was a sign from Him- that he was bringing “new life from the ashes of those who had died in the flames”.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Her words were prophetic. Before Ida gave birth, the¬†Russians pushed the Germans back from Ternopol. Irene was warned by Major Rugemer just before they pulled back. With her borrowed horse and wagon, Irene once again made the perilous trips to the forest, smuggling her dear friends from the cellar to the haven in the wilderness- all but Ida and one¬†other of her stowaways,¬†Fanka. She hid these two women with a forester named Sigmund Pashefski. Irene had made friends¬†of Sigmund and his wife during her many trips into the country and had¬†wisely taken them into her confidence. She had discovered that Pashefshi was with the Reistance¬†and¬†he gladly provided the shelter needed¬†to bring Ida’s child safely into the world.
        Sigmund proved to be extremely important to Irene in another way. In the sudden German retreat and evacuation of Ternopol, Irene had lost her purpose-suddenly she was no longer responsible for the lives of her twelve dear companions. No longer could she help sustain the lives of her friends in the forest. For the first time since she stopped being Rachel and started being Irene she was responsible only for herself! It had been such a long time time and her mission had been of life and death importance. Through her superhuman effort and by the blessing of Heaven she had been entirely successful. But now she was released from it all, and the relief was not as welcome as she had perhaps imagined it would be That is the way it is when we have been needed desperately and find ourselves displaced from the former necessity. The loss she elt in her soul was akin to what a mother feels when her chilcren are finally reared and leave the shadow of her protective wing. This type of emptiness can only be filled by a new and noble purpose. Almost without her realizing it her thoughs ascended to heaven in the form of a question: What would You now have me do? It was Sigmund who opened the doorway into her next existence.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Just as major Rugemer had taken Irene with him when he moved his headquarters to Ternopol, now he planned to have¬†her accompany him to Kielce. Kielce was to be the new control center where the Germans hoped to launch their counteroffensive against the Russians. When sigmund learned that Kielce was Iren’s destination he gave her his brother-in-laws address and a code name: Mercedes-Benz. He explained that the partisans were well orgainzed there, and she must slip away from the¬†Germans in Kielce to join the resistance. He hugged and kissed her saying that she was a¬†‘true soldier’.¬†
        It was a tiring journey to Kielce. Rugemer had long been used to grantin Irene autonomy and she had never even attempted flight. Of course it had been under his protective umbrella that she had been able to accomplish so great an undertaking. All that had changed overnight but the major had not understood the substance of her loyalty. upon their arrival he simply checked her into a hotel and told her he would call for her when he was settled in his new assignment. No escape was necessary. She simply went to bed and the following day walked out of the hotel, and in that simple act of leaving resigned her service to the Third Reich. She never saw  Major Rugemer again.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† As she walked through the streets of Kielce she again used her skill of merging into¬†her surroundings. She had come¬†a long way since her foolish outing in the park of Ternopol waiting for her train. She knew¬†now what it meant to be stopped without papers and carefullyl fouond her way to the memorized address sigmund had given her. A lovely, middle aged woman answered the door suspiciously. However, when Irene said that she had been send by the forester Pashefski to speak of Merceds-Benz immediately the womans countenance changed. She cordially invited Irene to stay for lunch and as she worked in the kitchen, she inquired¬†about sigmund pashefski, her brother. Then her husband entered, a tall man with gray hair and vivid blue eyes. When he heard of Irene’s work to save others, the kindly man invited her to stay with their family, saying how priviledged they were to know her.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† When again the door swung open a strikingly handsome young man entered the room. He was introduced as their son, Janek. Irene looked up into his eyes¬†as he shook her hand. His face was expressive, his hair lustrous and dark his handgrip strong, yet warm and friendly. Immediatly¬†Irene felt herself charmed and enchanted under his gaze. There was a moment when¬†neither of these young people spoke. It was Janek who¬†broke the silence, “I understand you’re looking for me. Mercedes Benz is my code name. I’m the leader¬†with the local partisans”.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† You may say what you wish about love at first sight- about the¬†foolishness of the young and immature. But Irene, although still extremely young, was anything but juvenile. True love is the recognition of virtue. As Irene looked into his eyes she saw the antithesis¬†of Rokita. In an instant she saw light and the passsion of liberty¬†in Janek’s courageous gaze. He might have thought himself ordinary. But Irene,¬†who had been refined in the unspeakable fires of adversity, whose judgement of human nature was now proven beyond question, saw and felt in this young freedom-fighter all of the manly virtues of true integrity-and she straightway loved him for it. And Janek saw in this beautiful golden-haired heroine a vision which all of her former tormentors were incapable of seeing. He saw her loveliness and sensed her divine¬†nature. It was the meeting and the attraction of two great souls.
       Years had passed since Irena had left Kovno with that small remnant of the defeated Polish Army. The Resistance had become organized, skilled, and had connection with the rightful Polish goverment in exile in England. The partissans welcomed the brave Irene into their covert militia and gaver her the code name Mala! again she routinely risked her life and in the manner to which she had become expert. She was not asked to wield a gun and join in the frequent raids against their enemies. Such action, at least, had the benefit of companionship in battle. No, she was once again to demonstrate solitary fortitude.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Her particular assignment was to deliver and receive communications from spies who passed information about German objectives on to Mala. Her missions were critical and perilous. She dressed as a ‘common hausfrau’ and in her hair done carefully in a bun, she hid secret messages.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† mala¬†traveled inconspiculously by bicycle and always with a capsule of poison to quicly take her¬†own life should she ever¬†be arrested. This was the only way¬†a partisan could be sure of not betraying compatriots if captured-for torture and coerced confession would surely follow. Her¬†quick wit and cool head gaver her extraordinary success. For example, one day as¬†Mala was on assignment, she emerged from the forest. Immediately,¬†she was stopped by a German¬†patrol. They questioned where she was coming from. mala had been in so many dangerous encounters previously, she had no difficulty comin gup with a plausible lie. She answered that she had suddenly experienced an ‘intestinal crisis’ and had dashed into the woods¬†for relief. The¬†Germans laughed heartily and allowed Mala to pass without even asking for identification. On another occasion, Mala carried a parcel in a basket on her bike’s handlebars. Thousands of Brittish pounds were wrapped inside the parcel-valuable contraband¬†to finance the Polish underground. AS she rode across a guarded bridge she was stopped by an officer. Mala smiled at the young man, using her best German and twisted her golden curls as she flirted with him. She knew full well he would be looking at her rather than at the valuable parcel. She promised the guard that she would return after visiting her mother. Once again she passed unhindered.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† It was a season not only darin, but of¬†wonderful courtship. mala said ‘yes’ to her handsome freedom fighter and their weeding date was set for May¬†5th, her birthday. On the 2nd of may her mother-in-law-to-be was¬†hemming Mala’s bridal gown when her groom burst into the room and discarding the old wive’s tale of seeing his betrothing in her wedding dress before the wedding, swept her into his arms and kissed her passionately. He had come to speak¬†with her with some urgency; but seeing her in such a¬†manner he had totally forgotten the purpose of his coming. When the kiss ended, he laughed and¬†chided her for causing a lapse of memory and struggled to recall his errand. Then he said, “We just got word- a German¬†transport is moving through the forest tonight. We’re going to hit it. We need the ammunition”. Seeing her countenance immediately fall, he reassured her that it would be an easy target and¬†she must not worry. Then he was gone.
       As night fell she was struck with an awful premonition. Her heart began to race and she could not silence the voice of terrible dread that cried mightily within her. Later in the evening a sobbing mother held Mala in her arms, weeping uncontrollably. The underground had taken the German transport successfully, but not without casualties. merceds was dead.
      Mala was overwhelmed with sorrow-simply stunned Over and over again she aksed the question: Why? Why was she struck with such a tragedy just as she was finally beginning to live? All of the joyful dreams that she and Janik had lovingly built suddenly vanished. Now, Mala was alone and felt nothing was left. The bleak emptiness of ife was suffocating; she longed to be free of pain by fading into numbing death.
         Mala took her grif to a friend and counselor, a wise old priest, Father Joseph. He was a devout servant of the Lord and though she spent hours trying to place the blame of this awful tragedy upon God, he simply would not let her give up her faith. He told her:
¬†¬†¬† ‘Satan temps us in order to bring out the worst in us, and God tests us to bring out the best in us. Your job here ins’t finished yet. The Lord gives us different assignment in life. Lok at the miracles He has performed in your own life. Dont demand too much. Repent and ask him for forgiveness, and his love and mercy will heal your pain. Thats a promise!’
¬†¬†¬†¬† Mala knew that Father Joseph was right. As she looked into his unfaltering, loving eyes, her frigid heart began to thaw. She felt renewed-her faith in God and her faith in her life’s mission restored.
     Mala continued her work with the Resistance until the war ended-but the end of World War 2 did not mean freedom for Poland. The Allies were beguiled into handing over this sad war-torn nation to the Soviet Union. By now the story of Irena, who became Iruska, who became Rachel, who became Irene, who became Mala the freedom fighter was known, if not to the ouside world- was known to the Soviet Secret Police. In fact the Russians believed that she was the chief of the partisans! She was completely unaware of importance in the eyes of the Soviets.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Ida and Lazar Haller, she discovered, were now living in Katowice. How she longed to see Ida and her miracle child Roman-the baby she had saved. Little did she know that she was about to be captrued by the Russians for the third time! How did this happen? Although government officials publicly announced that partisans who voluntarily declared themselves members of the underground would be granted amnesty, Mala was not duped by this ply and stayed incognito. She felt safe-after all, she¬†had evaded authorities for such a long time. Nonetheless she relaxed her guard. As she made her way to Ida’s home and just two blocks from her apartment, she was recognized by the police and arrested and incarcerated. Predictably, shwe was then interrogated and terrorized.
       Hour after hour, day after day, they demanded the names and ranks of resistance fighters. They wanted to know every detail of the udnerground organization. mala renounced knowledge of everything. She was placed in a locked room where, exhausted, she was allowed to fall asleep. But the moment she did so, she was awakedned and interrogated over and over again. Even though Mala denied all they accused her of, she felt certain the inquisitors could see through her lies. As she was apprehended secretly there was no one who could come to her aid. Her only help and her only hope was God. To him, night and day, her prayers for delivery continually ascended.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† She was forced to work during daylight hours,¬†scrubbing and cleaning. Then, extremely fatigued, she would collapse into deep sleep. But her tormentors wouldnot allow her to rest, but would¬†awaken her ‘every hour, on the hour’and resume their relentless questioning. Acutely deprived of sleep, Mala lost track of time, as everything in her life becamse a confusing blur.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† One day she was¬†working in the upstairs hallway when she felt a cold breeze from an open window. She turned and looked at the window and noticed that is iron bars had been placed wider apart than usual. Could she fit through them? Was this the answer to her prayers? Carefully she slid her slender body between the bars and leaped from the second story to the hard ground below. This daring act was not without injury, and initially she could not walk, but crawled on¬†her hands and knees into the cover of a garden. Several veins in her feet had burst on impact, but no bones appeared broken. She caught her breath and somehow gained the strength to walk upon feel that were ‘swollen like two balloons’ and made her way to the¬†Hallers apartment. When they saw her on their doorstop they could not believe there eyes. It was not that she suprised them by showing up unexpectedly-they were surprised because she was alive! Their Rabbi had told them that Irene had been arrested-what hope was there that¬†she would survive! There was no time now for a reunion- it was time for flight! Ida’sbrother caught her reeling in his arms and carried hir off the prch and quickly hid her in their wash room! Irena thought of the irony of it all. Her laundry in Ternopol had been a place of¬†refuge¬†for Ida and her Husband Lazar and now they were hiding her from her enemies in their laundry.
          The next thing she knew the Hallers had bundled her in a car and she was on her way to Krakow. There another of the Jews she had saved gave her sanctuary until her feet healed. during her convalescence she recieved heartrending news from Idawho had sought diligently to uncover information regarding the welfare of her family. The Germans murdered her father in 1945. The Russian secret police were combing the country for her, and worst of all, they had arrested her mother and four sisters. Three weeks later she received a wonderful report from the hallers-the Russians were convinced that her family had no idea where Irene was and they were released.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The Jews had their own secret network and soon¬†all of those whom she had hid in Rugemers cellar came to see her-what a grand and glorious gathering! They wrote her miraculous stoory and witnessed how she had saved their lives. They notarized their testimonial and¬†gave it to the Jewish Historical Committee in Krakow. Irene, with her friends, knew that her life was in constant jeopardy as long as she remained in Poland- a Poland that was held¬†tight in the red grip. Irene’s mother and sisters were thought to be under surveillance by the secret police hoping th apprehend Mala, still aleged by the Russians to be¬†the leader of the underground. Irene’s Jewish friends used their influence to make provisions with a Jewish relocation organization to get her out of the country and into a camp in Bavaria. They dyed Irene’s golden hair Jet black and gave her a new name: Sonia Sofierstein. Her forged papers¬†were flawless and her passage to Germany was¬†marred only by the¬†awful¬†grief she bore in her heart as she left her beloved homeland for what she felt would be forever.
        The Jewish relocation camp in Hessich-Lichtenau to which Sonia was sent was a little town 150 kilometers north of frankfurt. It was a restful place in the country built new by reparation funds from defeated Germany. Her community consisted of approximately 250 jews of all ages. Each resident had lived through many horrors and in some cases was the only surviving member of their family. The surrealism of their new life seemed like a dream in contradistinction to their recent past- entirely incongruous with reason. At first the habitual distrust and innate fear born of the unspeakable atrocities they had survived created a heavy atmosphere of dreadful isolation. Sonia was overwhelmed with self sorrow and longed for someone who would be her friend. But never did she loose her sense of gratitude to God and his creative hand.
         Sonia listened to the quiet voice of the spirit that penetrated her mind and heart. She acted as her own psychiatrist by contintually reminding herself that her life had been spared for a reason. God had blessed her with capable hands, an intellect and talents, which he expected her to use to help others- and now she was blessed with freedom! Sonia would use that freedom to spread love, friendship, and after all of the deprivation that her fellow survivors had endured, she would spread tolerance. Then, when despair threatened her heart- she counted her blessings, squared her shoulders, rolled up her sleeves and went to work serving others.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† It was July 1946 and Bavaria was gloriously beautiful. Sonia love the deep greens of the hills splashed with blossoms. Nature was alive with the songs of birds. Trees were dressed in luxuriant verdure. She felt that: ‘all seemed to promise hope for the future to mend our broken lives”. She returned to her nursing studies and was soon working¬†in the camp dispensary, again blessing the lives of the sick and afflicted. Sonia also studied Hebrew with the¬†Rabbi. She wrote to her friends in Krakow under her new identity to learn of news from home. The help she continually offered others in the Hessich-Lichtenau camp soon made her many friends.
     Sonia awakend each day to a new sense of wonder in the grandeur of forest, mountains, and flower fields. She felt in all of this beauty, surely she was healing from the horror of past years. Again, gratitude for life itself filled her soul and she felt her confidence in the future growing as surely as the flora of Bavaria. Shen disappointments came, Sonia found comfort in the woods. She picked berries for jam to give away. She also shared baked goods and found there was a direct relationship between the healing of her heart and the service that she gave. As the days passed, the other members of the camp joined sonia in laughter and pleasant conversations.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† It was not just to sonia’s room that her friends came to admire. It was to sonia herself they came. The cheerful room was but a¬†reflection of a soul incapable of despair. She was a healer. Although she knew how to nurture the body, she knw far more how to nourish the soul through absolute faith in God, through gratitude for every blessing regardless how small through inspired optimism, through service, and through study.¬†She lived three and a half years in this village. Life¬†still brought her challenges- the stuff of which true living is made. She contracted diphtheria, perhaps from her service in the dispensary. – but again she recovered. By the time the summer of 1947 was gone her blonde hair had grown out. By then everyone knew her story- how she was loved by these wonderful survivors! Sonia waas now known again as irena. The circle of her life was complete. SHE WAS STILL HERSELF!!
     how many of us can look back, after some great tragedy has tried us thorougly and can say that we are still ourselves? How many sorrowful persons readily admit that their compromises have sold them, molded them into something alien from their own soul? The girl with many names, was always true to self, true to God and true to her fellowman. That is why she is worthy of the title Heroine. 
¬†¬†¬†¬† In early autumn she was sought out by a United Nations Delegate, William K. Opdyke. After hearing her phenomenal history he greatly marveled. He knew that he was in the presence of a woman of¬†uncommon courage and integrity. He invited her, formally, to become a U.S. citizen Irena soon made the crossing to America¬†and was thrilled beyond description when she first beheld our lady of liberty and was overcome with emotion. She arrived without the benefit of family, without the ability to speak english, and without money. By today’s standards she was¬†impoverished. yet she felt marvelously rich, for¬†she was netering the United¬†States of America- the land of limitless opportuity and freedom! When she first set foot upon American soil she felt like¬†‘kneeling down and kissing the earth’. Many people today, who categorize themselves as poor, feel that they are entitled to handouts- that for some reason our nation owen them a living. Not so with out young, penniliess, polish heroine who felt indebted beyond measure to America for taking her in. She made a promise that she would live a life worhty of her new country.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Irena adopted the more American sounding¬†name of Irene and pursued each¬†potential opportunity to the fullest. She studied English, worked in a clothing factory, and despite the language barrier became self-reliant! Sometime later she ran across william Opdyke in a coffee shop near the United Nations. He saw her first and immediately recognized her. ‘I know you’! he said, but she did not¬†make the connection between the distinguished man standing in front of her and the man that had receommended her immigaration, nearly two years earlier. ‘i’m sorry’, she responded. I dont believe in know you’. He then began to tell her her own story with impressive understanding and genuine warmth. She looked at him again. He was tall and handsome, older than she dark¬†hair with the first signs of gray in his temples. Her mind flased back to their meeting in Hessich-Lichtenau and she remembered who he¬†was. How different things were now! Now she was independent in a free land with her whole life still before her. He asked her to dinner. She accepted. Each date¬†ended in supplication from¬†Bill for yet another date. Their courting grew into friendship, companionship and deep¬†love.
        Bills life, she discovered, had also been beset with great sadness and nearly insurmountable challenges. His sorrow had schooled him into a discriminator of character. His greif had increased his capacity for appreciation-and how he appreciated and cherished Irene. These two survivors, survivors of the greatest conflict the world has yet seen, received true and lasting peace. They found in each other enduring refuge, comfort and happiness. Several months later they were married and moved to beautiful southern California.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Irene started on yet another new beginnning. This time, however, her adventures were set on a stage of security and contentment. Bill took her everywhere to see the endless sights of this marvelous God-blessed land. In particular whe was moved beyond description when she walked hand in hand with her husband through the forest of the great Redwoods. Then came the grandest adventure of them all- she gave birth to a beautiful baby daughter. Irene, the lover of life now became a creator of life. They named their infant girl Janina after Irene’s beloved sister. Life settled down for the Opdykes and the bitter past became all but forgotten. It was wonderful not to have to even think of the atrocities she had both seen and endured.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† However, in the 1970’s there arose a ludicrous controversy in our country. Pseudo intellectuals, history revisionists, proclaimed that the Jewish Holocaust had been greatly exaggerated. Some proclaimed that the Polish people, not the Nazis, were the ones guilty of war crimes. These liars were given national media attention. Irene was shocked.
¬† ‘I said to myself.. Oh lord, what should I do? Get angry and forget it? No! I will speak! help me!!’
     It was so difficult to open the doors of her girlhood and share with others the nightmare that she had lived through. But she knew that she must do this. A new generation had been born that had no personal experience with the awful consequences of hate. She had witnessed how the deterioration of values paralleled the rise of bigotry-and the end result- a society with no regard for the sanctity of life. She knew that she must do all that was within her power to teach the truth, especially to the youth. She made herself available to school classes, civic groups, church groups. Secular and ecclesiastical leaders recognized her as a gifted teacher with a vital message that must be heard.
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† In 1982 she finally met Ida’s son, Roman Haller, now a grown man. In 1985 she was reunited with her four sisters, Janina, Wladzia, Maria and Bronia who live to this day (December 1999) and reside in Poland. After fleeing her homeland she never saw her mother again. Mamusia died in 1957, long before poland was truly liberated from tyranny. She does not know what happened to dr. David and Dr. Meriam, those thwo dear friends that conspired to save her life. The tacitly confederate Shultz, who provided the food that sustained herself and her loved ones, was kiled by the Russians during the German retreat from Ternopol, Rokita, the Gestapo chief was arrested and condemned for his countless murders. Ironically, during his trial Rokita wrote too Janina requesting that she testify on his behalf-still thinking that his dashing good looks and charm could sway the young girl that had fled his advances. Janina resolutely refused to aid the devilish war criminal. major Rugemer was left homeless and penniless after the war. Providentially and ironically, the old man was found andering by Ida and Clara. Through the Jewish community they secured a room for Rugemer and provided him the necessitites of life until his death in the early 1950’s.
       Foor the past twenty five years Irene Gut Opdyke has given selflessly of her time in this last crusade of her life. Irene, now in her 80s, possesses a mind of great celerity. She still speaks frequently to audiences and congregations that cross the boundaries of race, religion and culture. Althouogh her message is one that needs to be heard, regardless of age, Irene feels that it is especially important to teach these truths to the young. What does she tell them? In answer to that question Irene says:
¬†¬† ‘I tell them, I love you. I am here because I love you. And I am here because to me you are th most important people. Learn, study-you can be what you want to be! Dont hurt anyone. I fyou see someone act in hatred tell them ‘STOPE IT! we all belong to one human family. STOP IT! if you dont do this, then they think they have a right to hate. Then they become Nazis, or Skinheads, or Klu Klux Klan. They are losers! and you, you are not! You are the future leaders of the world!’
¬†¬†¬† After she speaks to her young audiences they often line up to shake her hand. She takes their hand in hers and hugs them with pure motherly affection. She said to me ‘So many young people today just need a hug’.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Irene lives still in Southern california in a small but beautiful apartment. When I met her I was immediately struck by her petite frame, her loveliness, and that which is so difficult to describe, her presence.. She possesses an authority of goodness, a credibility earned through suffering valiant service and sacrifice. There is about her an aura of great strength and godliness. On Irenes walls hang photographs of her beloved husband, now deceased, pictures of her sisters, her daughter and grandson and photographs of some of those whose lives she saved. These relationships are her treasures. Also on her walls are numberous citations from senates, from cities, from churches, from schools, from distinguished societies and associations. All pay tribute to this small woman who defied the tyrrany of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia and held the sanctity of the lives of others more precious than her own safety. Irene is one of the few gentiles ever to be awarded the Israel Medl of Honor by the Yad Vashem Study Center and Memorial to the Holocaust. In memory of her heoic lifesaving service to the ‘worlds’ of Jews, an olive tree bears her name on the AVenue of the Righteous gentlies in Israel.
        What is in a name? When the name represents a divinely appointed mission the name embodies the sum total of the accomplishemnts attributed to the one sent. Irena, the child who became the sudent nurse, who risked her life to save the victims of the aweful blitzkrieg on Poland, The beautiful winter wanderer in enemy territory, whose innocence was crushed and trampled like a snowflake underfoot, and yet survived virtuous and whole. Iruska, the same girl with a new name and a new mission, the nurse who misistered to her enemies soldiers, who grew in medical skill and knowledge, who defied moral assailants and risked her mortal life in a daring escape rather than submit to immoral servitude. Rachel, the selfless servant of peasantry, the accomplished nurse who willingly exposed herself to the dreaded typoid fever to save life with no thought of complesnation, the bold traveler who left the security of a happy and safe existence to traverse the same adversarial regions from which she had fled in the hope only of being reunited with her loved ones, and who in the attempt was captured and incarcerated. Irene, the beatiful maiden of pure arian features, who rose from a munitions factiory slave to become the trusted assistant of a major  in the German army, a noble heroine who used her enviable position, not to retreat from the horrors or war, but to literally win the lives of men, woman and a baby from the certainty of Nazi decreed death, at the risk of her own life-not in a singular moment of bravery, but every day of her life for years! Mala, signal member of the Polish Resistance, espionage agent, deliverer of crucial communications, smuggler of huge quantities of vital cash to bear the demands of battle, betrothed to the handsome mercedes, head of the underground, damsel of grief, widowed before she was married, hunted relentlessly, caught and imprisoned, delivered by Heaven. Sonia, adoped by Israel who saved their young savior, light in the yet murky dawn in the camp of survivors, friend to the few who outlived Hitlers genocide, giver of flowers and of hope in the future.
      Irena, soul of the woman who retains every name, with ehir virtues, their honors, the rewards of their divine missions fulfilled, the woman blessed and sactified by the true love of a noble husband, the heroine recognized world-wide by dignitaries and statesman, and most importantly by the King of Heave. As the author of this took leave of the living heroine, she embraced me, then with a fixed dtermination, she took my face into her hands, looked deeply into my eyes and said:
¬†¬† ‘This is not my work-This is my mission. God spoke to my heart. I did not hear a voice. I heard in my heart. I am a fighter I am for the truth. I believe in God”.¬†
Bryce D. Gibby.

****no one inspires me with greater hope and faith in my lord Jesus christ and my knoweledge that anyone can make a difference and can make it. I hope to meet her one day!!!******

 

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I never celebrate Valentines Day on Valentines Day. Instead I celebrate love a few days late, in this case one day late. I celebrate by renewing my hope in love. I am always searching for ways to keep hope alive, to believe in miracles among tragedy, to see how others overcome horrible life events. Safe Harbor, a new movie that came out this year, became my second favorite movie of all time. The Last Samurai it was not but it was a good second. I don’t often relate to people on a deep level but I did relate to her. Not because I lived her life but because I ‘get’ her character. I believe in miracles and the miracle in the show left me with tears in my eyes (anyone who knows me knows how extremely rare that is). The show left me actually shaking in parts while sitting in the theater. It left me hoping for her. I can honestly say it rejuvinated my belief that Love does indeed overcome all. That we matter. That God allows miracles to take place by the simple fact that Love itself is so overpowering as to overcome all darkness. THAT is the meaning of Valentines Day.¬†

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I always found it amusing that Saint Valentine slaughtered so many people and BAM…Love Holiday recognized by chocolate, teddy bears, and flowers. Amused enough to avoid the spectacle altogether. However, this year I waited 4 months to watch this show. I was drawn to the previews. I think I now know why. Without horrible tragedy sometimes we don’t realize how powerful love is. Love is the fabric of the universe and it transcends death and makes miracles possible. If there was no tragedy sometimes I don’t think that true, legendary love could truly exist either.¬†
So for all those who die of cancer, for all of those who are victims of violence, for all of those who are left in the wake of tragedy…The greatest beauty comes out of ashes. Valentines Day bleeds red with the courage of those to allow love to survive, to bless children, to rescue adult hearts, to weave miracles way beyond our understanding.¬†

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Spending Valentines Day this year in Salt Lake City where I fell in love for the first time, where I experienced living without a home, where I spent most of my youth was an unexpected blessing. I won’t be here for much longer. New places for me. I might come back. Sometimes journeys bring us back home if it is meant to be. I¬†definitely believe in miracles again, I definitely remember what I did when i was a little girl. Despite all hardships I am so amazingly blessed! Safe Haven mentally indeed =)¬†

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