Ida Machura nee Kolberg Pasteurstraße 38 D-10407 Berlin
Our Child was born in October 1944 Translated by Leslie A. Riggle, Wichita / Kansas
As the youngest daughter of the farmer Hermann Kolberg, I had married in Berlin in 1930. Since the war had begun and the air raids on Berlin grew heavier, my husband, who was a soldier in a fire brigade in Bremen, advised me to return to my home in Groß Tuchen with my son, Siegfried. My brother Max had fallen in the Poland campaign and in the meantime, my sister-in-law, Else nee Tilly, had remarried to Fritz Gutzmer. My sisters Greta and Meta were also at home. Since I was pregnant, the municipality had authorized me to have a small apartment upstairs over the school.
Our child Ingrid was born on the 30th of October 1944. She was baptized on Christmas in the church in Groß Tuchen by Pastor Beer from Bütow. My husband could not get a furlough to be there. We had already seen the refugee caravans coming from East Prussia and many of the people were put up in Groß Tuchen. Soon we, too, had to flee because the front kept coming nearer. Already in February my sister Greta had managed to leave our home with her son; but sister Meta with her son and I with Siegfried, 12 years old, and Ingrid, 4 months old, were not able to do it. We had planned to go with the Jantz family from Wiesenthal, who were Ingrid's godparents. My parents, Hermann and Lea Kolberg, and Meta with her son, were to go with Else and Fritz Gutzmer´s. Suddenly, the Jantz family decided not to go. This was a shock for all of us. My parents then remained with the Jantz family in Wiesenthal and there they lived through the entire battle for Groß Tuchen. It was their wish that we sisters should try to get through to Berlin.
On the 2nd of March 1945 (my birthday) at 6:00 in the evening it was time for us all: Fritz Gutzmer, sister-in-law Else with her two children, sister Meta and her son and I with my two children all left Groß Tuchen in a caravan of several wagons. The temperature was minus 6-7 degrees Centigrade and everything was very slick. We came by way of Klein Tuchen and Tangen; and already many farmsteads were burning. We had intended to head toward Stolp and then on to Stolpmünde and then further by ship; but the Russians had broken through to Kolberg and we were cut off. We were then directed toward Lauenburg.
The first night the hilly terrain and the ice made it difficult for us. Everyone had to walk beside the wagons. For kilometers I carried my baby wrapped in my arms, always with the danger that the wagon would tip over. Else's children had to walk, too. It had been planned for the children to ride, but this was not always possible; and we had to make the best of it. In the evenings an attempt was made to find shelter. All tried to protect themselves in the hay in barns and sheds. But I never managed it and had to remain on the wagon with the children, trying to keep them warm. At first there were German soldiers as guards. When one of them heard my baby cry, he was sorry for us and managed to find shelter for us with a refugee family from East Prussia. They had found work as a blacksmith on an estate. The woman prepared a bath for us and afterwards put my baby into her bed.
One time we stayed in the Muttrin estate and there we slept on the floor of the distillery. Here there were many refugees from Posen, East and West Prussia and Latvia; but at least we were warm. And another time I had the good fortune to be able to bathe the little one in a place where a young wife with two children had just received the news that her husband had fallen. And we looked in empty houses for material to make into diapers. The villagers, for the most part, had already been evacuated. One time we tried to enter a farmyard, but the woman set her dog on us. Her husband, who was in the home guard, interceded for us and brought us straw. We were permitted to sleep on the floor and to cook something for the baby in the kitchen. The next day we went on. This farm family also had to flee. So it went, from day to day and from place to place. We passed along the Lebasee and had to get through the endless Leba swamp. We were under way daily from early in the morning until late in the evening and looked for a cache where we might find potatoes or turnips, so we would have something to cook.
On the 9th day we reached a village that had hoisted a white flag. It was obvious that the Russians had caught up with us. We ended up in a farm house were all the rooms were full of refugees. There was a Ukrainian girl, a student, who was a farm worker and who spoke German fluently. Suddenly the house was full of Russians who took anything they wanted from the cabinets. Sister Meta and I wanted to cook our broth, but a Russian wanted to take her into another room. In my fear I called for the Ukrainian girl and she advised us to always keep our children in our arms and to let them cry. The advice saved us often, but our children then received no rest. The next day they took horses and wagon and anything else they liked. Gutzmers and we all stood there empty-handed. How and where should we go now?
We were told to return home and work. Max Gaul from Wiesenthal took my baby on his wagon; but we did not get far because his horses and wagon were also taken, and he (who had always been an invalid, lame and who walked with his head to one side) was badly derided by the Poles. Again we stood helpless. Sister Meta had in the meantime had been separated from us by a detour. We were again with the Gutzmers. There we met the tavernkeeper Genee from Groß Tuchen. His wife and daughter had already left before. He had a yoke of oxen and a wagon and had loaded it with old women from the neighborhood and relatives from East Prussia. He took pity on me and loaded my little child onto his wagon as well. Then it was off to Groß Tuchen. On the way we saw a great deal of misery. The villages were laid waste. Dead people, soldiers, and dead animals lay everywhere.
On the 19th of March we finally arrived at home. The railroad bridge and also the bridge over the river had been destroyed. So we came by way of the train station and then by way of the mill and past the monument.
My sister-in-law, Frieda Kolberg, stood in front of the old house on the Biastoch property and waved to us. She had returned earlier with her family. We stopped at the house of Genee and remained there that night. By that time more of the residents of Groß Tuchen had returned. On the next day we met Mr. Jeschke. My apartment above the school was still livable. We were just unloading when the Russians appeared and we panicked. We all reached for our children, who screamed mightily, and this time we were lucky. The school was an assembly point for the Russians, so we could not remain there. We moved in with the Jeschkes, where other homeless women were staying, hoping there at the end of the street to find some peace; but it was unbearable there.
We learned then that my parents had fled to the Biastochs. It was impossible to remain with Jantz. There the brother from Massowitz had hanged himself and Mr. and Mrs. Jantz had taken their own lives in the Kamenz river. My sister Meta brought our parents back home. They could not return to their old house. So we all stayed with the Jeschkes in one small room and slept on straw; but sister-in-law Else, Meta and I had to hide every night. We slept in the meadow, which by this time was wet with dew, under the floor, in the cellar and in barns. It was terrible. My parents took care of all children.
Once my sister was about to be raped. She resisted, stood with her son against the wall and cried: "Shoot!" She was chalk-white. Everyone screamed terribly. Just at that moment a Russian doctor, who was going fishing, heard the noise. My sister was rescued, but the Russian who had tried to rape her, was savagely beaten. We were all horrified.
Every morning we were escorted to work by armed Poles. Rails from the railroad were removed and loaded up. I had to sweep the streets and clean houses. I had terrible problems with my blood circulation. I was sent to a doctor and he ordered the Poles not to make me work anymore. My brother Otto had to work in the Möller's butcher shop and sister Meta worked there, too. They were allowed to sleep there and one night I slept there, too. There was a Russian and a Polish watchman. I was especially worried when Siegfried was taken to drive sheep. He came back later that night.
After a time we were able to repair my parents' old home and we moved back in. But there was never a night when we did not have to hide ourselves. My mother sacrificed herself for us. My father's health was not good, my mother suffered from cancer, and still they took care of all their grandchildren. One time we all had to stand against a wall to be shot. We were supposed to have buried some weapons. An old neighbor who could speak Polish vouched for us and we were spared. One night all the Germans were called together and stood in front of the Post Office (brother Otto's house) to be shot. Our fear was great. The Catholic priest Hinz interceded for us and after awhile we were allowed to leave.
Our Lutheran Church was cleaned and Mr. Mauß held a service. Even though Mr. Mauß had the permission of the Russians, he was later made to pay for his actions. It was a hard, turbulent time. We occupied ourselves with thoughts of returning to Berlin. From father Hinz we learned that Berlin had been closed. So we went by foot to Bütow to try to procure the necessary documents.
From nothing we put together a small handwagon, into which we could load our few belongings and then departed from our dear Groß Tuchen for the last time. The farewell to our poor parents was particularly hard. Mother accompanied us as far as the forest. Two women from Berlin went with us. We went toward Rummelsburg. Our handwagon soon broke down and we asked Russians for help, if they would take us with them. The women who had slightly larger children were immediately required to accompany the Russians into the forest. My little Ingrid was my guardian angel. So, thank God, sister Meta remained with me.
On the first day we made it to the edge of Rummelsburg. There we had the good fortune to meet Germans, and we could stay overnight. Early the next morning we started out via Baldenburg, whch had been leveled, to Neustettin. The Russians, who had taken us by truck, unloaded us. We met a German locomotive engineer, who took us to what was left of his home. We could stay there. He had to transport freight for the Russians. In the morning he had to leave, and so did we. At the station we waited for the train to Schneidemühl. And there we spent the night in the terminal building, with many other refugees. Again and again the plunderers were active. Siegfried was required to sweep the station area. At last our train came. It was supposed to go to Vorpommern (that part of Pomerania that lies to the west of the Oder River). Siegfried was still busy with his sweeping, but in the last minute he came running. We rode over the temporary bridge at Stettin, where robber bands jumped onto our freight train for more plundering. Then we walked for several kilometers and spent that night in a school. A Russian was on guard duty. He spoke good German. He said we should not be afraid. His father had immigrated to Russia. Early in the morning we left for the station in Strelitz.
From there we finally made it to Berlin. We went by foot to my sister's apartment. Acquaintances, who had been bombed-out, were living there, but they immediately moved in with relatives. The meat market was occupied. We were satisfied that the apartment was undamaged and that we had a place to stay. The next day I went to my apartment. Bombed-out residents of the building had set themselves up in the store. In my apartment there lived another bombed-out couple. The man would not let us in, but the housing office found us another place. How thankful we sisters were that we had undamaged places to live. The only thing lacking would have been news of our husbands. Meta's husband came home unexpectedly, but in poor condition after being a prisoner of the Russians. He soon reopened the meat market.
My husband was a prisoner of the English in Uetersen. After a time we were able to learn of each other. At first he had suffered, but then the English opened a tailor shop, which he had to run. He was able to send clothing for Siegfried that he made out of scraps. For Ingrid there was parachute silk, from which dresses could be made. For his work he often received in payment cigarettes, chocolate or bread. These we received and soon our appearance was more human. He even took a chance once and came across the border to see us. We worried, but all went well.
At the end of 1945 my parents and the family of my brother, Otto, came from Groß Tuchen to near Anklam. Sadly, our father did not survive the difficult time and the journey. He died miserably in a cattle wagon and had to be buried in the forest in a primitive fashion. I went to Vorpommern to get my mother, who was sickly. She was operated on for cancer between Christmas and the New Year. Gradually she improved and we were able to keep her for five years, but the last year was one of suffering. At first she lived with me. When my husband was released and came home in the middle of May 1947, there was no longer room. My sister Meta took her in, although she was crowded, too. There she died on 31 August 1951.
We reopened our tailor shop and there was much to do. Cloth was cut, altered and two old pieces were made into one new piece. Things gradually improved. We have been in our shop for forty years and in 1980 we celebrated our Golden Wedding Anniversary. We are thankful for all of it. Always the hand of God has lead us. On the 21st of April 1983 my husband died. On the 2nd of March I was 87 years old.