Flight from the Homeland

Helene Podelleck nee Roeschke (*1918), Grabenstr. 7, D-29439 Lüchow

- Translated by Dr. Ian Kluge in Prince George, British Columbia / Canada -

During the night of the 1 to 2 March, 1945, we were forced to evacuate our hometown of Gross Tuchen. We were lucky. There were still a few soldiers left in the town. Along with them, they took Mrs. Jonas,and her two children, a family named Frederich which had already been evacuated from Berlin, and my father and me. My mother and sister Selma had already gone to my older sister's place in Koeslin.

We rode in an open truck to Kreis Lauenburg. The Russians were already so far advanced in Pomerania that we could no longer use ordinary country roads. Around Schimmritzberg there was hard fighting. Everything was lit up from the flashing guns. It was bitterly cold. Fortunately, we were allowed to spend the night on a farm - in a stall to be exact. The next day, the soldiers took us with them in the direction of Gotenhafen.

Since we were often attacked by Russian fighters, we were frequently forced to spend hours lying in anti-tank ditches. It took us a whole week to arrive in Gotenhafen. There we waited with the soldiers in the fields around the town. The cold cost us a great deal of trouble. As if that were not enough, we hardly had anything to eat. The soldiers certainly shared somewhat with us, but they themselves didn't have much in the way of food. Finally we found shelter in an abandoned house. However, the air attacks and artillery fire were increasing. We felt, and were in fact, completely helpless. We had to struggle several weeks under these conditions. Word came that refugees would be evacuated by ship.

Even though it was a long way to the harbor, we went almost every day to see if a ship had arrived. Most of the time, our efforts were for nothing. We had to endure numerous attacks. Finally, we also began to lose our courage. Masses of refugees with their horse-drawn wagons lay slaughtered in the streets. The vast majority were refugees from East Prussia. It was a gruesome sight. At long last a ship named the "Bucharest" arrived. It was supposed to take wounded soldiers and women and children but to our good fortune they also took my father as well as the Jonas and Frederich families. But we had to leave our luggage.

The ship was hopelessly over-loaded. The hold was crammed with a thousand horses along with soldiers, refugees. There were military vehicles on the deck. We couldn't have cared less. Both strength and courage had abandoned us by now . On top of that came the cold and the lack of food. The lack of water was the worst. In the fields around Gotenhafen we could at least melt and heat up dirty snow. It's amazing how we survived it all. There were experiences from that time that are simply indescribable; they still pain me today.

As we finally passed the island of Hela, we were attacked by British fighters and Russian submarines. However, each time our ship was engulfed by fog. That left one breathless. When we finally got into the area around Swinemuende, we were transferred to smaller boats. That was a dangerous undertaking. Many drowned. How many, I don't know.

Next we came to Uekermunde. There we found shelter in a gymnasium - on incredibly stinking straw. However, here we also received a warm meal from the field-kitchen, though of course, we had to bring our own containers. We had neither bowls nor spoons. So, in desperation, I rang the doorbell of a house and was told that the children had lost spoons in their sandbox. Stunned, I could say nothing. Such was now the neighborliness and compassion of our German people! I could provide endless details like this.

After a few days were transported away in shot-up rail-road cars. We spent the night in the Salzwedel railway station. The next day we continued to Luechow. Once again were we were put up on straw in a mass-shelter. By now it was the end of April.

In Luechow too we were often attacked from the air, but we survived. We stood, facing nothing. Except what we wore and carried, we had no possessions whatever.

In June my father and I got a small room next to a stall. It was unworthy of human beings, but we were, after all, alone. Our immediate task was to get rid of lice and other such vermin. That took a long time because we didn't have any laundry to change. Nevertheless, we had hopes that things would get better even though there was enormous human misery all around us. In September, 1946, my husband returned from almost seven years of English captivity. In December, 1945, we could once again, enfold our mother in our arms. The new start was extremely difficult. God's help, however, led us back into a normal existence.

Lüchow, February 13th 1995, s/Helene Podelleck nee Roeschke