Several personal accounts of the type of treatment of persons and possessions as a result of war. In summary, to give an idea of what the veterans saved us from:


Rev. Kuczma is a Methodist pastor in Poland. He and his family have been friends of the Underwood family for 40 years, and various members of the family have visited in Osceola. Adam has spoken in the Osceola church several times. When he retired, he wrote his autobiography, which tells of life in Poland under Russian domination, the Nazi regime, and Communism.

Adam described the Poland he knew in his childhood — "Fertile fields yielded the richest crops of wheat and rye, buckwheat and barley, potatoes and sugar beets. The fields were surrounded by forests full of wild animals and birds." Adam had two brothers and two sisters. His father was a worker in a mill and his mother looked after the household, tended a garden, a cow, and several dozen chickens, thus increasing the family income. They had a small house built on a plot of four acres of land, which had about two dozen apple trees.

In September of 1939, the Second World War broke out. The Nazi Germans invaded Poland from the west. Two weeks after the German invasion, on the grounds of a secret treaty known as the Ribentrop-Molotov Treaty, Stalin had sent his troops to invade Poland from the east. Thus, in three weeks time, Poland ceased to exist. This is the story he tells:

The day of September 17, 1939 will never be forgotten. It was a Sunday afternoon when the first Soviet tanks, and after them ragged Soviet soldiers, entered our peaceful town. All night from Sunday through Monday we could hear shelling and shooting. When I got up in the morning the Soviet soldiers could be seen everywhere. The invaders looked very poor and hungry. Their uniforms were just old rags. Instead of shoes, many had rags on their feet. Their long, pre­revolutionary rifles were tied with ordinary string behind their backs. They would go from shop to shop looting everything they could lay their hands on, especially bread.

During the first days of Russian occupation, they arrested all those who were official state officers. Every night, usually after midnight, the KGB police would come to a previously selected home and knock at the door or window. The family thus would be waked up without warning, scared to death, and given 15 minutes to take whatever they could. They all were ordered out to a van or even a horse cart, taken to the railway station, loaded into cattle wagons, and under a strong escort were deported to Siberia, Kazakhstan, or other uninhabited places of the Soviet Union. There they were left there to die, or survive if they were strong enough. Many, particularly elderly people and small children, died on the way. Only the strongest survived and adapted themselves to the new, very cruel conditions.

From September 1939, when the Soviet troops moved in, through March 1940, many thousands of Polish families were deported according to the KGB's plan. They made lists of the so-called "nieblagonadiozyj element," which roughly could be translated as "untrustworthy element." In their jargon it meant "the enemies of the Soviet Union." To be so classified, it was enough to listen to a foreign radio, read a forbidden book, criticize a Soviet leader, preach the Gospel, or distribute Bibles.

A month after the invasion, all the shops were empty. This was a deliberate policy of the Communist system — first to starve people and then to give them a little bit to eat. They wanted to fix people's minds on food. That would not give them time to think of anything else. We had to stand in lines for hours, sometimes whole nights, to get a loaf of bread, or occasionally a piece of meat, a little bit of sugar, flour, or soap, which was a particularly rare product.

In 1939, when the Soviet occupation came, we children were still of school age. All of us had to go to school. Polish schools were closed and we were forced to go to the Russian ones. How different they were from our old Polish schools! First they replaced morning prayer with a special chant praising Stalin. Every morning we had to gather in the gym hall and a special political instructor would lead us in the chanting. For five minutes we had to chant in Russian, "We thank you, Comrade Stalin, for our happy childhood."

After that we got some more indoctrination in socialism as the most glorious system in the world and in Marxism-Leninism as the leading philosophy. After this indoctrination we had to sing the "International Hymn" and then we would go to the class rooms. The teaching program was full of Communist doctrines. Pupils were subjected to a very strict discipline. We were not allowed to attend churches. To speak about God was strictly forbidden. Boys and girls had to be members of the "Pioneers," which was a Communist organization for children. Sundays as well as holidays were abolished. We attended school for five days and every sixth day was free and was called "wychodnoj." So our "wychodnoj" could be on any day of the week.

Children were used as the information source for the KGB. Some teachers were obliged to ask personal questions about the family, what our fathers and mothers were doing, what kind of books or papers they were reading, what kind of people visited, our homes, etc. The teacher passed this information on to the KGB officer, whose office was usually in the school. He would have an official educational function just to camouflage his real association...

The two year period of Soviet occupation was suddenly interrupted. The very few people who could listen to the BBC or Voice of America were secretly talking about the possibility of a war with Germany. The rumor intensified in the spring of 1941. The interesting thing was that normally people would be afraid of war, but under our circumstances people wanted war. This was the only hope of getting rid of the barbaric Soviet system.

On the 20th of June, the school broke for vacation. On that very day my parents decided that, because of the shortage of food at home, we children were to go to the nearby village to stay with our aunts to help them on their little farms. On the morning of June 21, 1941, my peaceful rest was interrupted by military planes roaring in the air all around the area. People supposed that it was a part of the military maneuvers. But soon we all learned the truth — war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had become a fact. In the afternoon there was the first Nazi air raid on our town, Tarnopol. It took two weeks for the German troops to take over the town. The Russians were running away in great panic. Because of the shortage of fuel they were leaving behind their huge tanks and vehicles loaded with ammunition. They did not have time to evacuate prisoners who were held in the Tarnopol jail, so they shot several thousand of them.

When the Russians left, the first German SS soldiers appeared in the streets. Young, handsome, neatly dressed in SS uniforms, they made a great impression on the civilians. I was still with my aunt in a village when I got a message from home that I was to stay where I was, not to go anywhere near the German troops. Yet my curiosity to see the victorious Nazi army was greater than my fear. In spite of the warning I went into town. And what did I see? Streets covered with the dead bodies of Jewish people — men, women and children!

For the first three days of the Nazi occupation, the SS would kill any Jew who appeared on the street. They would take them to wash their cars, lorries, or tanks, and after they had done the job, they would be killed. As I was going along the streets, heading towards home, I saw them lying in the gutters, with the shirt sleeves rolled up and mops in their hands, just as they had finished their work. Soon the civil German administration was established. A part of the city was designated as the Ghetto and a high fence was put around the area. It was in that part where most of the Jews lived. In addition, Jews from neighboring towns and villages were brought to the Ghetto, making it mercilessly crowded. There was only one gate through which the Jews were taken to work every morning. They all had to wear a band bearing the Zion Star on their sleeves, and a Jew caught without such a band was severely punished.

Father was angry when he saw me at home. He shouted at me, 'How dare you appear in the streets where so much killing is being done?!' I returned to be with my aunt, but after a week or so it became more dangerous there than in my town, because the Germans started taking young men and girls to work in Germany. Boys would be sent to work in military factories, and girls would be sent to houses of prostitution to serve German soldiers when they were on leave. To be secure, I had to get a job, which was difficult for a 16-year-old. Luckily my father had a friend who owned a baker's shop and he needed a worker. Thus I got my first job. It was hard work but one of the main benefits was a two-pound loaf of bread which I brought home daily as part of my wages. Many people envied me when they saw me returning home with a whole loaf of bread under my arm. That was more than a week's ration.

The year 1943 brought an intensification of Hitler's plan to "solve the Jewish problem" by annihilating that entire nation. The Tarnopol Ghetto was inhabited by about 40,000 Jews. From early spring, every afternoon I would see groups of 200 to 300 Jews, men and women, elderly and children, escorted by German and Ukrainian police to two execution places outside the town. At sunset we could hear the echo of machine-guns from both places. Every such echo meant the death of 10 to 15 Jewish human beings. The executions lasted until late at night.

It has always been a puzzle to me how it was possible that six armed police were able to escort 300 people, who were aware they would be killed that afternoon by those six murderers. Yet they did not make any attempt to run away. Many could have saved their lives if they had dispersed and hidden themselves between the buildings and then in the forests. Only once did I see such a thing happen. The police managed to kill one or two but the rest ran away. When those victims were brought to the execution site, they had to dig out a big grave for themselves. Across the grave they had to put a board, kind of a bridge. When everything was ready all of them had to undress; then they had to stand naked on the bridge, and there they were machine-gunned.

We all realized the great tragedy of those people, but nobody could help them. For Poles in general, life under Nazi occupation was not easy but people at large felt a little better off than under the Russian occupation. Both the Germans and the Russians treated the Poles as second class people, predestined for extermination. In a sense, we all were waiting our turn to be killed.

The Nazi occupation of my home town of Tarnopol continued until the spring of 1944. More and more news came to us from various sources about the failures of the German army and the victorious march of the Soviet troops. Finally, in March 1944, the first Russian soldiers appeared in our vicinity — poor, ragged creatures, dirty and half-naked, with fear in their eyes. They were going to house after house, asking people if they had seen the German soldiers anywhere nearby. While in the city the Geimans were strengthening their positions, overnight the suburbs of Tarnopol were taken by the Russians. The day was quiet. There was no shooting. The soldiers were digging trenches and strengthening their positions with heavy arms.

On the following day the German soldiers came to tell us that we had to leave and to run as far as possible from Tarnopol, because there would be a big battle in our area. We hurriedly took whatever we could put on our shoulders and went to the west suburbs. Very many civilians left the town that day — women with little children in their arms, men carrying loads of all kinds of things on their shoulders — boys, girls, and old people—all running westward, not knowing where we were or what was our destination. We were simply running away from the Soviets who, we were told, were moving fast. Our nomadic life lasted about eight weeks, as we wandered from village to village, begging for food, sleeping in barns, in the fields, or by the roadsides.

The "liberation" of Tarnopol was completed in the middle of May 1944. After two months of nomadic life, we returned home to discover that the city, where most of the battle took place, was completely ruined. Our house in the suburbs, however, was not destroyed. The walls had many marks of the bullets and the iron-sheet roof was like a strainer full of holes. Inside, the Russian officers had set up a temporary staff office. Some of our neighbors were already back, but as our house was occupied by the Russian officers, we had to wait until the middle of May 1944.

From the first day of "liberation" the Russian military authorities established their law and order. They started with the burial of dead bodies which were scattered all over town. Huge mass graves were made. Except for Russian soldiers, buried separately, the German soldiers and dead animals — horses, dogs, etc. — were put together in one grave. All were forced to take part in this mass burial, myself included, working under the escort of the Russian soldiers. It took several days to clear the town of dead bodies. The smell of the decaying corpses spread all over town. We had to hurry the job because of the threat of disease.

It did not take us long to realize we were back under Soviet occupation. Soon they started to take people away from their homes, On October 10, 1944, about 6:00 in the afternoon, I was arrested. Except for my two brothers, the family was at home eating our supper when two armed soldiers and a KGB officer invaded our house. They pointed at me and the officer said, "You, young man, get ready and come with us." I was not given much time to say goodbye. The officer now and again shouted, "Bystryj, bystryj!" ("Hurry up, hurry up!") We quickly gathered the most necessary personal things along with the remaining piece of bread from the table. My father got up, went quickly to the shelf, took down a pocket size New Testament and, hugging me, said, "Take this, my son. This little book will be a great comfort to you wherever you are." Those were the last words I heard from my father. I never saw him again.

Outside a police van was waiting for me. I waved goodbye to my family, who were standing on the porch, crying bitterly. In the van I was escorted by two army soldiers. As the van moved I felt that one chapter of my life had ended and a new, completely unknown one, was opening before me. I asked where I was being taken. The response was, "Molchat!" ("Shut up!")

The van stopped in the yard of one of the schools, which I used to attend when I was a boy. I was taken to the gymnastic hall which was guarded by armed soldiers and KGB police. Two or three dozen victims like me were already there. All through the night new groups of young men were brought to the hall. By morning the hall was full. Late in the evening they told us to get ready. Under strict guard we were marched to the railway station and there we were loaded into cattle cars. My journey to the labor camp began.

The journey was a torture in itself. We could not see anything. The wagon had a little window high up by the roof. It was open to let in fresh air, but it was sealed by barbed wire. Once a day, when the train stopped at a station we were allowed, in small groups of five, to get out under escort to take care of our physical needs. Once a day we were supplied with a very scanty ration of bread, dry salty fish, and water. All the time we were treated like animals. We sat or laid on the floor, no mattresses or blankets. Every day of our journey was colder and colder, which indicated that we were traveling northeast.

After a week or so, in the middle of the night we arrived at a very small station in a forest. There was no name on the station. All of a sudden we were ordered to get out of the carriages. Sleepy, weary, and hungry, we were ordered to stand in a double line in front of the train. They counted us and then, under strict escort, we were moved several hundred yards until we came to a big wooden barrack. We had to pass through two barbed-wire gates.

"I could not see much through the dark, but my first impressions were scary. I felt very cold. There was a lot of fresh snow on the ground. Shivering all over we were taken to the barrack. We were told to remove all our clothes, being allowed to take only a handkerchief and a purse. We were told to put all other belongings, together with our clothing, on the stack of similar stuff, apparently from the previous transport. All of a sudden I faced a serious problem: What shall I do with my Bible? My intuition started to work very hard. I quickly wrapped my little book in the handkerchief and held it along with my purse. The handkerchief was not too clean, and maybe this was why I could safely carry my New Testament through the guards, who were carefully watching every individual.

From this barrack we moved to another section, called `banja,' which roughly could be translated as a 'bathroom.' Of course, it did not in any way resemble a bathroom in the sense the civilized world knows it. It was a big room with several barrels filled with warm water. The room was cold and the steam from the barrels filled the place. I could not see much through the steam. The cleaning procedure began with removing hair from all parts of the body. We were served by women in white, dirty aprons. After I was shaved, I was given a tiny bit of dark soap and a wooden bucket. With the bucket I went to one of the barrels, and there another woman gave me a portion of lukewarm water, which I was told, was all I would get. There would be no refill.

In spite of the circumstances I was pleased to wash myself after the long journey in the dirty train. There were several common towels, pretty wet from having been used by several previous groups, but I dried myself and was ready to go. The guard opened the door and told me to run to another barrack. I ran about 50 yards, naked and barefoot, on the snow. In that barrack, I was given shabby clothing and two left shoes, probably taken from soldiers killed in battle.

After some time they took the whole group to a big barrack where there were many simple tables with coarse benches on both sides. This was to be our dining hall. The sergeant gave the order to take our places, five on each bench, ten persons to each table. From each table one person was selected to go to a little window of the kitchen. We were each given a little bowl made from the disposed cans of American canned food. These little bowls and wooden spoons were assigned to every prisoner with the instruction that we would have to take good care of this property. "This is STATE PROPERTY," the officer stressed. "GOSUDARSTWIENNOJE IMUSHCHESTVO." ("There will be severe punishment if you damage or lose it.")

I was too hungry to listen to this instruction. Finally a bucket of soup arrived at our table. Ten persons were to share the contents of the bucket. The person who was designated to bring the soup was responsible for just distribution. Ten bowls were put in two rows. All of us watched the distributor to see that there was an equal division in each bowl. The soup was made of rotten cabbage. The smell was terrible! In addition, we were given a piece of dark glue-like bread. It was like a piece of clay. You could easily make figurines from it. I was very hungry, too hungry to worry about the taste of the stuff. At that moment all I wanted was to fill my stomach, no matter what I put in it. I finished my soup instantly and did not feel I had satisfied my hunger. No refill, no request for more. There was no time for questions or conversation. This was my first breakfast and a foretaste of the food I would be given for the rest of my stay in the camp.

After breakfast we were taken to our "dormitories." It was light now and I saw no buildings. Instead, there were rows of little hills, like huge molehills, where prisoners lived. We came up to one of the man-made caves. The door was made of rough boards, the opening so narrow that we had to enter single file. Coming from the light, at first I could not see anything. There were no windows, only two kerosene torches burning at each end. When my eyes finally got used to the darkness, I saw three layers of bare shelves. No mattresses or blankets. These would be our sleeping quarters.

We were all very tired. We were introduced to Corporal Samcov who said, "Until lunch time you can rest on these berths." I chose the middle shelf and discovered that I was mistaken when I thought earlier there was nothing on the shelves. There were straw mattresses. The straw in the dirty sacks was not fresh. The odor of the rotten straw filled the whole cave, giving that characteristic smell which had struck me when I first entered the place. Soon we all smelled this way. Our bodies, clothing, everything stunk like the straw in the mattresses.

This time of my life, until April 1945, was hell on earth. We were not treated as individual persons. We were treated as a flock of working animals. The food never varied from the rotten cabbage soup and glue-like bread. Our work was chopping wood, sweeping off snow, cleaning latrines, and similar things. I was 18 years old, normally the most beautiful time in the life of a young man, but conditions of the labor camp gradually robbed me of my humanity and of my most basic, God-given dignity. I was becoming more of an animal than a human being. I became depressed and frustrated as I realized there was no way out of the situation. Hunger, cold, hard work, and inhuman conditions completely broke my spirit.

More and more every day, my colleagues who were physically weaker began to die. It was most depressing to look at them, see their glossy, lean faces, which began to swell, and on the following day to learn they have been taken away to die. Most painful was the hunger. If you have never been really hungry, you will not understand what hunger means. You can refrain from eating one, two, even three days. This is not hunger. Hunger begins at the point when your body starts consuming its own substance. Your muscles and your flesh fade away until you become only bones covered with skin. When you reach such a state you think of nothing but food, you dream of food, you talk about nothing but food. Like a mirage in the desert you see tables covered with food, but you cannot eat it. It disappears as soon as you wake up.

I understood that my situation was hopeless, but even in such a situation one has some hope. As long as one lives and has the ability to think, there is some kind of a small light in a long dark tunnel. For me the little light in the tunnel was the New Testament that my father had given me when the Soviet soldiers came to take me away. Reading the Gospel and prayer, these were the greatest comfort for me. It was difficult to read my New Testament. I could do this only after I came back from work late in the evening. When I read and meditated on His Word, I wanted to go to His Kingdom. I was not afraid of death. As a matter of fact, I wanted to die.

The joy of possessing the New Testament did not last long. One night as I returned to the cave, I ran to my usual place and there by the kerosene torch I opened my New Testament and began to read. I remember it was the passage from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 16 and verse 33; "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Reading these words filled my heart with joy. I understood that my misery was known to Jesus. He had foreseen this two thousand years ago. But the greatest joy was in the fact that I was not alone. He was with me!

As I was meditating on these words of Jesus, all of a sudden the officer on duty stood in front of me. I stood paralyzed! My instinct told me that he would take my New Testament from me. I tried to hide it, but that was too late. He had seen it. He jumped on me and grabbed my little book, put the New Testament in his pocket and told me to follow him. He took me to the office where the chief commander of the camp was sitting behind the desk. The officer told him what happened and put my New Testament on his desk.

The commander took the little book in his hands and turned page after page as if he wanted to find out what it was. Suddenly he asked: "What language is the book in?" "In Polish," I said. "Are you a Pole?" "Yes, sir." "What is the book about?" "This is the New Testament, the Word of God, sir." "You say this is the Word of God," he said after a time of silence. I said, "Yes, this is the Word of God, sir."

At this moment he became like a wild animal. He shouted like a mad man. I understood he wanted to intimidate and scare me. "You fool! You idiot! You want to make a fool of me, telling me that this is the Word of God, and I will show that this is nothing!" He tore off a page of the New Testament, took some tobacco from his pocket, rolled up a cigarette, lit it and began smoking. He gave the book to the other officer, who did the same and both of them went on smoking the pages from my Bible. While doing this the commander shouted, "You see, this is your Word of God!" and blew his stinking smoke in my face.

A long hearing began. He wanted to know my whole biography, asking about my parents and grandparents, about my education, and most of all he wanted to know how I got the New Testament into the camp. He repeated the same questions over and over again, instructing me in Communist ideology, ridiculing all religions, and particularly Christianity. Shouting at the top of his voice, he said: "You realize that any kind of literature is forbidden in the camp, and especially this kind of a book?!" He continued to shout like a madman. Every time I wanted to give him my reasons why this little book was so important to me, he did not allow me to speak, shouting, "Moltchat!" ("Shut Up!") and using very strong curse words, as only the Russians could do it.

The hearing lasted several hours. The officer, who brought me to the chief commander, was sitting next to him taking notes of everything I said. They repeated the same questions over and over again. After some time, the whole procedure became such a strong psychological pressure on me that I could not stand it any longer. I burst into tears. They treated me like an animal, or even worse. Inside my soul I was praying, asking God why all this was happening to me. I cried, "Lord, why do You allow them to torture me in this way and to blaspheme Your Glorious Name?" In response I heard the voice, "My son, be of good courage, I am with you. Nothing bad will come upon you. From now on you will see greater things."

My oppressors noticed the sudden change in me. Looking at me, one of them said, "He is finished. Let us give him some punishment and send him back to his cave." I expected they would send me to court but to my surprise nothing of what I expected happened. They punished me with seven extra days of hard work. It meant that for seven mornings I had to get up an hour before the regular reveille and do the dirty work like cleaning latrines, sweeping off the snow along the lanes of the camp, scrubbing and washing floors, etc. I had to do the same kind of work in the evening after the tattoo, that is after everybody went to sleep.

It was long after midnight when I was taken back to the dugout. I took my usual place on the sleeping board, covered myself with the mantel, but for a long time I could not sleep. Finally my nervous system quieted down and I fell asleep, but it was rather a short nap. Suddenly I felt somebody pulling down my mantel and jerking my foot. It was the overseer who said, It is time for you to get up!' I understood that he came to take me to execute the given punishment.

Quietly I got up, put on my rags, and stood ready to go wherever he would take me. He gave me a shovel and a broom, took me out in front of the dugout and showed me the accumulation of freshly fallen snow which had come down during the night. The sky was clear and the moon was shining brightly. Although in the cave there was no heat, it was like a luxurious hotel in comparison to what it was outside. The temperature was about 40° centigrade below zero. It was so cold that if you expectorated, before the spit hit the ground it had already become a lump of ice.

The overseer said, "Look, you have to remove the snow from around the cave before reveille. Get to work and hurry up!" Saying this he hid himself back in the cave and I began to work. I shoveled the snow as fast as I could to generate maximum energy to warm myself up. When my hands got cold I beat them against my body. In this way more blood would come to my palms and fingers, and thus the cold was not so bitter.

All of a sudden I noticed a black spot on the white snow. The spot had the shape of a little book. I looked around to see if anybody was looking. When I was sure that nobody was watching me, I bent down and picked up the little book. I could not believe my eyes. IT WAS A NEW TESTAMENT! I quickly opened it and noticed that it was in the Russian language.

Holding the little finding in my hands, all of a sudden I was overwhelmed with unspeakable joy. I knelt down because, like Moses in the desert, I felt the place was Holy. I sensed some invisible hands around me. I did not feel cold any more. My heart and my whole body were strangely warmed. I was aware that somebody invisible was holding me up. My instinct told me that it was Jesus. Being on my knees and enjoying this unusual experience I said, "Lord, if you ever take me away from this hell, I will become your servant forever."

Two or three weeks later the situation started to change. From the beginning of April, we did not go to work in the forest any more. Between one day and the next, I became a Russian soldier. Nobody asked me if I wanted it or not. They simply made me a Soviet soldier. Even though they gave us no freedom, we were treated slightly better. The food improved. Our prison rags were replaced by uniforms. We did not go to work in the forest but practiced military exercises. Toward the end of April 1945, again we were loaded into cattle cars and transported to the Far East. One day an officer announced, "Comrades! I want to inform you that today our great Soviet army has killed the Hitler beast in its own nest. Comrades! War is ended! But we have one more task to fulfill. We have to take vengeance on the Japanese Samurai."

I was assigned the duty of learning Morse code and operating a portable radio. At the beginning of July 1945, we were subjected to intense training for war against Japan. There were skirmishes, I had several narrow escapes, and men I knew were killed, but God's promise to me held true. While Poles and Russians were together in the trenches and death was a distinct possibility every day, I saw the reason God had replaced my Polish New Testament with one in Russian. I was able to read to men of that nationality in their own language and they heard the gospel, most of them for perhaps the first time.

During this time I began hearing, not from the official authorities but from ordinary rumor, that the Americans had launched strange bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs had terrific power and they completely destroyed the two towns and killed thousands of people. It was only after some time that I learned that those strange bombs were the atomic bombs. The Russian command did not like to talk about that new American weapon. The date of the bombing was August 6, 1945. My life was saved by that event. Had it not been that the war ended at that time, I am certain I would have been considered by the Russians to be expendable, and placed in the front lines. September 3, 1945 was the date officially announced to the Russian troops as the Day of Victory over Japan.

Russian soldiers were talking of going home but I held no such hope, until one day I ran onto a Jewish colleague who had been a schoolmate in my home town. He told me about his escape from extermination at the hands of the Nazis, but the important information was about the Polish-Soviet agreement concerning the repatriation of the Polish citizens from the Soviet Union. I immediately sent an application, which was denied. I met him again and he told me he had written directly to Stalin and he persuaded me to try. That became a long process, but after many delays, I boarded the train for home on October 25, 1946...

I spoke of returning home, but as a matter of fact, it was not "home." I met my sisters and step-mother, but my father had died six months before I returned. Three days after I was arrested, the Russians had taken my younger brother, Stefan. Stefan was located in the Pechora area far north of Russia. The Pechora labor camps were abolished, the prisoners were set free, but they were not allowed to leave. They were given small plots of land on which they could build log cabins to live in. Stefan worked there in the forests. Julian had also been arrested and taken to Russia, but was drafted into a Polish army organized by Stalin. My home was in Ternopil (Ukranian for Tarnopol), which after World War II became a part of the Soviet Ukraine. The Poland to which I returned was not the same Poland I knew in my childhood. By the decision of American President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Churchill, and the Soviet Communist leader Joseph Stalin, Poland became a part of the Eastern Communist Block.

That was not the choice of the Polish people. The consequences of that decision were tragic for the nation. It did not take me long to find out that the mighty Soviet KGB kept control over all walks of life. In every minute of my life I was aware that "Big Brother" was watching me.


Adam kept his promise and through many hardships became a Methodist pastor, who was a non-person in the Communist country, and endured many frustrations therefrom. His more complete story is in Volume 6 of Recipes for Living, or in his autobiography with the title Book of my Life by Adam Kuczma available in the Osceola Public Library.



The hard decisions of a young man in Nazi Germany whose desire was to do God's will.

Dietrich and his twin sister, Sabine, were born in 1906, to a prominent doctor's family, which prided itself on the traditional German values of hard work, duty and obedience. War broke out in 1914, and Dietrich's brother Walter, age 18, volunteered to fight for the Kaiser in 1917. He was killed two weeks later, which engendered Dietrich's hatred for war and killing. He began reading the Bible and began to realize that God had a will and purpose for the lives of his created. Without any encouragement from his home or family, Dietrich decided to become a minister. He earned his doctorate in theology and was ordained a Lutheran minister. He became a prolific writer which made his name well known both in Europe and America. He spent a year at Union Seminary in New York at the time Hitler's Nazi party was becoming prominent in Germany. On January 30, 1933, Hitler became chancellor and two days later Dietrich Bonhoeffer was scheduled to give a radio address during which he said, "A man who lets himself be worshiped mocks God."

He was abruptly cut off and in the two days of Hitler's new position, the Nazis had taken control of the media. What puzzled and shocked Dietrich was that churches took no stand against this regime but pastors seemed to rationalize that if they opposed Hitler, he would close the churches and how was God's voice to be heard? When the order came that excluded Jews from government positions, Dietrich wrote pastors all across Germany, urging them to speak out for the Jews but there was little to no response.

There was no way to avoid the issue. Sabine had married a Jew, and when her father-in-law died, her husband asked Dietrich to conduct the funeral. This weighed heavily on his mind and unfortunately for his own conscience, he chose to decline. He regretted the decision the rest of his life, even though he worked with the Jews, helping them to escape from Germany, and initiated a small community of German pastors who opposed Hitler. The secret society was discovered, the students were forced into the army, and Dietrich was forbidden to preach, teach or publish.

He was rescued when Union Seminary invited him to return to America to teach. He came, but his conscience nagged at him until he announced, "I'm going back." His friends enforced the warning Bonhoeffer already knew — he was facing the strong possibility of going to prison. But his feeling was so strong that he owed it to his people to help remake the country and be part of their suffering, that he went back. At that point he was faced with an even greater challenge.

A relative discovered that millions of people, including men, women, and children, were to be taken to camps where their deaths would be assured. The only was to stop this madness would be for Hitler to die and Dietrich was sought out to be involved — this man who was so opposed to killing would now be an accomplice to murder! The attempts all failed but on April 5, 1943 two Gestapo agents came to arrest him and Dietrich was taken to prison. He spent 20 months in solitary confinement, then was taken to a Gestapo prison, and from there to the infamous Buchenwald death camp. When American troops were nearing, he was taken to the camp at Flossenburg where he was condemned as guilty of high treason, the penalty to be death by hanging. He was thirty nine when the execution took place.

Attempting to walk with him through these years brings to mind the multiple calls for decisions all along the way, but his poem Who Am I? is an striking revelation:

Who, am I? They often tell me
I stepped from my cell's confinement
calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
like a Squire from his country-house.

Who am I? They often tell me
I used to speak to my warders
freely and friendly and clearly,
as though it were mine to command.

Who am I? They also tell me
I would bear the days of misfortune
equably, smilingly, proudly,
like one accustomed to win.

Am I really that which other men tell me of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself,
restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
struggling for breath, as though hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers, for neighborliness,
trembling with anger at despotisms and petty humiliation,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the other?
Arn I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army
fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Letters and Papers from Prison



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Last Revised April 10, 2015