Reluctant writer tells story of life under Nazis, Communists

NEIGHBORS

November 17, 1998|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IRENE KUCHOLIK long fascinated her friends with stories of growing up in Hitler's Germany and working as a nurse under Communist rule. They urged her to put her stories down on paper, but she resisted for a long time. Reliving old tragedies would be painful, the Gambrills woman knew.

Finally, with the help of a friend, Kucholik began writing her autobiography. It took her a decade, but she has finished "Survive Little Buddy."

Kucholik was born in Chemnitz, an industrial city, in 1929. She enjoyed a happy childhood, as she remembers, surrounded by people who loved her.

That changed as the Nazis took control. Life became more restricted and more dangerous. She saw relatives and friends taken away, imprisoned and killed. She watched in horror as Jewish friends were persecuted. During the war, she endured scarce food, terrifying bombing raids and constant fear.

For years, her family helped shelter Jewish families in a tunnel under a neighborhood house. They fed and protected people until the awful day when one neighbor let slip information about the hiding spot.

As Nazis led her friend to a concentration camp, Kucholik knew she would never see her again, and that the next time, the Nazis could come for them.

Throughout the war, Irene traveled around Germany dressed as a boy, scrounging food and supplies for her family. She rejoiced when the war ended, but not for long.

The Communists took control of her section of Germany, and theirs was a harsh, bleak rule. Kucholik became a nurse, a job she loved, but she still longed for freedom.

One day, she was caught carrying American books, an offense that carried a penalty of 25 years in prison. Old worries about leaving her family faded in the face of that threat. With the help of a friend, she escaped and made her way to West Berlin and freedom.

When Walter Kucholik read his wife's book, he was astounded. He had not realized what she had endured. "After all that," he asked her, "how are you still standing here?" Her response was, "On my two feet."

After almost 50 years in the United States, Kucholik bubbles with joy at the blessings she has received: abundant food, a loving family and the freedom to speak without fear.

Reading her story, I was humbled to realize how much we take for granted and how much we have to give thanks for. To get a copy of "Survive Little Buddy," call 301-621-7862.

Food for Thanksgiving

Prince of Peace Church in Crofton is collecting food for Thanksgiving baskets to be given to several dozen area families. Volunteers will also prepare and serve Thanksgiving dinners to local senior citizens.

At St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Crofton, donations of food and money are being collected as part of the annual Thanksgiving food drive. The parish hopes to provide Thanksgiving dinner for 300 needy families.

Pub Date: 11/17/98

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