Monday, January 17, 2011

One woman's promise

I like to think of myself as a woman of my word, someone who says what she means and means what she says, a rule follower, a ..., well, you get the idea.
But could I have done what Gertruda Bablinska did? I'm not so sure.
Gertruda was nanny to Michael. Their story is told in "Gertruda's Oath: A Child, A Promise and A Heroic Escape During World War II" by Ram Oren.
Gertruda was a young Catholic woman who left her small Polish town and found work as a nanny in Warsaw. She cared for Michael Stolowitzky, only son of a very wealthy Jewish couple.When the Nazis invade Poland, Michael's family loses everything. His father leaves the country on business before its borders are closed; fearing for their lives Michael, his mother and Gertruda flee Warsaw as well. His mother suffers a stroke and as she lay dying, Gertruda promises she will look after Michael as her own and see him safely to Palestine.
At no small risk to herself, she does just that.
In one particularly memorable scene, Gertruda and Michael are walking down the street when they are confronted by SS soldiers. The soldiers demand at gunpoint that she pull down Michael's pants to prove he is not Jewish. Gertruda stands her ground, and the two get a reprieve from a surprising corner. Karl Rink, an SS soldier, steps forward and says, of course the boy is her son.
The event is recounted by Michael himself in this trailer for the book.
That's just one of the many moments when Gertruda puts her own safety aside for the sake of her son. Could you have done the same?
There are others who take risks to protect their neighbors and perfect strangers from the Nazis. There's the SS solider Karl Rink, the Catholic priest who provides Gertruda with papers certifying that Michael is her son, the Jewish doctor who helps how he can.
So wonderful that their stories are shared.It would be a real loss if the stories of people like these are not recounted for future generations
Gertruda died in 1995 and in a mix-up that seems so fitting was buried twice, once in a Jewish grave and once in a Christian one.

Read an excerpt here.

-Tricia Ambrose

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home