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Personal Recollections

From the book:

NIJEMCI POŽEGE I POŽEŠKE KOTLINE

1945 – 1946

Dokumenti I sjecanja / iskazi

(Danube Swabians of the city and county of Požega)

By  Vladimir Geiger

2004

Parts of the Diary of

JELKA KURTNAKER

Translated by Rosina T. Schmidt

Note by the Translator: Jelka Kurtnaker and her mother Agnes Kurtnaker were like most other Danube Swabians sent to Tito’s starvation camps in order to eliminate all the ethnic Germans (and others) from Yugoslavia in order to grab their assets. Since those ethnic Germans were citizen of Yugoslavia, and  being born and living there in many case even prior to establishment of Yugoslavia in 1918-1923, so in fact it was a true form of genocide. 

 

Here are Jelka’s thoughts:

Monday, 23rd July 1945

Today mom and I were dragged away into the unknown. Right now we are in Pleternica, where we are staying until tomorrow. Around five in the morning we will continue the trek. – Mom is in great despair, cries heartbreakingly. I am holding myself up as much as I can. Am keeping faith in God. He is not going to abandon us. They took Aunty Marica and Bianka too, but in the very last moment they left them in the house. Thanks be to God. Hardly had time to say good-by to them. – Our children came to the train station, but were chased away. No big deal. The almighty God will look after them also. In my knapsack, which I carry on my back, I stuffed my Madonna, a cross, some undergarments and a few dresses – my whole worldly possessions. However, I feel very rich indeed. God is with me. Please dear God give us lots of strength.

We are accused to have been members of the group, but that is not true.

 

Tuesday, 24th July 1945

We are sitting on the floor of a cattle car. We are heading towards Našice. The women are crying. Mom too. I forced her to eat a bit. All we have is ham and bread. They say we are going to a detainee camp close to Osijek.

Am not capable of praying. Could not sleep last night. After yesterday’s worries my nerves refuse to cooperate. – We are promised that we will be marching for quite a bit.

 

Wednesday, 25th July 1945 (Djakovacka Krndija)

Am stretched out on the stroh in one of the vacant and ruined houses. My head hurts horrible. Must have been the sunstroke. Mom is changing compresses. Poor mom, after all that heartbreaking sobbing at the moment she is a bit better. We walked in the sun and heat of 50C all the 17 km from Koška to Djakovacka Krndija, where we are staying in a prisoner detainee camp (concentration camp). At noon today we received the very first meal since Sunday, a bit of warm soup. We live on bread and ham, which we took with us from home. Yesterday during all that marching I could not eat anything.  Just a few sugar cubes and some cognac. Was much surprised how well I marched. Mom drove on the wagon. Tomorrow we are scheduled to work. Hopefully I will get better.

R. and K. are in our room. Much depressed. I have faith in God. Many people are arriving. Two transports arrived today from Županja. Children, old and middle aged people.

There is difficulty with water. It is too far and not good. 

 

Thursday, 26th July 1945

St. Ann’s Day! I dragged myself to the church. No mass. My head still hurts incredible. I am changing compresses all the time.

They threw us out of our quarters, which we just finished arranging. Like donkeys we burdened ourselves and headed to the other street. On our arrival, everything was already too full, so we had no other choice but to find a spot in the yard. Now we live under the sky.

Food is sparse. Just water slightly colored with a few beans.

Have no strength, as there is not sufficient nourishment and am too thirsty in this heat.

 

Friday, 27th July 1945

Mom did not sleep again. Me a bit. My body is all black and blue from sleeping on the hard ground. Shortage of food. Absolutely nothing to purchase. – Mom is often in despair. I try to comfort her, even though I too feel desolate.

Last night we planned to go to the church to pray the rosary, but it is forbidden. We assembled behind the house, sat on the stroh and prayed aloud. The people from Sikierevac maintain that an 18-year-old girl and four small children did see the vision of the holly Mary there recently. Everyone saw light in the sky. The children saw the mother of God and were talking to her. People are arriving for the pilgrimage as far as Belgrade. In the last few days 30,000 people arrived. In the evening as soon as they start praying the rosary, the sky starts to shine and holly Mary arrives. She told the children that on that very spot is a chapel to be erected. When a drizzle started, M.B. said that this was the blessing for the earth where the chapel was going to be built. One man maintains that he was present at the first occurrence: one blind person could see again. They say that Mother of God announced that on the Saint Mary’s day there is going to be a miracle. There will be a three-day eclipse.

I do not feel guilty of any crimes, so am very confident that we will be released. Our conscience is clear.

Did receive some green pears. Mom went to the neighbours to boil them.

Was very ill this morning, but feel just a bit better now. An intestine burst and there was much bleeding. There is only one medical attendant here with hardly any medicine. He couldn’t give me anything to help except a little bit of hypermangan.

Cannot go to work due to the illness, but they also do not force those who cannot go. One partisan, an agriculturist by profession, is very kind. Did bring me some aspirins. He gave us some potatoes to boil.

 

Monday, 30th July 1945

It is the second day in the Valpovo detainee camp. We did not expect to find anything good but were still disappointed. We arrived inside barbed wire like some criminals. Not a sliver of shade in the women’s quarter. There are over 100 of us sleeping in one barrack. Sleeping places are boards with not even a crumb of stroh. I am worried sick because of mom. She has blisters all over her skinny body and suffers greatly. Hygiene conditions are horrible. The travel from Krndija to here was strenuous. We traveled in the wagon under the burning sun from four in the morning to four in the afternoon. And there is no water, no containers and no place to sleep fit for a human being.

That little bit of food (bread and ham) is at the end. We have eaten yesterday nothing. This morning only tea with nothing else. As luck would have it we still have a few sugar crumbs and a bit of honey.

In the evening.

The last of the onion I put in to someone else’s frying pan with a bit of bacon. As it was done I wanted to bring it to mom – but it spilled into the dust. Mom cried desolately, as I had nothing for supper, since I also had no lunch. Today I cry too. I am praying to the Almighty that at least mom would be spared. – Yesterday it was Sunday and no holly mass! We have no idea what is ahead of us. – The water was brought in a barrel. We hardly drink it and would rather stay thirsty.

 

Thursday, 2nd July 1945

Waiting. Are living only for now. Our interests circle just around one thought: how to escape this wires. It is horrible to live within the barbed wires. It is against the human nature. To take away someone’s most holly thing: the freedom! One wants to scream, to brake hands and wire… At moments it is horrendous. Than thinking on God, the Christ who suffered innocently, one becomes calmer. It is better to suffer innocent than being guilty. Our conscience is clear towards anyone. We are getting weaker and weaker. Mom is receiving diet due to her gallbladder problems: twice per day soup with two potato squares. Hot water. I receive here and there an apple, which I eat for lunch with bread and to please mom a spoon of that soup. That is our entire food intake. Our health is not good. The nights are very difficult. Our blistered bones do take the hard boards no longer so more and more we sit for hours and hours waiting for down. It rained so the nights are cold. We have no covers so freeze with chattering teeth.

I worry so much about mom.

Today is Saint Porciunkula’s day. Our prayers go to her to liberate us from the detainee camp.

We are all hungry. All of us except those who receive parcels.

I think much on our home and those who stayed behind. It’s most soothing.

People are very apathetic. They have no hope that they will ever leave the wires. I am still hoping and trust in God.

Did find a louse in our cloths. Disgusting! Last night while waiting for the food at the kettle, an old lady stood there full of flees. They just crept all over her coat. This is a disgusting life.

The whole day is ahead of me. In the morning we have to get up and do some work, but I hardly pray. Only evenings do I pray the rosary aloud. Do not know why I no longer can pray.

Daily there are new prisoner arrivals. On the first day they are all in tears, the second day they turn to stone and give themselves over to their fate.

There is talk that a transport will go to Germany.

Today there are 207 persons in our barrack.

 

Sunday, 5th August 1945

Without the holly mass, even though there is a priest in our prisoner midst. First it was said that there will be a mass, but it was just an empty talk. Mom is desolate. She talked to some people from Osijek, who are already desperate after three months of being here. They no longer hope, but mom is still hopeful even though in constant tears. 

We are hungry. Mom is swaying on her feet from hunger. Miss W. invited us to a slice of bread with lard on it so we received a tiny bit of strength. We are freezing nights, but now the winds are blowing during the day also, it is cold. For the last two weeks we have not taken our clothes off, kept nights even the shoes on, to conserve the body heat. If only we could get form somewhere some fat. – Now the night is getting close; we dread to think on it. Our bodies are black and blue from sleeping on the hard boards.

My hope is with God. My prayers go to him and I am hopeful. – Yesterday two children died of malnutrition. Dear God help us!

 

Monday, 6th August 1945

The children are crying. Some are sleeping while hundreds of flies creep over their eyes and suck on their mouths. – Next to us a woman is sobbing. Has a stomach pain due to the miserable detainee camp food. The beans disappeared; there is no more bean water. Twice daily in the last few days there were noodles with white sauce. Vis--vis a woman is reading fortune in the cards. “You will go home, your house is standing”… The woman with many children breaks out into a smile. She is going home, no matter how empty her house might be. The fortuneteller is going from barrack to barrack to tell the fortune. – Mom did not come back for a long time, even though I was looking for her. Finally she returned and said that she was inspecting the barbed wire fencing to find if she could hang herself! Dear God, I feel so hopeless!

In my hands is the book “The life of hl. Theresa” in which I read the nicest parts over and over to give me emotional strength. I am forcing myself to suffer voluntarily but it does not go smoothly. Today I no longer believe that we will be going home. One transport was sent to another detainee camp. – No news from ours. They are constantly in my thoughts and prayers. I pray to Saint Miroljuba also. I know that her tender heart is praying for us too. Ah, there is much to be prayed for all those detainee camp dwellers and for all those tiny, innocent children who are dying of malnutrition.

Mom is crying from hunger. G. R. gave me a slip of bacon for her.

 

Wednesday, 8th August 1945

For half an hour there was hope, the other half absolute desperation. Some are saying that we never will be able to leave those wires. I have not lost the hope. God will help us. They are calling us for cleaning the grounds. One must report for duty or there will be disciplinarian fines.

Hunger… I am hungry to the very last vein in my body. Am worried sick about mom. If at least she could have some food! Those, whose homes are closer, do receive some food parcels, but us from far away do not. The children are crying from hunger. That warm water is not sufficient to keep a person alive.

My eyes are flickering non-stop. Can’t even think.

 

Saturday, 11 August 1945

Am ill. Had high fever all through the night. My head and windpipe are hurting incredible. I was lying for a bit and only a few minutes ago went out on the fresh air. Yesterday mom was desperate. She was on strike against hunger. Wanted to die. Today she is a bit calmer.

We went to a funeral and escorted the deceased as far as the gate. Farther on are the barbed wires…. How sad to die in the detainee camp. Three boards held together with ropes with the cloths of the deceased showing through.

When someone does something wrong, a man getting drunk, he has to sleep in the makeshift mortuary. Even old not quite tidy women had to sleep there, no matter if there were any dead bodies there or not. They are there daily. – One example: a mother bore in the Jospivocac detainee camp a child, poor thing died, but one three year old lives.  Without having received any medical care, with no food, the mother is just a skeleton. She looks like an old woman. Could hardly creep on to the stretcher and two Danube Swabians carried her to the barrack with the sign ‘house hospital’ on it. The poor orphan of three years just like a lamb following the mother sheep was running after them crying ‘mom, mom’! It breaks ones heart! With tears running like a waterfall, he stopped at the wires.  A tenderhearted woman took his hand and led him to her own barrack. The child could not follow its mother. She was anyhow almost dead.

We received some news from ours in Požega. What happiness! And a parcel! Bread, bacon and fat. What luxury! But the news is not good. Norina is getting weaker and Mr. Venca in the detainee camp has stomach typhus. Bianka wrote me too. Poor child, how much she already had to suffer. And my dear, kind aunty. Dear Good look after them. Poor Norina suffers. Thanks be to God that they have been released from this hell. Norina, aunty and that child.

 

Sunday, 12th August 1945

It was a pleasant surprise when the priest told us, that there would be a mass in the detainee camp today. There was much hassle until the permission was received. It started a whole hour later, but still there was one. We were all happy: almost all of the inmates were attending except a few women who had the kitchen duty. It was pleasant and deeply touching. The altar stood under a pear tree. The chaplain made a cross out of two small boards ahead of time. The women and girls were singing. A wind came up and played with the holly Host so that I was afraid it would be blown away. The priest had to steady it. At the end we sang ‘Greetings, Mother of God’! – We are all full of hope today, that we will be freed soon.

Mrs. Wolf from our group and some others from Požega were sent to the detainee camp of Retfalu. We are sorry to have been parted. We wanted to return all together home. Mrs. W. is a golden, unselfish soul. She never thought about herself but helped others and was not argumentative. We lost a good friend.

 

Tuesday, 14th August 1945

Evening before day of hl. Mother of God (Saint Gospa). There will be a blessing today and a procession within the wires. Priest G. practices with the girls for the procession. Holly confession will follow the blessing and tomorrow holy mass and communion. It gives us a bit of a lift. My dear crucifix was at the blessing and tonight I will take my precious Madonna for the altar, which was painted by the nun Miroljuba. It makes me happy.  – Am preparing myself for the holly Confession. Three weeks ago it was the last one. Detainee camp sins! Impatience at times and despair. God knows how much we are suffering. But it will be as He says.

Mom is ill, while I pulled out a little bit, except that I cough and the headache will not go away.

We are full of hope in God’s help, and console ourselves that we will go home soon.

Out thoughts are often with our dearest at home.

 

Thursday, 16th August 1945

Today I have the feeling that we cannot endure any longer. Our strength is at the end. A sleepless night. I caught nine bedbugs just on myself, not to mention the stone-hard sleeping spot. Mom sighted the whole night; I lay quietly without moving, but hardly could creep out of the sleeping pigeonhole spot felling like all my bones were broken. 

Yesterday the day was full of hope. Day of our holy Mother of God. We had hl. Confession and received hl. Communion during the mass. Much singing during the service. It gave us much comfort. During the evening mass there was plenty of hymnal singing. We prayed until late in the night.

It is difficult having a proper mass under these conditions. Outside, the altar nailed together from a few boards. The wind was blowing (here it blows all the time) and even with much care taking of the holy Host it was blown into the grass. Poor priest. Without a ministrant, without any help at all. Good that I had my crucifix and my Madonna. I brought it to the altar in the morning and in the afternoon. As flowers I put the camp’s corn-blue radish in a glass; it looked gently on the white altar cloth. It could have not been more humble, but I know, nothing could please God more than our altar. How we prayed!

But as I said, today the day is bleak. Jesus let us go through it, and I know there will be a time that we do not think on anything. Dear God, give us strength!

Mom went to the bush to find some twigs. Both of us are ill. Not alone, though. There is much suffering all around us, and only words for consolation. ‘Home, home’ we all sigh. Dear God, return us home!

 

Monday, 20th August 1945

We are again in Krndija. They sent us packing on the 18th of this month. It was my name day. I never had a ‘nicer’ one! We had to get up at three in the morning, even though the afternoon before we worked heavily and went late to our stone-hard sleeping places and without supper, where we chased the bedbugs for the rest of the night. They kept us standing in formation in the hot sun until 10 h and then off with our baggage the three kilometers to the train station. Like dogs tired and hungry (no dinner last night and not breakfast this morning) into the open-air train cars, where we sat under the burning sun until 14h. Finally we started towards Osijek. There we had to change into open-air cars full of coke on which heaps we had to climb. Without any food or water we drove until 16h. Just prior to the train station of Široko Polje we embarked and dragging all our baggage behind us marched for seven kilometers. The little children on the chests and the 3-4 year old had to walk, as the mothers fully loaded with the baggage could not carry any more. Old people and ill women moaned under their burden. Faster, faster, they hollered at us. Yes, it was our Calvary walk. The road was full of thorns. Whoever did not hurry, got the butt of the gun into the back, and there was much shooting too. All along much cussing… bloody dogs…. True, there were some decent escorts also. It was not hunger so much but the unbearable thirst. While marching through the villages the women were bringing us water, but it was forbidden. While going through the forest I managed to pick some blackberries, which lessened the thirst a bit. Children cried without stopping. I could not listen to it longer. In Putovnica, the last village, we received the permission…. (Here the entry ends for that day.)

 

Wednesday, 19th of September 1945

We are working on the bunkers. Filling them in. There are changes. Now the old men and women had to work also. Mom too. She is in tears. At 65 and ill has to take the shovel and start digging. Because of her I reported to the senior’s group. Am taking it with difficulty because of her, but perhaps it is for the best. Being in the fresh air, surrounded by other women the time might pass to her faster. She could hardly bear the last few days. Says if she has to stay here longer, she is going to hang herself. Any which way I try to console her it is for naught. Dear God please for mom’s sake take us out of this starvation camp, and if I must stay longer in order for her to be released, so be it. God dearest, please liberate mom!

Did receive news from ours. The petitions for our freedom are sent in, they are waiting our release, but all is for nothing. I am putting my trust in to God’s hands and wish to have patience if only I would have something more for my stomach. Am often being dizzy from weakness. Dear Saint Joseph, today I devote this day to you. Take care of us and lead us to freedom, if it is God’s will.

My dear friend “Follow in Jesus’ steps” is at my side to comfort me. And the rosary is at my side, which I use to pray outside on the fresh air. I beseech all the heavenly Saints to help the children and the old people. Oh, how hungry the children are! We are boiling the dry corn kernels and eat them just like the geese do.

My dear Norina! On the 17th it was a month that she moved into thereafter. She craved so much for peace. God gave her the eternal one.

And Bjanka, poor orphan, had to go to Zagreb with aunty because of the war. So I am not to find them at home also? My children, they all went whichever way. God only knows what happened to Miroljuba. None of the notes mention her. My heart is heavy with sorrow. She was ill two months ago when I left. Did she get better and went to Požega?

 

Saturday, 22nd of September 1945

After a difficult night, a difficult day. Mom sobbed the whole night with pain in her joints and the scabs. We all have scabs in our shed. Today I have angina too, so did not go to work. – Poor mom, she itched herself so much that now her body is full of open wounds.

We heard day before yesterday that Mrs. H. sent in a request for the release of her mom and us too. Mom was all happiness. She packed all in, even though I tried to warn her, that perhaps those were false news, so she would not be too disappointed if it turns out not to be true. And so it was. Mrs. H. did pick up her mother, but we heard that in regards to us, some documents are still missing, so all is hanging in the air. Poor mom. There are no words to describe it.

Today I will send a note to our dear sister, who is sacrificing so much on our behalf, to try every possible way to liberate us – as I am afraid that mom cannot take it much longer. She has not even a gram of muscles on her body.

Whenever our dear Požega friends, the family B., find something food wise, they bring it home and share it with us so we are not as hungry. Today we are boiling corn kernels and outside of the wires there are a few soya beans to be found. Much needed towards our vitamin insufficiency. Recently we received some jam and eggs from home. But in the concentration camp everything is shared evenly. The whole room shares when a parcel arrives. We are all equally hungry, except those, whose homes are close by and receive often food supplies.

If our petition does not arrive soon …. Yes, something must happen!

 

Sunday, 23rd September 1945

Dear God fed us nicely today. Our roommates shared with us a chunk of white bread and some radishes. Thanks to Him! – It is now two months that we are in the starvation camp. We are waiting for freedom, if it is God’s will. – Have scabs. Mom is itching herself and is full of wounds.

They installed stronger wire fencing and more guards. Those are five times worse than before.

 

Sunday, 30th November 1945

One of the very difficult days. I headed for the holy mass, but there was none. The priest is ill so we had only a silent prayer mass. For over one hour I kneed in the empty church fervently praying to the Mother of God to put a prayer on our behalf for our return home. Mom is sick again. Her legs are swollen around the joints, the body full of scabs and now she has a boil under her arm. She feverish and a cold wind blows outside. Mom is stretched out on the stroh shivering all over and I sit at her side all blue with coldness. Dear God, release us, do please help that our petition will go through, as I do not know otherwise what will happen to mom. It is as cold as if it would snow. Our shed will not last. Everything is open, wind blowing through.

If only mom would be better. Dear God have pity on us starvation camp inmates.

I promised holy Mary if our petition goes through and we return home, I will walk barefoot from Zagreb to Marija Bistrica[1]. Until Tuesday! Is the day of freedom coming soon?!

 

Tuesday, 2nd October 1945

Endurance! Endurance! Have patience! Dear almighty God, give us strength. It drizzles; it is as cold as if it would snow. Inside our lean-to is darkness, even though two outside walls are missing. We are blowing into fire, putting on wet logs, and the smoke is so heavy to burn ones eyes. Coldness. We are shivering and are lost in our thoughts. Never-ending thoughts. We are accused to have been members of the group but that is not so. Who cares if we are innocent: I rather suffer innocent that suffer guilty and have that guilt on my conscience. Mom is loosing all her strength. She is very ill even with all the loving care I can give her. Yesterday she discovered a growth under her arm, which burns her heavily. Mom thinks it is a boil but I am not so sure. Hopefully it is not cancer! I am afraid for her.

Dear God, give us strength to endure, the sun to warm us up – help us for our petition to go through so I can take my poor mom out of here.

My dear sister is trying so hard to save us, is running to Brod, but all is going so slow. If it would not be for mom, I would not worry so much. I would put my fate in to your hands, Almighty God, and after each new blow would say ‘with God’s help’. Yes Father!

 

Wednesday, 3rd of October 1945

My dearest little Theresia! Today is her name day. How would I have known that here in the banishment if she had told me herself?  Today’s day, Wednesday, as always I devote to hl. Joseph. I took the weekday missal (I have the weekly one) so I could find the Saint Joseph’s prayers. Turning the pages over and look, found under third of October ‘Little Theresia’! Dearest little sister. She knows very well that I would be sad to have missed her name day. I prayed at the mass for her wellbeing, for mom’s health and for our release. Mom is very weak. High fever changes with shivering, and under her arm the growth is swelling. When I put the compresses on it she screams. – Because of the strong wind and coldness we had to move from our shed into the stable. Some went there already. True, there is no ceiling, the doors are open but it is still somewhat warmer. (Except for mice, rats, fleas, bed bugs, and children with running noses, there are no disturbances!)

Oh, my dear mom. Because of her condition I cannot go to work. I sit besides her on the stroh and wait to fulfill her wishes. Water, soup from the kettle, a tiny bit of bread, is all I can help her with. – It is windy and the clouds are heavy, it could be snowing. – Dear sister, come and get us out! Little Theresia and Saint Joseph, pray for us to dear God for Friday!

 

Sunday, 7th October 1945

Friday came and went and we are still here! Today is our other’s Justine name day. Bless her, dear God.

Last Friday I sat the whole day besides mom. She was shivering. With the cross in my hand I beseeched help from the Heavens. Towards evening a currier came to get us. To report with our luggage to the office. In a few minutes we were ready and mom drove on the wagon. Some from Požega requested 16 of us for work duty in Požega. Our things were already on the wagon, when camp manager arrived and threw us off. Did not give us permission to go. Disappointed and desperate we dragged our baggage through ankle deep mud. Mom cried hugging me that even a stone would feel pity. I swallowed my tears. Did pray crying the whole night. Oh my God, when will the rescue arrive?

Yesterday was the worst of days. Mom is very ill. Screams with pain. Her wound has a shape of a larger apple. Am afraid that it is cancerous. Did run to the office. Begged them to give me permission to take mom to Zagreb and I would come back. He cursed me high to Heaven, that that is not possible. Returning back in the darkness I cried loudly and blamed Jesus that he truly did forget us. The soul’s weakness.

Dear God, today I again live in hope, even though mom is screaming with pain and that growth does not look good to me. Am putting my hope into God’s hands, that he will help us, will rescue us.

I think constantly on that little child. Our poor little Bjanka! Now an orphan without mother or father! And on aunty R. and sister! They are in my dreams I feel their pain.

I strongly put my hope in to your hands, dear God!

 

Požega, 22nd October 1945

Today is the ninth day that we are back home. Dear home! Only now do I start to realize that I am free, even though the real meaning of freedom I still cannot fathom. While in the starvation camp I visualized that I would be bursting with happiness when released from the wires, and yet, now I am all composed and quite. Did loose the ability to feel happy about anything. Except when I visit my dear family members and friends. Being by myself I am full of sadness. Mom too is not as happy as I have visualized she would be. Poor thing, she is full of fear, weak in body and spirit.

Our dear J! She put so much effort to free us. Running around from office to office, down to Brod with petitions, searched for evidence that we were not members of the group and never attended any conferences. Her huge efforts did bear fruit. Finally the petition was fulfilled. On Sunday, the 14th of October a currier arrived to our stable with the call. We hugged and kissed our fellow detainees and with much excitement heeded to the office. Mom just returned the day before from the hospital and could hardly move, but when she heard that our petition was approved, she hurried faster than I. Our sister and Bianka was waiting for us in the office. I thought it was an apparition. I could not hug and kiss them in front of those strange people. Our eyes greeted each other and we waited for the release documents. I shook hands of all present and I muss admit that I have not even in my thoughts wished anyone any evil. Not even those who threw me into this hell. May God forgive them.

And at home? I knew who would be missing, but the emptiness only hit me when I arrived home. Norina, my dear Norina! And he, poor thing. Now they are together again.

My dear aunty is kind as always. Justina as well. They all are going out of their way to compensate us for our sufferings. – I am no longer hungry. Just the opposite, hardly need any food…..

Note: Jelka Kurtnaker’s diery ends a few days later with some private thoughts. Her diary is in private hands.

Jelka never married and died in Slavonska Požega in 2003.

 


[1] Marija Bistrica is a famous pilgrimage place.