At slave labour in Czechoslovakia
The first time I was confronted with farm work was when my ethnic German capitalist family was deported by the new communist Czech government in 1947 to slave labor into the Interior of Bohemia at a Czech farm.
The farm was picturesque and large with old buildings. They farmed about 100 hectares with about another 20 hectares of forest. Unfortunately, there were no living quarters for our family and so they assigned us to a goat stable. My mother fainted when she saw it. My father (with the help of 2 deported Slovak families, who shared the same fate with us) had their hands full. After seeing to my mother, they had to first fix two sagging windows and put in a beam for the caved-in ceiling. The brick floor was crusted with goat manure. The two Slovak women and I grabbed buckets, scrapers and brushes to clean the floor until the red brick underneath shone red and clean. My father mixed chalk and water and gave the walls a new coating. It was then, that we unloaded the few things the Czech militia had left us.
Luckily there was a large workshop on the farm and my father and the Slovak men made bed frames to be filled with straw mattresses, cabinets and repainted a table and chairs. From the first time my father spoke with the Slovak families in his very cultured Hungarian, they fondly respected him and from that time, they sheltered us from the most demanding tasks. They deferred their respect to my father, to the total consternation of the owner.
After the goat stable was clean, safe and livable, my father installed a turbine in the creek, and so we had electricity in our quarters, while the farmer did not. He wanted to take it away from us, but did not know how. To forestall any such ideas in the future, my father managed to increase the water-flow in the creek and installed yet another turbine, and thanks to him, that farm was electrified also. In the evening, after backbreaking fieldwork, my mother and I embroidered, crocheted and sewed, and in time we had curtains, pretty daybeds made into couches, tablecloths, carpets and wall hangings. The Czech grandfather of that family saw our place, and promptly moved his rocking chair into our rooms, because it was the “best” place on that farm. It was there that he read his newspapers – under our electric light, of course.
All that year, my father’s Czech friend searched for us; he looked through all transport lists trying to find us. However, he had checked only those transports going west. Little did he anticipate, that we had been transported into the opposite direction – east.
At the end of that year, I nearly lost my right arm to gangrene. While my parents were rescued through their friend, I had to stay behind in the hospital for 17 long weeks with drainage tubes in my arm. When they finally decided to amputate, a kind Austrian doctor told me about a new medication called Penicillin; he helped me to escape from the hospital and wrote a diagnosis in English. He was in contact with my father’s friend, who made arrangements for me to be transported from the hospital to my hometown Carlsbad.
The prescription was carried over the border to an American Medical Unit. We hired a border runner who carried my mother’s largest blue diamond, which she had safely hidden in the heel of a shoe to trade for Penicillin in West Germany. The border runner was gone for 2 weeks while red stripes of infection started to run along my entire arm to the lymph nodes and into the right breast. I was desperate! Luckily the border runner managed to return with the vials! The Penicillin he had acquired with much effort was administered by a German doctor and from day to day it was noticeable that the infection receded and that my arm, that of an 18 year old girl, was saved.