For my first post on My Trending Stories I thought I would share with you all something I wrote nearly two years ago when I visited Poland.

I had the pleasure, along with a group of Media Students at Teesside University, of meeting a woman who had survived the holocaust, Miss Monika Goldwasser. She was a seventy something year old woman with a jet black beehive on her head as she perched on a chair with a  tea cup and saucer in her hands.

Speaking in Polish with our guide translating she shared with us how as a baby she was given to an orphanage to protect her from the Nazi regime. Both her parents were highly professional Jews, and they knew it was not safe for them and their daughter and did all they could to keep her safe.

She was taken in by some nuns who knew they would be risking their lives helping a Jewish child, but did so regardless of the risk. A Polish man came across a young Jewish girl who asked him if he could help her. She asked him to go to the very orphanage Miss Monika was given to, and check that a three year old Jewish child was still there, and that she was still safe as she was her sister.

Kindly the man agreed to do this for the young girl, and the nuns saw him and begged him to take the new baby who had arrived at the orphanage. They were afraid the Nazis would discover they had taken in Jewish children, and would kill them all.

The man – completely stunned, did not know what to do, so left to speak to his wife. When he arrived home, she told his to go straight back, and they immediately adopted the baby girl – Miss Monika.

As for the nuns and the three year old girl, a Nazi officer went to check on the orphanage and saw the child run to the nun. He took out his gun and killed them both with the same bullet – which was made known by the whole town due to the Nazi bragging, seeing this disgraceful act as something to be proud of.

Monika’s Jewish parents has hidden a label within her clothes which had her real name and date of birth written on it. This was the only thing linking her back to her Jewish heritage which was kept from her until she was 21 years old, and her Polish mother was on her death bed.

Monika completely broke down after discovering the truth about her life. She had no idea that she had been adopted, never mind that she was Jewish. She chose to completely ignore this part of her life up until she saw a television appeal, which was from a Jewish woman living in Israel.

The woman,was an elderly lady, and wanted to know if her sister’s daughter had survived. She explained that the baby girl had been sent to an orphanage and her name was Monika. She also mentioned her Jewish second names and Monika knew it was her she was talking about, and this was the time for her to discover who she really was.

It was through her aunt, who had left Poland during the Holocaust, that Monika discovered all about her parents and what had happened to her and to them at such a tragic time. Her parents were taken to a concentration camp and murdered in a mass grave shooting along with thousands of others.

As the people were shot, their bodies fell into the grave until they were piled up so high that grave was full. It truly was a brutal and horrific way to die. So brutal, that only two people survived and had to wait under the pile of bodies until nightfall so they could leave to avoid being shot again. Their experience was so harrowing that it would never be shared. Monika tried to get in touch with them to discover more about her parents but they did not want to speak with her.

Her parents were both well educated Jews, working with very good jobs. Her mother knew it would look suspicious if there was no baby with them when they were taken as the authorities knew she had just recently given birth. To avoid this she carried a doll with her everywhere she went, up until her death to protect her daughter.

Monika’s Polish mother knew too, that it would look suspicious to their neighbors as she had not been pregnant but now had a baby girl, so only telling close family, moved else where so it would be safe for all three of them.

Miss Monika finished her talk to us off by telling us that it was only within the last year that she had told her story to others. She said if she had one message to bring after all she had been through it was this: to be kind to one another. For it is kindness that saved her life and it is kindness that that our world is lacking.

She truly was an inspiration and a joy to meet, an incredibly brave woman who has been through so much yet put that all aside to share her story. What a wonderful woman.