Traveling through Poland a country that has been ravaged by war over and over again makes it seem like there are stories to be told in every corner, town and village. No matter where we go, people share the memories, the losses, the triumphs. This time the story is of one woman’s bravery and the vines.
I often wonder if I would be brave enough to endure such hardship. I wonder if I would risk my life or that of my family for a neighbor, friend or stranger who is be taken away to a concentration camp. I wonder if I would just give in.
These thoughts came flooding in my mind as we (my husband and I) found ourselves driving through the countryside in the village of Dlugiesiodlo. This is horse country. Since the 16th century Poland has been breeding Arabian horses and has used them extensively throughout their cavalry with much success.
We happen across a horse show for young teens and watched as these majestic creatures pass by. Now mainly appreciated and owned for their beauty, the Polish Arabian horse can bring upwards of $100,000 at the Autumn Arabian Auction in Janow Podlaski.
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As the horse show comes to an end we follow the horses and their riders to the stable to get a closer look. The horses are handled with kit gloves and well attended. The young female riders busy themselves by braiding the mane and tails of their horses in a loving way. There is a deep connection between the rider and the horse. The Arabian’s are brilliant and very inquisitive, preferring humans over other horses.
We walk around the beautiful property and come across a lovely stone home covered in ivy. In some places the ivy is so thick that it has even covered the windows. I wonder why the owners would not cut the vines back? Maybe they’re too old or simply not bothered by the darkness that lay inside the home.
As I stand and ponder, which I often do, an older gentleman exits the door. He notices me standing there staring. He begins to talk to me, in Polish of course, and I grab my husband to come translate. He tells the story of his aunt who lived in the home during World War II. She was the brave one.
Nazi’s were on the hunt for Jews. The Nazi’s scoured every inch of Poland pulling Jews out of their homes and off to the concentration and extermination camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau where over 1.1 million people died. This home was no exception.
Imagine the terror. You live alone in the country, surrounded only by fields and woods and then comes the knock on the door. A banging really. You rush to see who is there and the Nazi’s, in full uniform, come bursting through your door. Rummaging in every closet, every nook and cranny, opening every door. Your heart pounds. You are overcome with fear. But the vines know. It’s in God’s hands now.
The Nazi’s leave nothing to chance. They ransack everything as the woman stands in silence praying to be spared. They yell and threaten. She is alone and vulnerable. But the vines know.
Finally, the ordeal is over. The Nazi’s have left. She stands still making sure there is silence and that all is safe. She runs up the stairs to the second floor. Quickly opening the door to the bedroom that was pillaged by the army. Everything is in a shambles. She glances at the window, it is closed, the vines know.
Gathering up her strength she runs to the window and opens it. They are safe. The vines knew. The vines that covered the home were so thick that the Jewish neighbors were able to hide behind them as they stood on the edge of the balcony, holding their breath for dear life. They survived this time.
So, as I ask if the vines will be trimmed to allow light in the room, the man just shakes his head “no.” The vines will keep them safe. The vines will remain. The image of this home and the story he told still shakes me to my core. The fear this young woman must have felt overwhelms me. What would I have done? How brave would I be?
P.S. If you enjoyed my journey through the Polish countryside you may also enjoy this:
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