Ruth Nowak (geb. Pade)
“We had a history teacher who was in love with all things German. She used to speak about Germans as the ‘blue-eyed ones’ or ‘the great ones’ or the ‘pure race’. She claimed that if she met a prisoner on the side walk in Landsberg she would push him aside. She saw the Russians as inferior or lesser beings and that was the way she talked about them.”
Interviewer: “So what were the Russians really like when they came?”
R. N.: “Well I was not the only one who feared them… others were scared as well. You have to consider that I was a young girl at that time and we all heard those stories about girls who were raped by the Russian soldiers. We were advised to hide from them. But sometimes you would find that they were actually very kind people, especially to children. But of course you had cases of rape, too.”
“We were hoping to get across the bridge in Küstrin because we knew that the Poland would stretch to the Oder River. They called it the Oder-Neisse Peace frontier. We thought that there would be someone standing at the frontier and telling us to leave the land. Because we were expellees now. In Eastern Germany, it was inappropriate to use the term ‘expelled’ or ‘banished’. We would rather use the expression ‘resettled’. So in Küstrin, nobody cared about us and we walked another 60 kilometers in the direction to Berlin. We used to sleep in stables or when somebody let us inside his house, in beds. We hoped that we would be able to find a shelter in Berlin as we knew a saleswoman there. But she told us that she had just accommodated another family and we had to go on. Finally, we came to Potsdam.”
“In March or April, 1945, we came back to Pyrehne and found our house burned down. That was the first huge shock for us. It didn’t take long and the neighboring village, Fichtewerder, became a new Polish mayor. They had a Polish administration now. But there was one more thing I came to learn. There had been some people who were forced to work. I wouldn’t say they were slave laborers but they had to work for the Germans in the village. They were mostly Poles and Ukrainians. Some Polish house maids that had to work in the house and on the field. There were rumors about one of the girls that she hadn’t been treated well by her German mistress, a woman by the name of Irma. Now she was taking revenge on her former mistress and often beat her up. Well, I know that somehow this is just in the human nature but still, you don’t quite get it.”
“My husband was in a similar position like me (sound of a fax device). He would always say that he had been a soldier for 8 weeks including the railroad journey. So he moved to Berlin at age 16… well, it wasn’t quite voluntary, he came to Schleswig-Holstein and there had already been older friends of him who told him that he would not win the war either. He spent some time in English captivity and after he returned he couldn’t find a proper job. He briefly did an apprenticeship for a technical salesperson in Berlin but he gave it up after a while. His dad was leaning to the left and the Russians installed him as mayor in a village. He was a former railroad worker and now he was supposed to run a village. He told my husband to help him out and he did it for a while but then he couldn’t do it any longer because he was too young – he was just 20 years old and you had to be 21 in order to get elected. Then, by coincidence, he caught a thief in the village who wanted to steal some cows. He arrested him and called the police. The criminal police of Beskow was so impressed by his deed that they started luring him to their ranks. They said: ‘what a capable young man’ (laughter). And he joined them and became a police officer.”
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You have to pull yourself together once more or you’re going down.
Ruth Nowak, née Pade, was born on May 17, 1927, in Pyrhene and raised in the neighboring village of Hopfenbruch. Her, her brother Kalf and her two sisters Helga and Rosemarie originate in a merchant family. After she had completed the first four years of elementary school in Hopfenbruch, she went to Landsberg to study for the next six years at a secondary school for girls. She graduated in the specialization of forestry. After the banishment from the Sudetenland, she became a teacher at an elementary school in Potsdam. In the first years after the end of the war, she taught at a school in a little village nearby Beskow, later in Frankfurt an der Oder. In Frankfurt, she taught with great passion until her retirement. In 1948, she met her future husband; they married in 1950 and had three children together.