Can You Imagine What You Would You Do?

September 22, 2010 at 5:16 pm 6 comments

Yesterday, I told you a bit about my now-weekly visit with my grandmother.  I mentioned that she told me story that I found particularly horrific.  Nanny has told me many terrible stories, but they have all been abstract enough that I have been able to listen, record, and question.  She told me her parents “disappeared”; she told me “people were being taken into the street and shot”.  But those words for some reason were not as shocking as this story.

After the war, my grandmother lived with her sister and her husband in Nancy, France.   They would often have meal-time guests from the various relocation (resettlement?) camps – I’m picturing these as post-war refugee camps. 

My grandmother became friends with Mila, a woman from Poland.  Before the war, she had been married to a doctor and had a young son of about 3 or 4.  My grandmother couldn’t remember what happened to Mila’s husband, but she did remember this part of the story:

Mila and her son were loaded onto one of the cattle cars going from their town to a concentration camp.  Mila jumped off the train and left her son in the cattle car.

I feel pain when I type that.  I know this pain is directly related to my current stage in life, and my two children.

Nanny told me that her circle of friends in Nancy hated Mila for what she did.  Nanny didn’t.  She, in some way, understood.

I do not.  I cannot imagine it.  I do not judge her actions, I just cannot fathom them.  I’ve thought about it all day.

Would I jump off the train to try to survive?  YES.

Would I leave my son?  NO.  I would take him with me.  We might have less chance of surviving, but I could not leave him on the train.

Nanny says I don’t know what I would do.  Maybe she’s right.  She claims they were dehumanized and the things they endured are unimaginable.  She says that even as she sits and tells me about it, she can’t believe what she lived through.

Mila went on to emigrate to the UK, re-married, had children and lived a good life just outside of London.  Nanny stayed in touch with her until her death.


Entry filed under: Nanny A's Story. Tags: , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tracey  |  September 23, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Oh Lisa……I’m teary reading this. As soon as I read, “she couldn’t remember what happened to Mila’s husband but….” I braced for your next words. No, we probably have no idea what we’d do, or how we’d react. I think people, in general, hope they’d be strong and brave and resourceful. In the face of such horror….I just don’t know. Like you-my gut screams NO. My children are literally my life and I would think I’d take a running chance at both of us getting away….but who can ever say. Sigh. I’m glad I’ve never had to make that choice-and hope I don’t have to do so. My heart goes out to those who have. Like you-this will stay with me a long time.

  • 2. Jennifer  |  September 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    So terrible to read that…i am also teary-eyed and cannot fathom how a mother could do that…but I cannot judge as it is such an unimaginable situation. We are so very blessed to live here.

  • 3. fitforakid  |  September 24, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Tracey and Jenn – thanks for your comments. When I imagine the scenario, I cannot help but think she must have not been in her right mind at the time, some deep depression or temporary insanity. That’s the only way I can reconcile it…

  • 4. Brie  |  September 25, 2010 at 10:47 am

    I don’t think we can ever know what we would do.

    I can’t even imagine what was going on in her head. Maybe she was fine with what she did, maybe she regretted it forever. I just never want to have to be in that situation.

  • […] the heart-wrenching story of Mila and her child? It made us all think about what we could/should/would do an extreme circumstances. […]

  • 6. Nanny A’s Story: Putting It Together « Fit for a kid  |  October 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    […] -Mila […]


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