October 19, 2008
By Charlene Schiff
When I woke, I was in a real bed with clean sheets, a blanket, and a pillow. The last thing I remembered was being in my pit in the forest and getting sick. I wondered now if I was a prisoner. I wondered if I should try to escape. It was still dark, but soon dawn would come and it would be too late to try to run. Where could I go? I thought. I didn’t even know where I was. When daybreak arrived I realized I was in a hospital, but under whose jurisdiction I wondered. The attendants moved quietly, their muffled voices not clear enough for me to distinguish the language they spoke. If it was German I knew only that I would need to hide.
A very loud and jolly woman entered, bidding everyone a good morning—in Russian. She stopped at each bed. When she came to my bed, she exclaimed, “Diewuszka iz lesa!” (“The girl from the forest!”) She extended her arms for a hug, but I fell back dizzy and light-headed. “Niczewo, niczewo” (“Nothing, nothing”), she said, meaning it was ok. She said it was ok.
I was safe. I could relax and I fell asleep. They woke me for breakfast, which I was too weak to eat by myself. It was a drink that tasted like chicory and a piece of dark bread with some marmalade. An attendant told me the head nurse wanted to speak to me when I was finished.
The same woman who had greeted me that morning came in. She pulled a chair up next to my bed, drew curtains for privacy, and started to tell me a story I could hardly believe.
“Remember when you were in the forest hiding?” she began. Apparently I had become very ill. The Soviet soldiers had been pushing the Germans back through my forest. Several Soviet soldiers stepped on the camouflaged cover of the pit where I was hidden and they realized something suspicious was under there. Upon investigation, they discovered me, sick, surrounded by my own filth. They cleaned me up and took me along to their field hospital, which was actually a tent. They kept me with them until they reached the city of Luck. There they located a regular functioning hospital and left me with a note pinned to my shirt. The nurse quoted the contents of the note. It said: “This is a child of the forest.
Treat her gently, with great care.”
©2008, Charlene Schiff. The text, images, and audio and video clips on this website are available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined in the United States copyright laws.