April 14, 1945 marks the liberation of my mother and father from forced labor during World War II by British troops. This fact is true, discovered in German documents. Both my parents had been taken from Poland and forced to work against their will in an armaments factory called Rheinmetall-Borsig in Unterluss (Unterlüß), Germany. One of the facts that has eluded my research is determining which specific British troops actually liberated my parents. Most documented sources I’ve come across simply say “liberated by British troops.” But I think it’s important to know such a detail. I want to know who to give credit, thanks and respect to, if only in my own heart and mind, for such a giving act, for their service. So, I keep plugging various search terms into the internet hoping to find something…and recently I did.
In the book titled Monty’s Northern Legions: 50th Northumbrian and 15th Scottish Divisions at War 1939-1945 author Patrick Delaforce writes that after capturing the undefended city of Celle, the 15th Scottish Infantry Division, British 2nd Army, “continued on the 13th (of April) north-east to Eschede and Uelzen with Highland Light Infantry leading.” I recognized the names of these cities and towns as they are all in the same region where my parents were forced laborers. (See attached map.) In order to get to Uelzen from Eschede (assuming they stayed on the main roads) they had to have passed through Unterluss (Unterlüß). And this one and only sentence gives me hope that I am on the right track: “Lt. Green became Mayor and Military commander of Unterluss for one day.” Eureka!! They did enter the city, which is really more of a small town, as I’ve been there as part of my research. It must have been these troops that liberated my mother and father. The date of the 14th of April would fit. Do I know this for sure? No. Who is Lieutanant Green? And what did he do in that role? That I also don’t know but if the Highland Light Infantry was leading the advance, I’ll begin my research there. One line in someone’s book can give an important lead and at the same time open up more questions but for today, I celebrate what I have discovered and try to build on that.
Wearing the Letter P: Polish Women as Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany1939-1945(Hippocrene Books) explores the history of forced labor during the occupation of Poland during World War II and focuses on the experiences of Polish women as forced laborers.
A Polish country cottage garden was a mix of decorative and useful herbs, vegetables, flowers and shrubs such as roses, raspberry, gooseberry, or currant bushes. It served as a flower garden and as an herb and kitchen garden, useful in a way that brought edible food, as one Polish garden writer stated, " directly into the pot." There was no specific garden plan. Flowers and herbs were usually grown in clumps near the fence or in beds beneath the windows of the house according to the preferences of the housewife. Vegetables were occasionally mixed in. The walkways were made of tamped soil and wide enough for a person to walk through. If a bit of decoration was wanted, large rocks were gathered, painted white and fashioned in a circle. Inside, a special flower or herb was planted.
The housewife grew flowers to brighten the outside of the house, to adorn the altars at church on Sundays and holy days, and to decorate the roadside shrines that were located within the village boundaries. The unmarried girls of the house tended lilies, rosemary and rue for bridal wreathes as well as lavender to place between the linens in her marriage chest. For cooking and to spice the daily fare, some culinary herbs were planted. There was marjoram for sausage, dill for pickling cucumbers, and parsley, sage and fennel for enhancing soups and stews. Many Polish housewives made their own herb vinegars from water and sliced apples that were allowed to ferment for a few months. The mixture was strained, crushed herbs added, sealed in bottles and stored in a cool pantry or larder. Herb butters were also made and packed down into crocks to use in the middle of winter or to give as a Christmas gift. (Photo :Foxglove)
Interspersed among the flowers were vegetables such as cucumbers, radishes, water cress, horseradish and lettuce. Sometimes there were beets, carrots, garlic or onions depending on the needs and tastes of the owner. It was Queen Bona Sforza who introduced various green vegetables to Poland including beans, cabbage, cauliflower, onion, celery, parsnip, cumin, coriander, caraway, hemp, asparagus, artichoke, tomato and nasturtium. Spinach also traveled to Poland from Italy, brought by monks who followed Bona in her marriage to Zygmunt. From nearby Germany came horseradish and pumpkin, which also made its appearance in Polish cottage gardens.
Excerpted from: Polish Herbs, Flowers and Folk Medicine. Revised edition. Hippocrene Books.2020
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.