Archive for March 26th, 2010

Alan Furst’s The Polish Officer, and Stories That Will Never Be Told

March 26, 2010

Stories that will never be fully told

My sister-in-law was a young teenager during the Second World-War. If we had ever been tempted to think we wartime youngsters had a tough time of it, Olga’s story would put things into perspective.
Olga lived in Poland, the daughter of a Polish Officer. Well, we all know what happened to Poland — or do we? If not, Alan Furst’s book, The Polish Officer gives a pretty detailed account of the sufferings of people enslaved under the Nazi occupation. Although the book is a work of fiction I have no doubt about the accuracy of what life was like. The book was recommended to me by Olga as a means of getting acquainted with the wartime Poland familiar to her.
During the occupation, my sister-in-law rode her bike many miles taking messages to members of the Resistance. She was twice arrested. On one occasion she got away by climbing out of a window. But the other occasion caused her much emotional suffering. Twice she was taken from her cell to be shot. She prepared herself for death but on each occasion it ended in the guards laughing.
Of course, food and fuel were in short supply. The Germans had many soldiers to keep supplied.
I met a lady recently who was in Holland during the occupation. She too carried messages for the Resistance. She told me how little food they had to live on — a two pound bag of sugar being a week’s complete food ration-— and how they sold everything they had to get small pieces of meat and such. She also mentioned a village that had no children and no elderly: food and fuel shortages ensured not one had survived a severe winter.
There is an added romantic dimension to her story: her RAF boyfriend was captured and put in a prisoner-of-war camp. Set free by the Canadians towards the end of the war, he stole a jeep and drove off to look for her. They married within a couple of days and, through a Canadian pilot friend, arranged for her to be flown to England. Once there, she made her way to the home of her new sister-in-law. Other things, concerning brushes with German officers and so on, were also mentioned.

These stories have never been written down and never likely to be. What a pity. You see, I was told by one publisher that there is not enough interest to make good enough sales.

However, I thoroughly recommend Alan Furst’s book, not only is The Polish Officer a good read but informative too. It is not surprising that Furst is also a much-travelled journalist.