Ludwika-Finding the missing link
By Christoph Fischer
Oslo, Feb 14:Soon after the Nazi invasion of her country, Ludwika Gierz was taken from her home in Przedborów Poland. She was forced to leave her daughter Irena, her mother Agnieszka and her sister Stasia behind and was used for slave labour in Germany. Workers were urgently needed to fill the acute labour shortage of the Reich, due to its men fighting. Ludwika was one of several millions so-called ‘Ostarbeiter’.
These workers from Eastern Europe were treated with various degrees of freedom of movement and usually interned in camps. They received ‘payment’, most of which was retained for food and accommodation and few were lucky to enjoy ‘humanitarian’ working conditions. Some had to dig up roads with not much more than their hands. They might have been better off than the inhabitants of concentration camps, but that is little consolation once you see the individual tragedies.
Ludwika was registered in a camp in Westerstrasse Oldenburg throughout the war. She lost a child and spent several weeks in a hospital in Oldenburg suffering from jaundice. After the war she remained in Germany, fearful of trading a life under Hitler for one under Stalin or his puppet Communist Regime in Poland. She had a new family which she was not prepared to put in danger and decided to gamble for a life in the West, even though this meant she was unlikely to reunite with her old family in Poland any time soon. Together with many other Polish citizens she was able to stay in Germany. She was transferred to a Displaced People’s Camp in Dalum Lingen, part of the Elms Lager complex in 1946 where she stayed until she was able to travel to the UK in 1949.
She declined to tell her children what exactly had happened to her in the war years. She had shot wounds and broken teeth, for which she had made up unconvincing cover stories.She promised she would tell her full story once the children were old enough to hear it, but sadly, Ludwika passed away while her children were still teenagers.
She took many secrets to the grave and sadly, also all means to contact her family in Poland.All that the children have left is a picture of Ludwika’s first born daughter, Irena, and some documents that pinpoint their mother to various locations throughout the war.
Contact with the Polish arm of the family was established by Ludwika after the war but has been lost since. The Red Cross has not been able to re-connect Ludwika’s new children with Irena and the rest of the Gierz family.I wrote a fictional account of Ludwika’s life, using her picture and that of the young Irena Gierz on the cover, in the hope that someone will recognise the details or the people in the pictures and come forward with information.
If you know someone who lived in Przedborów before or during the war, someone who was in one of the labour camps in Oldenburg or in one of the Elmslager for Displaced People between 1945 and 1949 please show them this book.
The Oslo Times