The Story of Rosalie
My mother grew up in eastern Europe. She came to the west as a teenager, looking for a better life. Her instincts told her that it was the west where her future children should be growing up.
My father came from the middle east, dodging bombs and the bloody corpses of his friends to make it over the mountains to the promised land of opportunity.
My brother and I grew up far from the roots that made us. Later, we learned about the significance of the blood running through our veins. One can run from family secrets, but not hide for long.
My Grandmother was a real eastern European woman. Warm heart and loving like a hot soup during a winter blizzard. But strong and tough in all aspects of life.
When I was small she would tell me about the war. About how the Americans landed with boats on the beaches and got shot to pieces, the water turning red. And about the Russians coming to her village and raping all the girls.
“My mother would tell us girls to smear soot in our faces to make us look ugly. Together we were seven children.”, She explained, “Four boys and three girls. All the men were gone fighting in the war. It was just us three girls our mother and father. After mother told us to make us look ugly, father was hiding us in the basement. We stayed there for three days, while the Russians went from house to house. They were looking for food, for germans, and for girls. On the first day, we heard the bombs drop. It was very close to our village. On the second day, the Russians went into every house. First, they went into the neighbor's house.”, as she kept talking I stared and listened. I was fascinated by her stories as they seemed like from a movie, like from a thousand years ago,
“Our neighbors had two daughters and a son. Their father and my father, your great-grandfather, were really good friends and often went out hunting together. It made it all the worse.”, my grandmother said quietly while looking down with pain in her eyes.
“Their oldest daughter was eighteen when the war started. She fell in love 2 weeks before. Her boyfirend and she decided to run away together. They had the plan to make it to England and be safe. But they didn’t even make it out of Poland. She got a lung infection and ended up dying on the way.”
“What happened to her boyfriend?”, I asked.
“Nobody knows. We never saw him again. But the family had more bad luck after that.
The son was drafted to the war by the Germans just before the Russians came. He was such a sweet man. Always brought us girls flowers when he saw us. And he was so funny!”,
I remember my grandmother smiling when she talked about him.
“What was his name?”, I asked her.
“Lukasz. He was a very handsome young man. He fell in love with a girl from another village before he got drafted. They married on the same day they found out that he had to go to war. But they were only together for two days before the Germans came into our village and loaded all the men that could fight onto trucks. They took Stachiek, my youngest brother also.”
“What happened to Lukasz?”, I asked. I felt like I knew already but was hoping for something better.
“It was terrible. I remember how his father cried when he heard it. My father cried too.
I think it was his first day at the front and he got crushed by a Russian tank. That’s what they told us. So then there was only their youngest daughter left. Her name was Rosalie. And my god she was so beautiful! She was the most beautiful girl in the village!”
“But I thought you were Grandma!”, I said smiling. And my Grandmother laughed:
“You are a little charmer! Of course, your grandmother was a pretty girl, but Rosalie was really special. Every boy in the village wanted to get to know her. They were all coming to her house and waiting in front of her door. Her father had to come out and tell them that Rosalie wasn’t home. But of course, that didn’t stop them. So they would sit outside of Rosalie’s house for hours. My sisters and I would sit there and watch them. Wearing their nice Sunday outfits with fresh roses in their hands. Everybody wanted Rosalie. It was a few days before her seventeenth birthday.
Then the Russians came. And we were all so afraid. Our mothers had told us throughout the war when the Russians would come we’d have to run and hide. She told me that not even the Germans would do the things the Russians could.
On the second day, they went into Rosalie's house. My sisters and I were in the basement listening. And we heard everything. Poor Rosalie. She was such a beautiful girl.”
“What happened to her?”, I asked.
“They told the father that she would need to come help sew some of their uniforms back together.
Then they took her right behind the house. There were small holes in the wood; we could look out the basement and watch it all. Poor Rosalie. There were six of them Russians. They put her in the mud and tore all her clothes off her body. I remember how she was crying. She was a virgin. And then they raped Rosalie for hours and hours. All six of them together. One after the other. And we could only watch. And listen to her screams. They raped her so much that she died. Poor Rosalie.”
“Why didn’t her father come and help her?”, I asked.
“Because he couldn’t. He knew he could only die himself.”
I needed to know, but didn’t quite know how to ask:
“Did they find you also?”
“No. After Rosalie, they had enough. They went to other houses, but not to ours. We stayed in the basement for another day, then the Russians left. They killed 12 people from our village. Eight of them were young girls.”