"Courage is not the lack of fear, but the ability to face it"
Lt. John B. Putnam, Jr. (1921-1944)
In the winter of 1943, again Sarah needed to find shelter for her and her two small children. Her friend Romek knew the Mordel family and arranged for Sarah to hid there. The setting was all too familiar. Mordel had dug a hole in the ground for Sarah and her children to lie in. The only difference this year was that they were to "live" under a pig pen as opposed to the stables.
Most of the winter went by without incident. When the winter was almost over, the pig that had been sheltered in the pen was slaughtered. Mordel told Sarah and the children that on Sunday's, when everyone was at church, they could come out from the floorboards into the pig sty for a few hours. On one Sunday, when they were in the sty, Manek looked out through the wired window and asked his mother, "Why can the chickens run free and play and we can not?" Sarah answered from her heart "I have no answer for you, but to tell you that one day you will be able to run as free as the chickens."
On one of these Sunday's, Sarah saw Germans coming. People were running away, into the woods and in all directions. Sarah knew she could not be found hiding in a pig pen. She instantly got up, stepped out of the pen, grabbed the children, and went right up to a German soldier. She started yelling and screaming in Polish to them. One of the soldiers understood Polish and asked her what she was doing here. She answered, "We were in the next town over and told to leave. So we came here. This man gave us shelter, but he is cruel to us. He does not feed us, look how pale my children are, and he beats us."
Meanwhile, Manek, who had also seen the Germans coming and seeing his mother talk to them, became terrified and let go of his mother's leg, and ran into Mordel's house and hid under a bed. You see, Sarah had always warned Manek that if he were to be caught and captured, anyone would just need to pull down his pants and see that he was Jewish. When the German's approached, he was so scared that they would do as his mother had warned and that he would give them all away. As Manek ran away, the Germans questioned where he was going. Sarah and the soldiers followed Manek into the house. Sarah found him under the bed, and her quick thinking prevailed, "You see he is so scared of men because that one is always beating him." She then came and took Manek out from under the bed, "Don't be frightened" she soothed, "Don't worry, these men are nice men, they won't beat you, yes they are men, but not like the other one." The German soldiers replied, "No we won't hurt you."
They all proceeded outside, and the Germans continued to question Sarah. "Look the man has a cow, does he not give you milk?" "No" she replied. The Germans proceeded to go and start taking the cow. Mordel, seeing the Germans taking his cow, begged them not to take it, it was his only one. The Germans told him that it was his punishment for not even feeding these people. Mordel begged, he said he had tried but it was so hard to feed so many. The Germans took the cow.
They returned a short time later with food for Sarah and her children and told her if she needed anything else, they were stationed nearby and she should come to them and they would provide her with food for her children.
I often think about the courageous things that my grandmother did. I honestly can say I do not think I would have the courage to even think to do half of what she did. It amazes me every time I think about what she endured, what she did, and what she did not do. She was not the only courageous one. I think of all those Polish families that helped her and hid her, my father and my aunt. I am a mother of two children, would I have the courage to risk their lives to help another? I say to myself that I hope I would find that courage, but I am not sure. Would you?