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The Valley of Death

Torn between two antagonists

By Tina D'AngeloPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 3 min read

I believe my friend, Greta could have changed the outcome of WWII for Poland.

Poland, in 1939, became the rope in a nasty game of tug of war between two mighty military powers, Nazi Germany from the West and the USSR from the East. Although the Polish military was strong in numbers, they did not have the advanced weaponry the Soviets or the Nazis had. Their approach to fighting the invasions was faulty as well, using all-out defensive tactics right in the beginning, rather than biding their time and setting up in advantageously strategic positions to selectively pick off the troops of their invaders The army was almost completely defeated in the first few weeks of the war, leaving their citizens at the mercy of the bloodthirsty enemy armies.

It is believed that between 1939 and 1945 over 35,000 Polish citizens of every religion and background were murdered by the Nazis in the area running through from Gdansk to Lipno in Poland, and were buried in the nearby forests surrounding the verdant potato fields. That place is remembered now as 'The Valley of Death'. It is near one of those potato farms where my friend, Greta lived when she was a child. Her family worked on the farm and their home was on the outskirts of her village, near the forests where thousands of their fellow countrymen were slain.

The national Polish army was finished by Winter in 1939 and there were no safe places to go. With the Germans closing in from the North and West and the Soviets doing the same from the East, the surviving Poles had to be very smart about not getting caught up in the fighting. Greta's family left their home when they saw a stream of SS vehicles and tanks crawling toward their village. They had time only to pack up food, blankets, and rudimentary survival equipment then crept silently out to the middle of the potato field during the night. Digging furiously until dawn, Greta's father and older brothers made an underground cavern, which they covered with straw bedding that had previously been used to protect the potatoes from the burning Polish Summer Sun.

Greta's mother and older sisters used the blankets to pad and insulate the walls and floor of their underground home. At night they would ascend from their bunker and forage in the field for the unharvested potatoes, having to keep watch for soldiers, wolves, and bears, who were also doing the same. Greta told of praying for bears instead of the wolves or the soldiers because the bears came alone. Fifty years later Greta recalled her first trip to a dentist after the war, where she was told her bones and teeth would always be brittle due to the malnutrition she suffered from existing on raw potatoes for an entire winter during her childhood.

Greta's family survived the war, just barely, and she grew up to marry an evangelist who ended up settling down in my town when his traveling days were over. A warm and extremely self-sufficient lady, who still cuts and stacks her own firewood as she nears 90 years old. She may have suffered bone damage but her spine is made of steel. This is why I would send the grown-up version of Greta back in time to 1939.

She could tell her fellow countrymen what was to become of them if they submitted meekly to the Nazis that invaded their villages. She would warn them of the destruction that was sure to follow their army vehicles wherever they went. She could tell them to 'run', 'hide', never surrender, and fight as if their lives depended upon it because they did.

She could tell them the Nazis would go for the teachers and professors first, eliminating all common sense from the communities, then they would be able to easily wipe out all the other Poles who could not hear the wisdom from the historians who knew what was coming. She could warn the leaders that the army should wait and find better defensive positions and wipe out individual Nazi and Soviet units when they got deep into Polish territory. She could change the outcome of the tearing apart of her home country with her knowledge and wisdom.

Some information from:

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Antiquity Publications Ltd.



A personal story from my friend, Greta.


About the Creator

Tina D'Angelo

My first book, G-Is for String, is now available on Amazon! Set in the 1970s, the story follows Tina's first years of learning the ropes of dancing in strip clubs and X-rated theaters. There is never a problem that she can't make worse!

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Comments (4)

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  • Quincy.V3 months ago

    Your writing is engaging and descriptive, making it easy for me to visualize the story and connect with the characters.

  • Donna Fox3 months ago

    You brought such a great narrative to a tragic story, very emotionally invoking and touching. I love the originality in your voice when you bring forth stories that would otherwise be unknown to the world! I find it brave how you can step into a role most would find very intimidating. Your work is very inspiring to me!

  • D-Donohoe3 months ago

    I never “enjoy” reading these stories if people that survived such horror, but it is a MUST to read. You told her story so well and with so much passion. Thank you.

  • Mark Gagnon3 months ago

    Gretta must be an interesting person to speak with. Older people have lived through and survived so much that they should be offered teaching positions at universities to replace the wannabee book nerds. Stories like her's are valuable.

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