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Horror and Hope

"The Dragon Beside Me" Challenge Entry

By Sam The Doula (Blooming Miracle)Published 2 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - March 2024
Horror and Hope
Photo by Frederick Wallace on Unsplash

I am late entering this challenge, because I thought long and hard which woman has inspired me the most.

I chose this person because I genuinely believe she deserves recognition for her outstanding skills and character in the face of adversity: Stanislawa Leszczyńska. She was a Polish midwife who was incarcerated in Auschwitz in 1943. She attended many births during that time. 3,000 babies were born under her care.

A Midwife in Auschwitz

Can you imagine it? Bringing the most defenceless little people, with no voice, into an environment like that? Tending their mothers, who have suffered the worst cruelties and depravations, when they are at their most vulnerable? take a minute to think about it, really soak in the horror and hope and blood of it. Let me paint you a picture in black and red:

Many pregnant women at Auschwitz were executed. Others were given abortions by Gisella Perl. Some were sent to a "maternity ward", which fully earned those quotation marks. It wasn't set up for basic medical care, let alone to properly care for pregnant and birthing women and their babies. It was filthy, cold, and ridden with lice and disease. There were no antiseptics or dressings, no specialised equipment, no pain relief for the women.

The Nazis assumed the babies would not survive even to term, but every single mother and baby survived under her care. I would bet you there are doctors today in far better conditions who cannot say the same.

There's more, and worse: when the Nazis discovered all these women and babies were not dying, as they surely hoped, they told Stanislawa to drown the babies at birth. Stanislawa, of course, refused, at great risk to her own life. I don't know what kind of beatings she suffered for that defiance, but she was steadfast. Other "nurses" working on the ward did it, often in front of the women who had just given birth.

The Nazis took babies they thought had Aryan features, to be adopted by approved German families. Stanislawa helped the babies' mothers to subtly tattoo the babies so they could be identified, in the hope they might one day be reunited.


Stanislawa worked relentlessly to provide care for these women. I do not say "tirelessly", because I am sure she must have been tired, to the absolute depths of her soul. But it didn't stop her. In the face of impossible odds and the worst conditions, she kept going. She gave the others incarcerated with her hope. They called her "Mother", a high and well-earned title.

How She Inspires Me

While many women and babies did not ultimately survive the camp, not a single one died under her care. Let me remind you: three thousand babies.

This incredible woman worked in impossible conditions to advocate for women and babies. To ensure their survival through birth, and to help them feel safe and comfortable. The latter inextricably linked to the first. This is the key that made her such an outstanding midwife, and the most important tool in any birth attendant's arsenal. No matter what other techniques or medical advances she might have at her disposal, the presence to help those under her care feel safe is imperative.

I'm not a medical professional, but I know all women need and deserve to feel safe as they become mothers. Everyone supporting them (medical professional or not) is obliged to try to ensure this. I'm continually working on it.

I think about Stanislawa often. How she must have felt in her low moments, and what incredible reserves of strength she must have had to be able to keep going, and to not despair. To hold on to hope, and to infect everyone around her with it, when hope seemed impossible.

What a truly astonishing woman.

I believe she's been nominated for a sainthood. If anyone deserves it, she surely does. She certainly deserves our recognition one way or another.

Saints Among Us

Stanislawa was pushed to the extremes of her abilities and character, in a way she should never have been. It's possible, even likely, that there are many Stanislawas walking among us, unrecognised, unsung, unsainted. They work quietly, hour after hour, day after day, night after night. Bringing their steady presence to spaces and families who need it. Bringing calm to chaos, bringing confidence and strength. Bringing hope.

The best midwives personify the same traits that made Stanislawa remarkable, and they deserve recognition, too. The profession is currently underpaid and overstretched here in the UK by any metric, and I believe is not valued highly enough anywhere. These women inspire me daily; they hold two lives in their hand every time they go to work, and they stay strong under that pressure.

Thank you for reading.

(Sources in comments.)

historyhealthfeminismfamilyCONTENT WARNING

About the Creator

Sam The Doula (Blooming Miracle)

Childbirth Eductator since 2011

Building a resource for mothers-to-be to feel informed and confident about their choices

You can find me on Facebook or book classes with me

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (11)

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  • ROCK 2 months ago

    It's hard to imagine beauty in horror; have you read Viktor E. Frankl; "Man's Search for Meaning"? What happened in concentration camps caused many to take their own lives; undoubtedly the story you have shared needs to be required reading for all. Thanks to you receiving a top story I discovered you and Stanislawa. Thank you.

  • Anna 2 months ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • “M”2 months ago

    Great words

  • Paul Stewart2 months ago

    Love this piece so much, Sam. Well bloody done. I hope this places, really do. It deserves it and if it means that strong Dragon-like woman gets more recognition and your writing gets more recognition, it's a win win win win win. Congrats on the Top Story for this too. I loved the passion of the piece as much as the fact that you backed it all up. Just well done again. :) Thank you.

  • Melissa Ingoldsby2 months ago

    This was very inspiring and I love your dedication to this heroic person

  • This is a wonderful challenge entry, and thank you for sharing this with us all

  • Ani John2 months ago

    Thankyou for showing this

  • Nomfundo Gumede2 months ago

    An emotional one to read. Thank you for writing this

  • Alyssa Nicole2 months ago

    The stories of resilience and compassion in such times of tragedy continue to amaze me. Thank you for sharing the wonderful contributions of Stanislawa. I agree that she deserves to be honored as a saint.

  • Lamar Wiggins2 months ago

    Thank you for crafting and sharing this. Without your tribute, I more than likely would have never known of her and the compassion and heroism she demonstrated in life. Although a disturbing story at times, it was one that needed to be told. Thank you!

  • Sources: History dot com: Wiki: British Poles:

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