I would like to share with you a piece of history that many have not experienced and many may not even be aware of. My dear friend “Anne Perin Serediak” had this horrific experience as a child during WWII.
With the refugee crisis currently in the news and the fact that Remembrance Day is coming up, I thought it’s the perfect opportunity to share this article.
Thank you – Irene Merple
When I watch the images on TV of all the areas in the world where children are innocent victims of war and poverty it brings, there is always the recognized symbol of the Red Cross at work. This relief organization is over a hundred years old, and it operates without prejudice of religion or race or nationality, just helping to alleviate some of the suffering that people endure daily in many parts of our word.
During the Second World War, my family was on the receiving end of the kindness of Red Cross workers many times. We had been displaced from our home in what is now Croatia, and joined thousands of homeless people who spent time in refugee camps. We would be transported from camp to camp in train cars, like cattle, and often did not know where we would be placed next. At the camps, the Red Cross workers would provide packages of clothing and food, and sometimes special treats at Christmas. The symbol of the Red Cross was always a comfort.
Transportation networks such as railway yards and stations were important during the war, and targeted for bombing because of the possibility of troop concentrations at the station. Thus, an air raid signal when you were in a train station meant the trains would immediately clear the station. One day while my family was being transferred to a camp, we experienced a horror I have never forgotten.
My older brother, younger sister and I were on the train, and my parents were still waiting to board. The air sirens sounded and immediately the doors of the train were closed. The train left the station, with our parents helplessly watching from the outside.
There was no way of knowing where their children were going. The trains did not make regular stops, and even if the train stopped, there was no record of who was on each train. So my sister, brother and I had no idea if we would ever be reunited with our parents. And our parents began searching, never knowing for sure if they were even going in the right direction. The Red Cross had several shelters scattered throughout the war zones where they provided refuge for orphaned children. It was into one of these shelters that Lena, Johnny and I were placed. We believed our parents would search for us, but it was too painful to believe we would be found.
Meanwhile, mom and dad began seeking out the Red Cross facilities where children were being cared for, always disappointed when their three children were not there.
Finally, in the middle of the night, they reached the doors of what would be their last hope. The attendant in charge listened to my parent’s story but told them they would have to wait till morning to search the shelter. Sleep did not come easily to many of the children, and to awaken them would not be allowed. My mother, distressed and exhausted by their search, pleaded and cried. Here the story blurs… I am not sure if I was dreaming that I heard my mother’s voice, or if heard her, but in my sleep, I called out to her. Of course, she recognized my voice, pushed aside the attendant and rushed in with my dad. That my family was reunited is a miracle, given the turmoil and disorganization that was Europe at that time. That the reunion could not have occurred without Red Cross is certain, and I am forever grateful for the selfless volunteers who continue to try to bring hope to places of the world where hope is all they have.
ANNE PERIN SEREDIAK