Chapter 14 – “Road to Recovery” with my personal commentary.
In the next two weeks I gained weight and in a strange way I became “normal” or like I was before the frozen potato adventure. On my fingertips grew new skin and somehow remained pink, very sensitive and itchy from time to time. In the early part of December I returned to work. I swore to myself I would never go near the potatoes again, even if I knew in advance I would be successful. It is known, a person with a full stomach would never know or understand the kind of feeling that comes with hunger. That was the case with me too. I lived good for about five or six weeks and got too soft on my theory to survive. I became an “aristocrat” of a prison camp. Eventually, around Christmas time I was hungry as ever and that pile of potatoes were still at the very same spot. It was a mind altering situation for me to stare at them from the window of my room; especially on Sundays when we didn’t work or wasn’t supposed too.
In the camp we received clean underwear and a shirt every ten days and then we used a common shower. Any other clothing like pants, jacket over coat was our responsibility to clean or otherwise it was never cleaned; except by the rain or a snowstorm and those lucky enough to work in the kitchen as a cook or helper. They wore white uniforms and usually another prisoner of war washed the uniforms for them; in exchange for a piece of bread.
I knew the head cook very well because I was aware in a “hungry world” that kind of contact never hurt and perhaps could be helpful. I also knew I would never try to steal the potatoes the way I did the first time, so what remained was a big question mark. If not that way then how?
Finally the day before New Years Day of 1947, I had yet another plan and discovered how the potatoes were going to the kitchen; it was amazingly simple. One or two kitchen helpers with a basket in hand went to the gate of the potato pile, opened the gate, went inside and with a shovel filled up the basket and carried it back to the kitchen. To make things even easier for me, that day at least, there wasn’t a guard by the potatoes; only the Russian guard could see it from the nearby guard-house. If I decided to do this I convinced myself, a basket full it would be!
(To be continued:)
(My commentary: As many times as I have, read and re-read these memoirs I always seem to discover something new. It’s more of a “oh, I didn’t remember that” moment. Hearing the stories and reading them are very different. I find myself asking questions and wondering why I never asked or thought of them before my father passed away. I suppose it was because then it didn’t seem so urgent. I was a lot younger and when you are that age, time is something we all assume comes in an endless supply. So many gaps I could have filled; the same frustrating gaps that enter my mind every time I begin to type. Kati~)