The survivors emerge into a ruined Warsaw

Janina Bauman was 13, the daughter of a surgeon, when war broke out. She had spent the days of the bombardment huddled in a cellar with her sister Jadwiga and many others. Now they needed food:

We returned to our flat covered now with thick layers of broken glass, white dust and black soot. Cold draughts roamed freely around the rooms bringing a sharp smell of smouldering ruins. At first, there was no sign of the conquerors in the street, and we did not even think about them. We set to to make our place fit to live in. Our food supplies were already exhausted and somebody had to go out and look for something to eat. Jadwiga found two large baskets – one for herself, the other one for me – and off we went. What we saw I can only describe as a dead town, ruined and burnt to the ground – or so it seemed at first. Many buildings were still smouldering, pavements destroyed, deep bomb craters all around.

A few emaciated people could be seen wandering to and fro like us, looking for food. On one occasion, we saw a crowd swarming around a bomb crater, doing something we could not understand until we came close. Deep down in the crater lay the corpse of a horse killed by the bomb.. Excited people dived down into the hole with knives or penknives to hack off bits of the horse’s flesh. Soon the corpse was opened wide and the plunderers fought over the steaming liver. We retreated, sick with disgust. The incident brought home to us, however, that our search for food was hopeless.


See Janina Bauman: Winter in the Morning: Young Girl’s Life in the Warsaw Ghetto and Beyond, 1939-45 (Virago classic non-fiction)

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