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Episode Info: up of hot water mixed with milk powder, and a small cup of “mush” made from boiled vegetable peels. On days when fighting came close to the factory, the “undesirables” were not allowed to enter the air raid shelter, so Kitty often sat in the courtyard, watching the planes. “We would see the planes and we would make bets, because you can tell from the whistle of a bomb whether it’s going to land close to you or not.” One morning in 1945, the prisoners lined up as usual, but no one came to inspect them. The group emerged from the barracks to find the camp deserted, the German soldiers having fled due to the advance of the Russian army. Kitty and a French POW friend decided to walk back to her hometown of Vienna— a trip that took two days. She arrived at her old apartment to find her mother gone, but most of the buildings on her street miraculously still intact. Russian soldiers occupied the city, “taking almost anything that wasn’t nailed down and shipping it off to Russia,” Kitty says. “We had no electricity, and food was almost impossible to get.” The next few years involved both amusing and heartbreaking tales of survival, including working for the Russians at a leather factory, hiding from soldiers to avoid being assaulted, moonlighting as a magician’s assistant in an embarrassingly skimpy costume to earn money, and tumbling into a bomb crater and badly wounding a knee on the way to the country to beg farmers for food. “War is terrible,” Kitty muses, “but the aftermath for a conquered city is much, much worse. When I’m asked what we ate, I always say, ‘You don’t want to know, but this I can tell you. There were no cats, dogs, squirrels, pigeons or even crows alive in the end.’” In May of 1946, just after her 20th birthday, Kitty received a letter from her father. He had remarried and wanted Kitty to join him in the United States. Immigration laws allowed her to travel as a dependent only as long as she was under the age of 21, so Kitty hastily made the decision to leave her mother in Vienna and make the journey. She joined a transport of concentration camp survivors on a freight train to Bremerhaven, encountering harsh winter conditions without food, heat, or toilet facilities. Crossing the Atlantic on a freight ship, she endured storms and the violent seasickness of nearly all on board, before finally arriving at Ellis Island to meet her father. Kitty’s story is so vast and rich in detail, it is almost impossible to capture it in print. Whether time has softened the sting of her suffering, or circumstances necessitated fortitude that not many of us cannot imagine, Kitty insists, “I must say that I wasn’t scared at all… pretty much the whole time. I guess I’m just lucky that way.” ...
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