Coincidence, karma or miracle? This story will make you wonder. It begins in a small village near present-day Ukraine amid war crimes committed by the German Nazis. A time in history that does not feel so long ago given the current news of war crimes in the region.
Near that village lies the dark primeval Białowieża Forest, straddling the borders of Poland and Belarus. Though it's described as “hauntingly beautiful” its tall trees and seemly endless marshlands have witnessed the harshest of evils.
At the outbreak of WWII, Miriam Rabinowitz lived in the small Polish town of Zhetel, (sometimes called Zdzięcioł) with her husband Morris and two daughters, Tania and Rochel.
Christians and Jews had lived peacefully in Zhetel for nearly 400 years, while the town was variously under the control of Belarus, Russia and Poland. In 1939, the population was roughly 4,600 and 75 percent were Jewish.
The Nazis arrived in the fall of 1939. They shipped skilled workers to workcamps and eventually to death camps. With the help of local police, they slaughtered most of the remaining Jewish residents, men women and children, in two consecutive mass shootings in the spring and summer of 1942.
Today a memorial stands on the remnants of the old Jewish cemetery, a fenced collective grave, in which the bodies of about two thousand people are buried, shot in this place by the Nazis on August 6, 1942.
If these are too small to read on your screen, you may be able to access The Spokesman-Review E.edition here... April 6, 2022, pages D7 & D8
It could be a huge shock for black army women from Northern states to report for duty south of the Mason Dixon Line. They knew prejudice but had not experienced the brutality of Jim Crow Laws.
When Women's Army Corps member Ernestine Wood was sent to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, she feared for her safety.
“When we would parade down the streets, the whites would throw rocks at us and the adults would jeer," she said. "When it was time for me to order my officers uniform, I had in a squad car and the manager of the store had to meet me at the door and escort me from counter to counter to pick out my clothes."
As Black History Month comes to a close, I've pulled out my research for the book Standing Up Against Hate to tell you more of the story of Ernestine Woods. She figures in Chapter 4, Black Women Persist.
She was sworn into the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps with a group of recruits from the Washington Military District at a public ceremony at the Cordoza High School January 7, 1943.
This should not surprise me, researching a woman from the 18th Century and discovering a strong parallel to a woman fighting the same battle today. The more I looked into this story, the more painful it became. But in the end, I found hope.
This is one of my longer feature articles and I ask your patience as I wend my way through the story to reach "pag-ibig at pag-asa," Filipino for love and hope.
Gabriela Silang, a young Filipina who lived in the northwestern seaboard of Luzon in the mid-1700s is most commonly portrayed wielding a bolo knife.
There's little doubt Gabriela Salang was a fearless revolutionary against Spanish colonial rule, and her spirit continues to run in the blood of women today, who carry on the struggle for self-determination in the face of centuries of imperialism in the Philippines.
That includes playwright and peasant organizer Amanda Echanis, arrested 13-months ago and imprisoned with her newborn baby, two of more than 600 political prisoners under the Rodrigo Duterte regime.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known history, stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers in the blog comments, by email or social media.