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“May my 'I love you' not arrive too late”. Children's letters from the war

Letters written by Polish children from the German concentration camp in Lodz (1942-1945)
Letters written by Ukrainian children from the ongoing war (2022-2023)

“Dear Mummy...”
Bread, saccharin, crepes, onions, fruit, salt, jam, soap, needles and thread, a pencil, gloves, family photographs, a devotional book [...] In the letters written by the children from the camp you can clearly see everything that the war deprived them of – the closeness of their parents, their food, their school, their entire peaceful and good life.

“Dear Daddy...”
“We slept while sitting on chairs by the entrance, it was very cold and wet [...] there was some bread and a piece of sausage from the fridge [...] They took our phones [...] Olya cried in her sleep. And then the first building burned down”.

Polen-Jugendverwahrlager Litzmannstadt – the German concentration camp for Polish children which held 2-3 thousand young Poles aged from infancy to 16 years. Starvation, diseases, beatings, longing, cold, and exhausting labour beyond limits. The only place of its kind in Europe during the Second World War.

Russia invades Ukraine. The times and armies change, but the suffering of the youngest remains the same. War once again robs them of childhood, the warmth and peace of the family home, of loved ones...

Kazimierz Gabrysiak. A 13-year-old scout from Poznan. He was captured by the Germans and imprisoned in the Lodz work camp for conspiratorial activities. He continued to suffer for many years after the war due to illnesses contracted in the camp.

“Dear mum and dad, sisters, brothers, and aunts.

[...] I would like to ask you to send me a parcel, 2 loaves of bread just like you always baked at home, Mum. And some sugar, honey, and sausage, and jam, and no butter, because you don't have much. And a jar of mustard. Don't send a cake because you don't have that much flour. And a devotional book, just not the Holy Communion one, because it would get damaged, and a sacred medallion”.

Urszula Kaczmarek. A 13-year-old girl from Poznan. She was arrested in a police round-up. She was the first victim of German crimes in the camp on Przemyslowa Street. She was murdered on 9 May 1943.

“Dear Parents,

I happen to be in Lodz, in a camp. I have a great request to make, send me a parcel, some soap and some washing powder. Dear Mummy, please send me an apron and some food. Stay with God”.

Bohdan Kończak – an 8-year-old boy from Mosina. He was imprisoned in the camp together with his younger brother Ireneusz. His father was murdered by the Germans in Fort VII in Poznan. His mother was a survivor of the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

“Dear Auntie, I've received the parcel, for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Dear Auntie Renia, send me some black pudding, sausage, and pie, one loaf of bread, and please send me a spoon”.

Gertruda Nowak – a 13-year-old girl from Smigiel. She was imprisoned in Litzmannstadt with her brothers, Jerzy and Edward. Only she and the youngest brother survived the war. Her father was killed in Fort VII in Poznan. Her mother and two sisters were murdered in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. When Jerzy turned 16, the Germans deported him from Lodz and he vanished without a trace. To this day, his fate is unknown.

“I have been cleaning rooms and doing other jobs. Jerzy came home healthy from the hospital, and now he's sick again with pneumonia and water in his side. I'm extremely worried about him getting worse. My aunt visited us and has already brought us food for the holidays”.

Jan Spychała. A 13-year-old boy from Grudziadz. On 18 January 1945, the day the German staff fled the camp, he was in a state of total exhaustion. Thanks to the help of the inhabitants of Lodz, he returned home.

“[...] I am asking for mustard, onion, garlic, saccharin, salt, pudding, and 5 cubes of Maggi for bouillon. Mummy, if you can, please send me a scarf, because the old one rotted when I was ill, tights, footwraps, gloves because it's cold outside these days, and some leather shoelaces, and perhaps a jumper and a small pencil, and a cardboard wallet for letters. Stay with God”.

Sofiya Hromadska - 10 years old. At the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation, she was attending 5th grade at a secondary school in Mykolaiv. On the very first day of the war, she and her mother left the city, and for several weeks they stayed in various places in Ukraine. At the beginning of March, they arrived in Zdunska Wola, Poland.

“This wicked war has thwarted all my plans for the future! The war has scattered our family around different countries. I really miss my dad, my brother, my grandparents and grandmother, my cousins, my friends, my relatives, and my best friend. The city of Mykolaiv is under daily attack by Russian soldiers. I have faith in our people and the Armed Forces of Ukraine”.

Mykhailo, Myroslava Khoda - 11 years old / 6 months old. At the beginning of the invasion, they lived with their parents in the Mikolayovsky village in the Mikolaiv district. For a long time, the epicentre of the fighting for Mikolaiv was in this area – the front line. Together with their mother, they were forced to flee from their homeland to Poland. For the time being, they are staying in Olsztyn. Their 37-year-old father, Ruslan Khoda, was killed on 4 August 2022 while fighting Russian occupiers in the Kherson region. He was the commander of the reconnaissance battalion of the 36th Marine Infantry Brigade. His body has not been recovered to this day.

“Hi, Daddy! I'm doing fine, and I hope you're doing alright as well. I love you. If it's not too late, let me say – I strongly believe that you will survive, even though you don't answer [...] The funniest thing is that everyone seems to be going crazy, worrying about you, and crying […]”. (from the child’s SMS to his father, 31 July 2022)

Alina Morozova - 17 years old. At the beginning of the Russian invasion, she lived with her parents in Mykolaiv. On 4 March 2022, she and her mother emigrated to Poland. The relocation decision was quite difficult to make. She was in shock and devastated. She had not planned to leave her home, family, town, friends, and her beloved dog. Her life has changed drastically.

“I couldn't comprehend how it was possible, when military planes are flying over your head, tanks are driving through the city streets, there is fighting everywhere, and your house is shaking from explosions [...] I was constantly looking at the news on my phone, and like everyone else, I was waiting for the emergency alarm to be called off and for this horror to end [...]”.

Yaroslava, Tamara Ovsyannikov - 8 years old / 1.5 months old. At the beginning of the invasion, they lived in Kherson city. They were under Russian occupation from 1 March 2022 until the end of the month. They left the city on 26 March 2022. They are currently with their mother and grandmother in Constanta, Romania.

“There is a war in my country. We needed to leave our building. We would stay in various cities in Romania. During that time, my little sister has grown up a lot. It's alright here, but it's not my home. I've been missing my life in Kherson very much. Ukraine will be victorious, and we will return home”.

Marusya Vedmid - 8 years old. At the beginning of the full-scale war, she lived in Hostomel. Soon after, the city was under Russian occupation. The basement, where Marusya was hiding with her family, was controlled by Chechens. On 17 March, the girl escaped the occupation with her mum and through Belarus, Poland, and Estonia they managed to get to Ireland, where they currently reside.

“[...] We slept while sitting on chairs by the entrance, it was very cold and wet [...] there was some bread and a piece of sausage from the fridge [...] Chechens kicked the door and stormed in. Hassan, that was the name of the one who aimed the gun at us [...] They would take our phones [...] Olya cried in her sleep. And then the first building burned down [...] One woman was burnt alive. In the morning, a woman from another basement died. The cemetery near our building started to expand. On the night of 8-9 March, my grandmother passed away [...] The doctor didn't come anyway. The military told us to bury her this way – instead of an exhumation bag, they offered a rubbish bag [...]”.