The story of a Catholic husband and wife taken from their happy lives in Poland to serve as forced labor under the Nazis. Written by Alanna Rumler and illustrated by Jennifer Banks. Both girls are from Geneseo, Illinois.
The next book to be released in the Holocaust Series isThe Footstool by young author Alanna Rumler, illustrated by Jennifer Banks, both of Geneseo, Illinois.
This story was told to Alanna by the granddaughter of the survivor named Jozef Kodyra. Ironically, Jozef was born in the United States and his family moved to Poland when he was a young boy. He grew up there, married Helena and started their family.
Ironically they are not Jewish but nonetheless were taken as prisoners to Dachau Concentration Camp. You can read more about their story below.
It's wonderful the young author was able to meet Jozef's granddaughter named Amanda who passed along his story. Amanda, Alanna and the young artist named Jennifer were able to preserve the story for future generations.
Amanda would like to speak in classrooms in the Quad Cities area to help educate students. If you know a teacher or you are a teacher interested in your class hearing this important story, please contact us today. She will have copies of this book to sell by April 12.
As told through the eyes of his granddaughter
Amanda Kodyra Baumgardner
My grandfather, Jozef Kodyra, was born July 7, 1913 in New York, thus making him a US citizen. He and his family moved to Poland in 1921 to build and grow their family farm.
My grandmother, Helena Sudol, was born February 2, 1917 in Wiltschawola, Poland where she too lived on her family farm. They married in the District of Kostopolski in 1937. They lived in several towns in the Ukraine and Poland. Some of them were Zolotolin, Berezno, Kostopol, Maydan and the last one being Malynsk.
My grandparents had five children, three of them born before WWII. Gene was the oldest followed by Chester and Josephine. My grandfather worked with his father on their farm and then worked for the Polish Embassy during WWII. In 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland and took the entire family to a holding camp (Ghetto) outside of Pobiedziska. They were taken, not because they were Jews, but because they were Roman Catholic Poles. From the ghetto they were forcibly sent on a two week journey on an over crowded railcar to Burghausen, Germany. When they arrived they found themselves at a labor camp called Dachau.
My grandfather was forced to work cleaning up garbage in the streets and my grandmother had to work at a cemetery. Their children were sent to 'daycare' and not allowed with them. Just a few days after arriving at the concentration camp, my grandmother was handed a note by a Nazi guard stating that her daughter had died of tuberculosis. My grandparents were never afforded the opportunity to see her body. They believe the Nazis took her to keep as their own.
My grandparents and their children were in Dachau for 18 months until liberation in 1945. From there they were transferred to a DP (Displaced Persons) camp in Augsburg, Germany for another 3 years. While in the DP camp they had another child whom they named Theresa. Given their home was destroyed in the war and my grandfather had US citizenship, they waited with other DPs to gain work sponsorship which would allow them to come to the United States. On February 2, 1949 they boarded the S/S General Sturgis on their way to the United States. My grandfather's sponsorship brought them to Keota, Iowa. There, my grandfather worked as a farmer. They later moved to Kewanee, Illinois where he worked at a factory and built their family home. There, in 1951, they had their last child John, who is my father.
My grandfather searched for Josephine until his passing in 1986. He believed wholeheartedly the Nazis took his daughter and he would not give up the hope that someday she would be found. I have and will continue to search for answers as to what her true fate was.
My grandmother never spoke of these events as they were just too painful for her. My grandfather entrusted me enough to share these horrific events they had to endure all those years ago. Nearly every day I would eagerly run to his house after school to hear the next story. I'm truly blessed and feel it's my path in life to make sure their story is told and never forgotten. Without my grandparents will to survive, I would not be here today to tell their story to my children and yours.