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Inspiring Woman

I had every intention of writing this blog to coincide with International Woman's Day but unfortunately that thing called "life" got in the way........ So here I am a few weeks late still wanting to get this down on paper.

Actually now I want to write it even more than I did before "International Woman's Day" because the other evening I was in awe and inspired by so many amazing and wonderful woman. I am a member of a group in Cheltenham where I live called Cheltenhammaman (go check them out!) We are a group of mums and we are all running our own businesses, we have a private Facebook page where we can all talk, share stories, help each other and so forth.

Yesterday Kate the main and wonderful lady at the Helm posted a short bit of text asking us to open up about our struggles, because a lot of the time its those things that change us, challenge us, make us stronger, wiser, harder, softer, ultimately make us who we are. That day I read so many stories of these woman going through so many different things that life has thrown there way and how they have managed to get through them and then also how they coped and then changed things for themselves and their families........... Its sometimes really hard to open up and share YOUR STORY but wow when you do its amazing and in doing so people feel its OK to share theirs and they dont feel quite so alone.

SO this brings me nicely along to why I wanted to write this blog about Inspiring Woman in the first place.

Last Christmas my father gave me a book. It is called "A Child's Perspective" by Sheila A Renshaw. Its a collection of short stories from children who experienced World War 2. The Author was inspired to write the book having talked to her neighbour who live in the USSR during the 2nd world war and who had never told her story to anyone thinking nobody would of been interested. That neighbour was my Grandmother!

Reading this chapter about my grandmother Nadia at age 14 is quite amazing and I am completely in awe of her and what she endured and came through to finally find and make a life for herself in England.

I want to share with you a part of her story from the book -

When I arrived at the college in Kharkov, in September 1939, I was 14 years old. It was all very exciting and I was looking forward to starting my course. We were aware that Germany had invaded Poland, but Stalin had broadcast to the people that the USSR had signed a pact with Hitler and that there was no need for concern. He told us the the USSR was a powerful nation with a large army, far stronger than any possible invading force. This turned out to be far from the truth.

At the same time as these broadcasts, we children - girls, boys, woman and any men who were available, were given spades and told to dig anti-tank trenches. The trenches were very wide. The idea was that a tank would go in nose first and not be able to get out. In fact, when the Germans did arrive they just put temporary bridges over the trenches so that the tanks could pass over easily.

For the first few months nothing much happened and life seemed fairly normal. I was really enjoying my studies and I wrote regularly to my brother who had also won a scholarship and was studying in St Petersburg. I was worried about my family as it was very difficult to get any news from home. Before long one could not even send a letter as post offices and postal services had closed down. The village of Chernihov was too isolated to have a telephone so it was not possible to contact my family in any way.

One day at the end of lessons, our headmaster said that the school was closing that evening and we were all to go home. He had heard that the German army was approaching the Ukraine. Girls who lived locally packed up and left. My friend and I packed up and went to the railway station to see if we could get home. It was full of people, young, old and even soldiers, all trying to get on the trains. We stayed for a little while, but most trains were passing through full of soldiers and not stopping. Those that did stop were so full you could not get on. There were people hanging on to the top and outside the train. It was a very frighting picture

We found that all of our teachers had left the school so we were totally on our own. We went to the hospital next door to our school, saw the matron and explained our situation. We asked if we could stay for a while and help in the hospital. Fortunately she agreed and said we could stay for the time being.........

The Germans came and used this hospital for there men..... and the story goes on.

This story obviously touches me deeply as she is my Grandmother but all the stories are of real children put in extraordinary situation and shows our strengths as really is quite amazing.

I have no connection to this book apart from I know someone written in it but if you are interested in these stories then please do read, the book again is -

Voices of the second world war - A child's perspective by Sheila A Renshaw

If you are a cheltenhammaman mumboss member then this book is here for you to read - just message me xx

My Grandmother sadly passed away a few years ago but fortunately my father spent lots of time talking with her and getting her to open up about her past (something she kept hidden from us for a long long time) so these stories have been documented for me, and my siblings and our children and their children to hear and read and remember this amazing woman.

I urge you to speak to your parents, your grandparents and find there story - everyone has one.

I would love to hear any of your family's inspiring stories

Sarah xxx

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