‘70 years on, I can talk about the Nazi death camp,’ says Stevenage Holocaust survivor
- Credit: Archant
Hot dinners helped a Stevenage pensioner open up and talk about her experiences of being pregnant in a Nazi concentration camp.
Maria Kasyan came to the town in 1946 shortly after being liberated from Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany in April 1945 when she was pregnant with her first son Christopher.
The 90-year-old lives in Broadwater Crescent and had never opened up about the horrors she experienced in the camp and in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation until meeting Mandy, who delivers her meals on wheels.
Mandy works for social enterprise Hertfordshire Community Meals, part of Herts County Council, and started delivering the meals last year.
She said: “She had a tremendous urge to share her story – it is incredibly emotional to listen to what she went through.
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“It was a working prison camp and she was pregnant when she arrived – her story is heart breaking but talking about it helps her deal with her memories.”
Life under occupation was tough for Maria and things became worse when her first husband died in Warsaw during the war.
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Then in November 1944, as the Soviet army advanced from the east, she was taken from her home in the Polish capital to the notorious female-only Ravensbrück concentration camp.
From there she was forced to walk on one of the infamous death marches – where the Nazi’s moved prisoners in terrible conditions away from the front line as they tried to hide and destroy evidence of the terrible crimes they had committed.
Thousands of people died on these marches and despite surviving Maria ended up in Bergen Belsen concentration camp, where more than 70,000 people including young diarist Anne Frank died before it was liberated by British troops in April 1945.
Finally free. the then-pregnant 20-year-old eventually made her way to Stevenage where she remarried and has remained ever since.
The council started the service in 2007 and it is now recognised as one of the best meals on wheels providers in the country. Last year it won a National Business Award.
Of the service, Maria said: “It’s really reassuring, they are very friendly. I see them as part of the family,” she said.
Mandy now also meets Maria as part of a befriending scheme run by the council.