Pleading with German snipers, surviving bomb raids and suffering intense hunger are harrowing experiences told in a book written by an 82-year-old Grantham woman.
Wanting to share her story and inspire others, Hildegard Murfin has written a book about her extraordinary life, which begins with her difficult childhood in Potsdam, Germany (extracts from the book found below).
Going through such an ordeal at a young age was “character building” said Mrs Murfin, of Birmingham Close in Grantham.
She added: “I’m a very self-sufficient person. I learned that during the war.
“They were very difficult times. Very difficult. Having to look after myself from an early age made me a very, very strong person.”
Mrs Murfin met her husband in 1945 at the British Military Mission where they both worked. They moved to Britain, setting up home in Hucknall, Nottingham, going on to have three daughters and a son.
Her husband sadly died in 1978, and Mrs Murfin later moved to Grantham to be near her family. She has seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Although the book begins on a less happy note, it goes on to describe her own family life and many travelling adventures.
Refusing to let age be a barrier, she has travelled the world. There are very few places she has not been, few cultures she has not experienced.
Dubai is one of her favourite destinations because of its “opulence” and stunning architecture. Bali, Canada and America are also firm favourites and hold many a happy memory.
She said: “The world’s your oyster. You’ve just got to save the money and get your ticket.”
One place she was not happy to have visited was her hometown in Germany. Seeing what had become of Potsdam was heartbreaking, with houses run-down and little done to take care of it.
She said: “It was so traumatic. I cried for days while I was there.”
Friends fascinated by her stories had tried for many years to encourage her to write down her life story. It was while waiting for a flight at Birmingham Airport several years ago that Mrs Murfin decided the time had come to put pen to paper.
She said: “I was waiting for Virgin Atlantic to take me to Florida, where my daughter lives.
“I started to write because I was bored silly. A lot of people have said to me that I have had a very interesting life, why don’t I write it down.
“I went and got some paper from Smith’s and I started. I really got into it.”
Brimming with enthusiasm, she even made a deal with a printer while in Florida to make copies of her book once written.
Three-and-a-half years later, her story was down on paper and the printing began. A first run of 200 books looks likely to be followed by a second run and family and friends snapped them up.
Mrs Murfin said: “I’m very pleased with the book and pleased that all my friends that have read it have given me the thumbs-up and said how interesting it was.”
* To buy Potsdam Connection at £9.95 call Mrs Murfin on 01476 561562. Alternatively, buy it for £11.99 at www.amazon.co.uk
EXTRACTS FROM THE BOOK
We went back to our home and my mother and father’s friends joined us for dinner. Mother had excelled herself and somehow managed to “acquire” a large piece of beef. The smell was delicious and we set about the meal with gusto. I can taste the gravy to this day. Several years later my mother confided in me that beautiful beef was horsemeat, it was all she could find to give us a decent meal that day. I know a lot of you will say how could you eat horsemeat? The answer to that is when you have been as hungry as I had been in those years, you are glad to eat almost anything!
1944 approached and with it great problems. German troops retreated back towards the capital followed by the Russian troops. Young German soldiers tried to be the heroes by setting themselves up as snipers, all along the streets, shooting from the trees.
My mother pleaded with them to come down and we would hide them. We could see that certain death would be their fate and while we retreated to the cellars for safety their fate was decided, for the next morning hanging out of the trees were the two soldiers, really only boys proudly wearing the Hitler youth uniform. Such a waste of young lives.
A landmine, we were told, had hit the entrance to the shelter in the garden, but had not exploded. I finshed up buried underneath a door, I saw it coming towards me and it was as if in slow motion. As it hit the wall my deck chair collapsed and I finished up in a very small but safe place. Pandemonium was all around me.