Sometimes great stories are close to home. Sometimes the strongest and most resilient women are hiding in the suburbs.
Most times these women want their stories told but do not have the resources available to them. They stay silent. Leni was one of these women.
WAR CHILD is Leni’s true story. Leni grew up in Katscher, Germany, a small town that no longer exists. 80% of the town was burnt down by the Russian Army and the territory was ceded to Poland after WWII.
She left school at 14 to earn money to feed her mother and two younger brothers during the war. She eventually migrated to Australia under the International Refugee Organization program and after spending some time at Bonegilla Migrant Hostel ended up in a suburb that sprung from the dusty sheep paddocks and slaughter houses in Adelaide’s west. This area became home to the flotsam-jetsam of post WWII European migrants.
Leni was not a Jew. By all accounts she was the perfect Aryan specimen – the protected species under the NAZI regime - until she revealed her agonizing secret that she had been sexually abused by her sadistic NAZI employer through the war years. She was poor and illegitimate and an easy target.
It was as simple as that.
Rarely do you hear the harrowing WWII stories from an ordinary, German girl’s point of view. Sadly, it took 67 years for Leni to feel empowered enough to speak out. Her story is an example of how women did not feel secure enough to be true to themselves and live to their full potential, especially when they came from a low socio-economic background with no support systems … it still happens!
The story also exposes what people - criminals - get away with during war and how they were able to walk free while their victims were left to struggle with secrets and silence for their entire lives. Those experiences sometimes inadvertently influencing the next generation. Silence is the most powerful scream!
Leni was not an extraordinary or high-profile person with an ‘ordinary’ story. It was quite the opposite. She was an ‘ordinary, everyday’ person but she did have an extraordinary historical story.
WAR CHILD is a window into what life was like for one of Australia’s ‘New Australians’ as they were called, before she found a safe haven in a country that was completely alien to her and which she came to love.
As our Post WWII migrants are dying their rich, powerful, important stories are dying with them. This story is shared so it would not become extinct like many others that have already been lost forever.
About The Author
Annette Janic has worked as a television production and program acquisitions professional in genres ranging from live sport to documentaries, game shows, lifestyle and reality, while travelling extensively and living in Australia, Singapore, Dubai and India. She is a first generation Australian with parents and an older brother who arrived as refugees following World War II.