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Meroslava Bryn

Meroslava Bryn

Survivor of Nazi Work Camp

Born: Ukraine
Heritage: Ukrainian

What you do when you are little will come back to you tomorrow so take whatever you are doing that is negative and turn it into a positive. Do the best you can do for everyone and you will be a better person and walk proudly. You will be rewarded in many ways.

Meroslava Bryn

Survivor of Nazi Work Camp

“I’m so afraid that when I die these stories will die with me?”

My name is Meroslava Bryn. My name means peace and glory. I was born in the Ukraine on December 7, 1942. I was born during World War II and when I was a very young girl, the Nazis came to the Ukraine.

My family was not Jewish but my mother’s best friend was a Jewish girl. One day, she ran in to our home and said that the soldiers were coming. We tried to hide her beneath the kitchen table in our root cellar but soon after, the Nazis banged down the door and demanded to know if we were hiding any Jews.

They found my mother’s friend and took her to a concentration camp. The usual punishment for standing up for a Jew was death, but my family escaped this fate. The Nazis needed people to make ammunition and to sew the soldier’s uniforms. Because my father was very intelligent and my mother was the best seamstress in our village, our lives were spared and we were sent to a slave camp to work.

At the work camp, life was horrible. People were gassed to death and many people starved and died of disease. We slept in cheaply built barracks with no insulation and woke up every morning to a whistle blowing for roll call. We had no shoes, only cardboard tied to our feet and because it was so cold, we would stamp our feet to try and keep warm.

The men in the camp had to make the guns and ammunition for the Nazi soldiers. Some men would try to jam the guns to protest the work they were ordered to do. When this happened, we all would hear a whistle and come running. The men were told to line up, they counted off and then the Nazis chose a number. If your number was called, you were killed.

Awful things like this happed all too often during the years I lived in the camp. When the war ended, I was rescued by British soldiers. My mother and I were then sent to a sanitarium to heal from the tuberculosis we got while in the slave camp. After healing, we lived with my father in a small corner of a room in a Displaced People’s Camp and began dreaming of going to America.

My uncle in America saw our name on a list at his church and agreed to be our sponsor. Only healthy people were allowed to go to America and we were told that we were too thin to be considered healthy. I would do anything and everything to go to America so my uncle sent cans of Crisco oil which we drank everyday and in three months time we were ready for our examination.

On the day of our examination, I had a cold. Just as I was about to walk up to the doctor, I coughed and I thought that the world had stopped. If I had been sick, the doctor would not let me on the ship. The doctor however, must have been an angel because he looked at me and pushed me to the side of the room meaning that I could go to America.

After a long trip on an old army ship, we saw the Statue of Liberty and reached the Land of Golden Opportunity. We were reunited with my uncle who lived to see us free in America only one day and then passed away that night.

I have worked hard in this country to achieve my dreams and I believe that no place is more wonderful than the United States of America.