World War 2 Stories for Sheffield

                        Hermine Bland 

I escaped the Russians and met my husband

By actiondesksheffield

People in story: Hermine Bland and Jack Bland
Location of story: Graz and Klagenfurt Austria, and Sheffield Yorkshire
Background to story: Army


This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Alan Shippam of the BBC Radio Sheffield Action Desk on behalf of Hermine Bland.
I was born and living in Graz in Anger,Austria 1945 at the end of the was but was quite fortunate because when the Russians invaded, the Nazis ordered me to go to a family (whose husband was quite a big noise in the German Army) and got a job looking after their three children. The woman was Austrian and very nice to me really, and then when the Russians came, she said to me, “I don’t think you should stay here, come with us and we will try get to the American zone.” So I got to the American Zone in January 1945. We walked on Easter Monday, all night and next day, which actually was really the worst time, because of bombing. We finally managed to get a cattle train, with hundreds of other people who were fleeing, and we finished up at a place called Schladming, which was in the American Zone. I stayed in Schladming, which is going towards Salzburg, but by the end of August, I decided I wanted to go back, because I hadn’t heard from my family since January onwards, and the Russians had practically gone by then. There were just a few left. My mother and sisters told me it was a good job I wasn’t there when the Russians were there, because everybody had had a terrible time. They had even had to sleep up in trees and among haystacks to escape, because the soldiers did a lot of raping.

It was Christmas 1945 and I was walking along the road to go and meet my brother because he was playing the accordion, and whenever he was playing, we always went, my sisters and I to dance. All of a sudden, a big British lorry stopped, a soldier got out, got hold of me and threw me in the back of the lorry. I found out there were lots of girls in the back. The lorry was going round to different villages collecting girls so that there would be girls to dance with the British soldiers, and that’s how I met my husband. From then on, we just carried on courting and then in August 1946, it came out that British soldiers were allowed to marry Austrian girls. So my husband applied a number of times, but because he was so young, they didn’t think he ought to. But anyway, we finished up finally getting married on December 14th 1946.

From there, my husband had to go to Klagenfurt, and we stayed there together because we were married then, and he got demobbed in October. He then came back to England and I stayed on for about a week before I got sent for and shipped over from the Hook of Holland to Dover.
The journey across for me, was terrible because we were a very close family and I missed my mother and my sisters and my brother terribly and because I couldn’t speak the language, it made it a lot worse, but when we got on the boat the British nurses (because I had a baby), were marvellous to me. They took the baby off me and told me to have a right good sleep all night, and they brought her to me in the morning. Then, of course we got off the ship and my husband was there with my mother-in-law and we travelled up to Sheffield.

I couldn’t speak the language which made it twice as bad and my mother-in-law wasn’t very pleased. Jack was her only son, so you could imagine, marrying an Austrian girl, when she wanted a British girl. But, she loved the baby, and by then I was expecting another child. So, we got on by then and lived with her for two years, with three children.
Well, if I hadn’t have met my husband, obviously I wouldn’t have come to England, but it’s been a lovely time. We’ve been married for 58 years and we’re fine together. We’ve got lovely children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and it did change my life obviously, because I missed my family terribly but as time got on, it just became alright. We keep going back regularly now. We couldn’t at first, because we couldn’t afford it for the first 14 years, but my sisters, my mother and my brother kept coming across, so we could keep seeing each other, because as I said, we were a very happy family. After that, in 1969, we started going every year, by car and the others came across every year, so we saw each other twice a year, so things are fine and everything is lovely.