Returning to Prague

"it was the very worst time"
Edith Birkin



"All I remember is just being on my own, walking out of that station and walking through Prague on my own. I remember that, and just realising that… it was all somehow different, very different. A lot of Russian soldiers, and a lot of strangers all of a sudden. And, of course the first thing I did was to go back to where I used to live. I don't know what I was expecting, but obviously there was no one there because I knew they were all dead. And then I went back to where we lived last, and I went there because we were friends with a concierge there, and she said we can hide all our belongings in the cellar, and we had carpets and china and, you know, valuable things, and furniture. And when I came back and I asked about those things she said the Germans came and took it all. But I saw some of the things in her flat. But I was too inexperienced in those things to do anything about it, so I just left and never went back there, but… I had a very low opinion of that. Of course if it was now I would say something; I would say this is mine, and this is mine, but I was too young I think to know how to cope with it. I know I spent a few nights at the hostel, roaming around Prague you know, and just feeling desperately lonely, because I suddenly realised there's nobody there.

I went… there was an office in Prague where you had lists and lists of people who came back; I don't know if it was in alphabetical order maybe, or dates when they came back, but you could check if you knew anybody who came back. And I went to see these lists every day, hoping somebody would came back I knew, but none of the family came back at all. And I went for days and days, actually for weeks afterwards, to see if anybody would come back, but they didn't. So I just remember walking around Prague being absolutely devastated, feeling that you know, I was alone in the world, that… I didn't know anybody, just didn't know anybody. It was really I think the worst time of the war. Although we were free and liberated, it was the very worst time because we realised, or I realised that nobody was going to come back, and that life is never going to be the same, and what I hoped for would happen after the war is never going to happen. The hope was gone. Because until then one had hope, that there would be a small group of people one knew, some relative, some friends, and one would start life again in a community; get married, have children, and… you know, carry on. But there was absolutely nobody there whom I knew. I was seventeen."


Edith Birkin
Born 1927, Prague, Czechoslovakia.
Lodz ghetto 1941. Auschwitz camp 1944. Sent to work camp and munitions factory. 1945 death march to Flossenburg camp, then to Belsen. Arrived in England 1946. Married, three adopted children.