About the Author

Aleksandra (Ola or Oleńka) de Sas Kropiwnicka (née Hall) was born in October 1923, in Zyrardów, outside Warsaw (Poland) and spent most of her youth in and around Warsaw.  She has published two books in Polish, as well as two books in English.  During the German occupation of World War II, she was captured and sent to two different concentration camps.  After this she moved to London and then spent most of her life in southern Africa.  She married a Polish veterinary surgeon in Cape Town and had two children.  A permanent student of different languages and cultures, she studied Chinese and obtained a BA (Hons.) degree in modern Chinese from the University of London in 1950.  Oleńka also read for a Higher Diploma in Library Science from the University of South Africa.  She worked for many years at the East London Museum (in South Africa).  Her life has been full of interesting and sometimes horrific adventures, but since her retirement she leads a quiet life and practices meditation regularly.  She currently resides in East London (South Africa), but still makes occasional trips to Poland to see family and friends.

By Michael Knott

June 2010

Forgiveness – Extract from the book – Oleńka 

… “I hate them too much to shed tears over it. Tears make you weak. To keep hate you must remain indifferent and uncompromising,” he declared. “I hate them too,” interrupted Mecenas, “but I cannot live with just one objective in life. There is more to life than revenge. Carrying revenge is such a frustrating way to live.” “On the contrary,” said Czesiek looking stubborn and hateful, “it gives me a purpose in life. I am going to pay them back for every minute they kept me in Auschwitz. Somehow, I am going to get my revenge in full.”

I thought of Czesiek and of what he said. However, I was unaware that soon my own feeling of revenge would be tested. It was during a summer morning that Ala and I were walking along a busy street in Lübeck. We were searching for a photographer who was to take photos of us for our identity documents. These were going to be issued by the British Occupying Forces. It was our first visit to town, and we felt very strange amongst the crowds of people rushing to and fro. There was, however, the reassuring sight of a military policeman who was regulating the traffic, as well as many British and American soldiers strolling along. We began to relax and enjoy our walk. We stopped here and there, looking at displays in shop windows and observing people as they passed us by. We were happily chatting and laughing, when suddenly Ala stopped and exclaimed. “Look, there is Mama,” Ala pointed. I looked, and yes, there was no doubt about it. The woman who was walking towards us was none other than our Aufseherin from the Kleinmachnow factory. She was the Nazi woman we called “Mama.” I stared at her and saw that she had recognised us. For a split second she seemed to hesitate and looked afraid. Then she continued to walk towards us. She smiled and stopped next to us. “Wie gehts?” (How are you) she said. “Very well, thank you,” we replied in unison. Then I added, “How are you?” “I’m all right,” she said sadly and then nodded to us, “Aufwiedersehen.” (Good-bye) We stared at her and watched her go. The MP (military police) on traffic duty was just a few metres away from us. We could have run to him at any moment and shouted, “There goes an SS woman…Arrest her!” Instead, we just thought of her sadness and watched her walk away. “So much for our hatred and all our feelings for revenge,” Ala remarked bitterly. “She was good to us, don’t you remember?” I replied. She had already disappeared around the corner, but we still stood there in the middle of the road, thinking, remembering…