Celebrating Women with a Glass of Champagne.

by Carol Browne

March is Women’s History Month, an event that can be traced back to 1911 when the first International Women’s Day (March 8th) was initiated in the USA. In 1981 Congress authorised the President of the USA to proclaim that the week beginning 7th March should be Women’s History Week. The National Women’s History Project subsequently petitioned Congress which led to the month of March 1987 being designated as Women’s History Month. Congress continued to pass annual resolutions requesting the president to make a proclamation to this effect and this has continued down the years.

This month is celebrated in a variety of ways, from demonstrations of respect, love and admiration for women, to acknowledgement of their political, historical and social achievements and contributions. It is also a time to speak out for women’s rights, to bring to light the struggles many women face now and to honour those they have overcome in the past. As we are becoming more and more aware of the roles women have played throughout history, it is fitting that we remember the stories of Holocaust survivors like Krystyna Porsz, who are such powerful examples of the resilience of the human spirit and the endurance of women in particular.

If, like Krystyna, you were just 18 years old, your country was invaded and your family threatened, what would you do to survive? Being Krystyna is one woman’s story of surviving horror and loss in Poland during World War II. It’s a story with lessons still relevant to us today.

To celebrate Women’s History Month with a beverage appropriate to the era, why not try a recipe for a Champagne Cocktail that dates back to World War II?

Photo by m_bartosch

Champagne Cocktail

½ oz (15ml) ginger liqueur
½ oz (15ml) blackcurrant liqueur

Wartime Britain was cut off from supplies of fruits like oranges but people were able to grow an abundance of blackcurrants in their own gardens and allotments. Would you believe that these tiny fruits contain vitamins B5, B6, B1, iron, copper, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and potassium, as well as humungous amounts of vitamin C? Ginger is also very beneficial for the health. And champagne is…well, delicious. Bottoms up!

Here’s a glimpse into the tough life of a strong woman I admire.

It’s 2012, the year of the London Olympics, and for young Polish immigrant Agnieszka, visiting fellow countrywoman Krystyna in a Peterborough care home is a simple act of kindness. However, the meeting proves to be the beginning of a life-changing experience.

Krystyna’s stories about the past are not memories of the good old days but recollections of war-ravaged Europe: The Warsaw Ghetto, Pawiak Prison, Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, and the death march to freedom.

The losses and ordeals Krystyna suffered and what she had to do to survive, these are horrors Agnieszka must confront when she volunteers to be Krystyna’s biographer.

Will Agnieszka find a way to accomplish her task, and, in this harrowing story of survival, what is the message for us today?

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Born in Stafford in the UK, Carol Browne was raised in Crewe, Cheshire, which she thinks of as her home town. Interested in reading and writing at an early age, Carol pursued her passions at Nottingham University and was awarded an honours degree in English Language and Literature. Now living and working in the Cambridgeshire countryside, Carol usually writes fiction and is a contracted author at Burning Willow Press. Being Krystyna, published by Dilliebooks on 11th November, 2016, is her first non-fiction book.

Stay connected with Carol on her website and blog, Facebook, and Twitter.


Review of Being Krystyna: A Story of Survival.

Being Krystyna, by Carol Browne, is a story about a ninety-five year old Polish Holocaust survivor, Krystyna Porsz. It is a story that is at most times, hard to read. As I imagine every book depicting real-life accounts of the Holocaust are.

Ms. Porsz states that at first she felt her story wasn’t special because there were thousands just like her.  “So much suffering,” she said.

But she decides to tell her story, “if only to honour and remember those who were killed.”

Being Krystyna is Porsz’ life. It is poignant and heart-wrenching. Although I read this story obviously knowing that Krystyna survives every tortuous moment she is forced to endure, that didn’t stop me from clutching my pillow, wondering if this will be the moment her body finally succumbs to the deprivation surrounding her.

Ms. Porsz tells her story in such a matter-of-fact kind of a way, void of any theatrical exaggeration, her words so raw they will sting your heart. I know they did mine.

Here are some excerpts from Being Krystyna that made me catch my breath and be grateful I have the life I do.

From Being Krystyna:

“The hardest thing I ever had to do was to say good-bye to my parents knowing I would never see them again.”

“It started in small ways at first – people telling jokes about the Jews, making fun if them, making them into stereotypes. Next thing that happens people are treated differently, seen as inferior or bad in some way. Then they are dehumanized and excluded from society. They get sent to camps and gas chambers.”

“The food ration was hardly worth eating, it was so little. They wanted us to starve in there. You can imagine people did soon start to die. Thousands. And thousands more were sent to the camps.”

Krystyna reveals that she survived in camp because she went to the Aryan side of Warsaw. “I became someone else. That’s when I saw my parents for the last time…Some pain never goes away.”

“Children and old people had no economic value, they were gassed and cremated soon after their arrival at the camps.”

“Hitler just hated the Poles. I think he wanted to get rid of all of them, not just the Jews. And the Polish had stood up to him, resisted. He didn’t like that all! So the packed us all into these cattle trucks…Those wagons smelled bad enough to begin with- there was animal manure on the floor – but there were no toilets for us. People had to go where they stood or hold on…We had no food or water and just these tiny windows…You struggles to breathe, there were so many people inside and packed together so tightly. People died on the journey…old people died. Children died.”

“They were really looking to see if you had hidden anything valuable inside yourself…There  are days I can hardly believe it myself, that they could treat women with such cruelty…they were playing with is like a cat plays with a mouse, having their sport with us.”

“I know they wanted to work us to death. To kill two birds with one stone…They needed slave labourers and they also wanted all the people they hated to die.”

“There you are, stiff and cold in a bot of straw on a wooden bunk bed…You might have the edge of a blanket if you are lucky but the bunks are crammed with women, all as cold as you, and each of them desperately hungry. Each bunk has three or four women in it when it was meant for only one.”

“…because of all the overcrowding, we became infested with lice and fleas…That was the last thing we wanted, those parasites sucking our blood when we needed every ounce of strength we had merely to stay alive.”

“If they fell and didn’t get up, they were shot. That happened to many of the older women. They just left them in the snow and we had to carry on as if nothing had happened.”

“I knelt in the snow by the old woman. I just wanted to help her. He daughter was with me, trying to cradle her mother in her arms. The guard shouted at us and said he had bullets for us too, if we didn’t keep moving. The daughter was breaking her heart. She didn’t want to let go of her mother…”

So these are only a handful of the passages of the book that reached out from the pages and grabbed my soul.

If you’re curious to how Krystyna brakes free from the Nazi’s, please buy the book. It’s a story everyone should know.

Thanks for reading.




Carol Browne