My grandma was the strongest person I’ve ever met.
She was a stern woman, with little patience for the soft spineless meatbags she was surrounded with.
She had a block of land about 3 hours away, where she used to grow vegetables (a dacha without a house). Her kids, or grandkids, if they were around, were automatically enlisted and would spend 3 early morning hours on a small overcrowded country bus, sweating and balancing a collection of empty baskets and buckets. Most of the day was spent pumping water, carrying buckets of water, digging, pruning, weeding, picking fruits/berries and cutting them up and sun drying them. It was quite laborious, however you could always find something different to do if your arms/legs started cramping up, and definitely wasn't as mind numbing as picking potato beetles off an acre of potato plants. After way too many hours of this, her kids or grandkids would get to rest and pig out on whatever berries were in season, while grandma would keep at it for a little while longer.
Once grandma was satisfied, we would lug the previously empty buckets to the bus stop. After a full day of hard work, carrying two buckets filled with tomatoes/cucumbers/pears/apples weighing half your bodyweight was quite a mission, which was followed by 3 hours of being buried under them on a typically dirty and now stinking hot bus. (Despite the common misconception, Russia can get pretty hot in summer and it’s not uncommon to have high 30°C temperatures in summer). Once home, grandma would make dinner and kids/grandkids would pass out for the night, while she washed, pitted, pickled and did whatever else she did to conserve the spoils of her hard labour late into the night.
Following morning she’d have a healthy breakfast ready and have the same unwavering attitude of a tractor.
She was born in 1923 and was a nurse in WW2.
Close to the end of the war, there was a race to take Berlin by various Russian army generals, first one there would get all the glory! My grandma marched to Berlin, 70km per day (44miles for the metrically challenged) while still performing her duties as a nurse, seeing things most of us wouldn’t want to see. Once the war was over, they stopped in a small German (or Polish) town on the way back.
The nurses were staying together in one house, and one day, as they were hanging out the washing, a manic SS soldier jumped out of some forgotten basement, and started mowing them down with a machine gun. A few of them managed to disarm him, and whatever nurses were left got to work on him. During the war they got to see plenty of SS handiwork, and as all the built up emotions of the previous 4 years poured out, they took him apart, making sure to keep him alive until they were done, taking care to explain to him what all those internal organs were for.
They were locked up for unnecessary cruelty, or whatever the proper term is, but due to circumstances were let go not long after.
This is the only story from the war she has shared, probably hoping to avoid any further queries – successfully so.
When asked by one of her daughters if she really hated the Nazis that much, she responded with:
“Back then I did.”
This was inpsired by Zephronias' story