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Through the Eyes of a Child: Immigrant Recalls War-Torn Childhood of Escaping Russia

Suhs, Mardi. "Through the Eyes of a Child: Immigrant Recalls War-Torn Childhood of Escaping Russia." Cadillac News, 13 December 2006.


Jeff Broddle, photographer, Cadillac News
Ann Fackler, her mother, Nina Katschalin, and Facklers son, Robert Reincke, sit on the couch in Facklers home.

CADILLAC - Although the newly published book Death of a Past Life details the horrors of Stalinism and Hitler's regime as experienced by 100-year-old Nina Katschalin, her daughter Ann also witnessed World War II through the eyes of a small and frightened child.

Born in Russia in 1938, Ann Fackler remembers how her family tried to escape war-torn Russia. She still remembers fleeing through the snow, hiding from soldiers and airplanes that would swoop down low to shoot refugees on the run.

When there was finally a way to get out, she remembered, we took a suitcase and practically crawled to the trains. We sat on the floor jammed with people dying.

Three-year-old Ann met a little girl on the train, and hoping for a playmate, she tried to speak with her. But the child was dying of starvation and Ann witnessed the gruesome moment when her body was thrown out into the snow. She didn't understand death or why they were throwing away the little girl.

We did a lot of traveling through Czechoslovakia and Poland running away from all armies, she explained. She became terrified of soldiers and air raid sirens.

My parents were frightened by anyone saying Stop, I want to see your papers.' I was afraid of losing my parents because there were so many children on the streets with no parents and they were starving and hungry.

Because her Russian mother spoke fluent German, their lives were spared more than once. After their German relatives had them released from a displaced persons camp, they lived in Berlin where Allied bombing raids were a way of life.

One night when she was 6, a bomb destroyed their apartment building. The family hacked through the rubble to safety.

After the war, when she was 10 years old, the family immigrated to the United States.

This was like somebody telling you that you won the lottery, she said. This was a Godsend. She still remembers seeing the Statue of Liberty from the decks of the marine ship that delivered them safely to America.

Ann soon learned English, attended high school and graduated from the University of Michigan.

After raising her son, Robert Reincke, an author who now lives in Los Angeles, Ann retired from her career as a math teacher and she and her husband retired to Cadillac in 1997.

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