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.
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
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
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.