It was 1941 in Yorkshire, England. A 6-year-old Colleen Lierenz was asleep in bed. Silently, she shivered under her blanket. From outside, the sound of air raids echoed. Colleen opened her eyes. Quickly, she rushed with the rest of her family toward a safe place in case this wasn’t just a drill.
Unfortunately, during World War II, this happened very often to many people. It was a frightening warning of what could happen very soon.
Colleen Lierenz, who is my grandmother, grew up with one sibling, a brother. “Our whole family had to share one towel,” Colleen remembers. “We had no towels or blankets. Most people didn’t even have soap. It was all rationed. My mother bartered our soap for things that we needed. Everyone bartered.”
During the war, Colleen’s father was gone, fighting in the war. Therefore, he was gone for six years of her childhood. “It was 1939 to 1945. America didn’t get in the war until ’42, two years after us.
“We had no food, minimal heat, clothing was scarce, and everything was very hard to get. We couldn’t use our cars because we had no gas, so everybody rode a bicycle. Even bikes were hard to get tires for. Everything was in short supply. If you saved things, you were ahead of the game. Food was rationed, and we were lucky if we got one egg per person per week.”
Many precautions were taken to stay away from danger.
“We had to carry a gas mask everywhere we went. If you didn’t, you could get fined. They were just in case we were attacked with poisoned gas. We also had air-raid shelters in the back yard. They built them in the ground. The sirens would go off and that would mean go under. There would be some fighting and sometimes the Germans would bomb us. We had a place under the stairs where my family went during air raids. If we were bombed and glass came out of the windows, it wouldn’t hit us. If you did get bombed and your windows broke, it was very hard to find glass again. We would block the windows with wood,” Colleen says.
She remembers what it was like the days after air raids. “We were told to be very careful when we were in the fields because we could pick up a bomb or something like that. We could hear the airplanes fighting at night, and you could go around in the daylight and pick up things that came off the plane while they were dog fighting.”
For some time after the war ended, Colleen’s family still could not get basic items, such as sugar, eggs, flour and other commodities. The war put everyone in a bad spot, and made them all learn to work together.
Next time you are complaining because you can’t get that new shirt you want, or a new video game, just think of how it could have been if you were living in these times.
Janie Frank is a seventh-grader at Schenectady Christian School in Scotia.