The Character Counts Meme posts every first and third Tuesday of the month. I’d love to have you join me for spotlighting, celebrating and honoring people of good character, who’ve led exemplary lives and who’ve lived with honor, integrity, dignity and sacrifice, and those who’ve inspired others by overcome great obstacles in their own lives. I believe that when we celebrate and exhort good character traits, we can turn the tide, and see more of them. At least I’d like to try! If you are joining us, please leave your name and link at the Mr. Linky down below and don’t forget to leave a comment! Blessings!
This week’s Character Counts post is very special. It is about someone who was amazing, but you’ve probably never heard of her. However, you will, I’m sure. As you probably know, I’ve been doing book reviews for some time. Because of that, I’ve had the opportunity to be part of a Blog Book Tour that is going on right now. My participation will be on Friday, April 24th. I will be posting an author interview along with my brief book review. This book is called The Secret Holocaust Diaries. It is the untold story of Nonna Bannister, my Character Counts profile.
Nonna Bannister was born on Sept. 22, 1927, and lived in Russia when the Germans invaded in World War II. Her family had been wealthy, educated and affluent despite the fact that the Bolsheviks had overthrown Imperial Russia following World War I, and communism became the way of life. She was brought up in the tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church, though religion had been outlawed by the Communists. Her father had made several attempts to flee Russia with his family to escape the tyranny of Josef Stalin. He was never successful.
As a young girl, Nonna’s life went from one of privilege to one of loss and hardship. In her adolescent years she saw and experienced much cruelty, misery and pain. Through it all, her Christian faith remained strong. Though her father was viciously beat nearly to death and had his eyes gouged out by German soldiers, he implored young Nonna to forgive them, because they were just following orders. He survived his beating by three weeks when he finally succumbed to his massive injuries and died.
Most of the rest of Nonna’s family were killed on the trains leaving the area of the Ukraine to go to Siberia to escape the German’s. The trains were blown up with dynamite by the Soviets, rather than let them (the trains not the people) fall into the hands of the Germans. After surviving through the first year of war, with a brutally cold winter, and little food or fuel, Nonna and her mother, Anna, decided to accept an offer by the Nazi’s to go work in the factories in Germany. This was offered to women who were capable to work, since there was a shortage of workers in Germany. They thought things would go better for them by volunteering. They were very wrong. They quickly realized they had surrendered as prisoners and were sent by trains to labor camps that were a little better than the concentration camps, but not by much.
Throughout her young life, Nonna kept diaries, sometimes in actual books, other times using scraps of papers, to record the happenings of her life. She survived the war, though barely, however her mother did not. She is the only member of her family and extended family to do so. Nonna was very sick when the war ended and it took her over two years to recover. Five years after the war ended, Nonna was able to come to the America. Soon she met, then married her husband, Henry, and they lived together happily for 53 years. They also had three children of their own.
In the many years that Nonna and Henry were married, he didn’t know about Nonna’s past, until she chose to tell him, in the late 1980’s. She transcribed all of her diaries and notes, which had been written in six different languages, into English and shared them with him. She knew it would be important to share this with the world, but couldn’t bear the pain of it, so she asked him to wait to publish her story until two or three years after her death. He lovingly complied. Nonna died in 2004, and her story is now being shared.
Though Nonna saw and experienced horrific things we hope and pray we never do, she did not let that define her. Yes, it affected her deeply, but she understood that forgiveness was the only way for her to move forward. Both during and after the war, Nonna had a deep faith, and lived according to that faith. She trusted loved and trusted God deeply. Perhaps that is why Nonna Bannister lived a full life, that was filled with love and family. She never grew bitter and twisted by the memories of her past. Rather, her experiences deepened her faith in God. She believed he saved her for a reason, and love and compassion ruled her heart.
Today, April 21st, is Holocaust Remembrance Day. So as we celebrate this wonderful woman of character, let us also pause and remember what she, and millions more, went through during the Holocaust, because forgetting would be even worse.
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