Libby Pierce, 92 years young, joins Dr. Bunny to discuss what she’d like her legacy to be, and the beautiful stories of her life. Listen in as Libby shares about the first day she met her late husband, Charles, which she says was the best day of her life. Forever an optimist, Libby is a delight to talk with. This is a wonderful interview that will leave you with love in your heart.
Please also check out the book “The Art Of Survival”, which was written about Libby’s late husband, Charles Pierce, who was a concentration camp survivor.
About “The Art Of Survival”:
THE ART OF SURVIVAL: THE TRUE STORY OF TRIUMPHANTING OVER THE HORRORS OF NAZI SLAVERY AND FINDING EVERLASTING LOVE.
The Art of Survival is one of the most intriguing books of the decade and one you will not only want to read but will want those you care about to read.
Author of: BETWEEN TWO EVILS
We met with Lucyna Radlo and her husband Chester at their charming Santa Barbara home in California. We were quickly fascinated when we first met this nearly 80 year old lady because she is indeed very beautiful with both kind and loving eyes. Her husband, who sat and chatted with us during the interview, is older than his wife and is spirited and intelligent. Well, he is an ex-military officer who once taught at West Point.
We sat in the dining room for the interview; a pleasant room that exhibits a number of bright oil paintings on the wall. The interview takes 45 minutes and afterwards Lucyna and Chester offer us tea or coffee but we decline. It’s late Saturday afternoon and the traffic back toward Los Angeles will be a bear. We said goodbye and headed home.
Survival Station: Lucyna, I want to thank you for this interview.
LUCYNA: You’re welcome.
Survival Station: You were eight years old and in Brest, Poland when World War II
started on September 1st, in 1939?
LUCYNA: Yes, Nazi Germany attacked Poland and our town was a major target
because of the railroad station. The bombardment was very frightening and of course my mother, father and I ran out of the building we were living in seeking shelter as everyone else was doing.
Survival Station: Eventually you were forced to leave Brest.
LUCYNA: Yes—the Germans were coming in from one direction and the Soviets
from another and…
Survival Station: Thus, the two evils you speak of in your book title?
LUCYNA: Yes, that’s right the Nazis and the Soviets.
Survival Station: You know this confuses me a little because being a history buff, I never
realized that Polish people were afraid of the Germans—that is, after the fighting was over and all the shelling went away. In fact, I’ve always read and have been told that during the occupation the Poles were treated well by the Germans.
LUCYNA: From my perspective as a child I only knew before the war that the
German people were admired for being clever and hard-working. But when the vaunted Blitzkrieg (Lightening war) started we of course were apprehensive about going to a place controlled by enemy troops. But we chose to go to Warsaw, which was occupied by the Nazis, because we felt we had a better chance of surviving under Nazi occupation, rather than staying in Brest which was about to be taken over by Soviets. This because as White Russians, i.e., former adherents of Tsar Nicholas, most of our family risked retaliation by the Soviets, possibly including being sent off to a Siberian labor camp. And of course, during our life in Warsaw under the Nazis we really learned how indiscriminately cruel the Nazis were.
Survival Station: I understand now--you were White Russians not Red Russians.
LUCYNA: That’s right. We did not accept the Soviets taking over Russia’s
government. Had the Soviets captured us, we might have been sent to Siberia or worse, so when my grandfather suggested that my parents flee the city we packed what we could and left.
Survival Station: You left on a horse driven wagon?
LUCYNA: We first escaped to a nearby village and because the bridge had been bombed we had to go through the water. A few days later though—when we left Brest for good—we crossed the Bug River into Nazi occupied Poland without any serious problems.
Survival Station: Lucyna, you lived many years under tremendous stress—1939, when
you were only 8 years old until 1945 until you were 14 years old…nearly 15…How did you feel, what were your emotions—as a child were you aware of the seriousness of the situation; that even your own life was in danger?
LUCYNA: Yes, very aware. For one thing I was the only child traveling with adults so I was privy to a lot of information. Fear! There was always a lot of fear…We were in the dark and in that darkness I shared my parent’s and other adult worries…everything was so insecure!
Survival Station: Lucyna, I am sure that you are well aware that in Poland before and during
the war there was lots of anti-Semitism…You were Catholic but it doesn’t seem that you or your family held Jews in any contempt at all—if fact, I dislike bringing up a deep sadness but your own father was sent to Auschwitz for simply being nice to a Jew.
LUCYNA: Yes, my father’s only crime was, as they said, being sympathetic to a
Jew. But my father was a kind intelligent man, who like my mother, raised me to like and respect everyone.
Survival Station: Your father died at Auschwitz?
LUCYNA: Yes, in 1941. His health failed.
Survival Station: Was he healthy when he was arrested?
LUCYNA: Yes, very healthy but the conditions of Auschwitz; the lack of nutrition was too harsh for him…his body was bloated when he…I think his heart failed…my mother did everything to get him out but all she got from the Nazi authorities were false promises.
Survival Station: Speaking of your mother, her best friend was a Jew.
LUCYNA: Yes, that’s right, but as I say we were not a prejudice or hateful family—you know, Brest was populated with Jews so we knew many of them…they were our neighbors…It’s all in my book!
Survival Station: After your father died your mother had to become the breadwinner.
Survival Station: She began selling things in the black market.
LUCYNA: That’s right. We sold all kinds of things—we were like—what do you
call it, a pawn shop—people would bring us things to sell for them and we would find buyers. At one time we had an apartment filled with silk stockings.
Survival Station: Wow, silk stockings were impossible to get even in the U.S. during the
war years…wasn’t that business very dangerous?
LUCYNA: Yes, I suppose but…
Survival Station: And you often made deliveries?
LUCYNA: I did. I did because the Nazis were far less apt to question a child than
they were an adult. What was most profitable for us was jewelry and gold bullion. Money lost value, but gold and diamonds were strong commodities.
Survival Station: Also you were quite daring at age thirteen—At that age you were out
delivering leaflets for the underground army—before and
during the Warsaw uprising.
LUCYNA: Yes. This is true.
Survival Station: Your mother was very beautiful. I’ve seen her photograph. You are very
LUCYNA: My mother was very pretty, yes, she was very beautiful…She died here in Santa Barbara in 2007, a month shy of being 101 years old.
Survival Station: Eventually, you and you mother ended up in a Nazi work camp; a
LUCYNA: It was not a concentration camp—a death camp like Auschwitz, but a
concentration work camp. We were forced to work, there were guards and we could not leave, so we were prisoners.
Survival Station: How did that come about?
LUCYNA: There had been a big uprising against the Nazis in Warsaw—the uprising was stimulated by the A.K., that is, Armia Krajowa—in English this means Home Army. My mother and I took part in the uprising and afterwards we tried to escape. When we were just on the outskirts of town, we were captured and eventually sent out of
Poland and into Germany to work in a forced labor camp.
Survival Station: What did you do there?
LUCYNA: We worked in an ammunition factory making bullets and grenades.
These kinds of things!
Survival Station: You eventually escaped?
LUCYNA: No, it is a long story but my Uncle Misha was intrinsic in getting us out.
Survival Station: I see we’re running out of time so let’s talk about your marriage—How long have you two been together?
CHESTER: 59 years! (You can see these two remain very much in love with one
another). We met when Lucyna was 18. I had been returned to duty after an illness and sent to a Russian resort in Cassville, New Jersey and was introduced to Lucyna by her Uncle Misha.
Survival Station: Why were you assigned to a Russian resort?
CHESTER: To improve my Russian—I was a Major in the Air Force being sent to West Point to teach the language.
Survival Station: You were a career man?
Survival Station: So you two met in Cassville—and was that it?
LUCYNA: (Smiling) Yes, that was it!
Survival Station: Love at first sight.
CHESTER: Yes. Absolutely!
Survival Station: Lucyna, If you had the chance to give the entire world a message what
would it be?
LUCYNA: I would say: learn to be tolerant—be kind to others and treat other people with love.
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