Anna Bruell

Title: Autumn in springtime
Author: Anna Bruell
Publisher: Self Published
Place of publication: Melbourne
Year of Publication: 1995
Location of Book: Makor Jewish Community Library, Melbourne Jewish Community Library, Melbourne
Cities/town/camps: Poland: MakowSoviet Union: Jawarow, Zolkiew, Lwow, Tinda (Russian camp), Nierynzha, Pryjsk Otkrytyj, Aldan, Lenger Ugol
Note: those cities/towns/camps underlined are those which are most central to the narrative

Anna Bruell presents the story of a young Polish woman’s survival during the war years. Pages 15-35 address Anna’s flight from Makow to Lwow via Lawarow and Zolkiew. Pages 36-69 discuss her time as a forced labourer in Tinda, Nierynzha and Pryjsk Otkrytyj.The remainder of the book deals with her time in Soviet Central Asia, primarily Lenger Ugol, while the final pages tell of her return to Poland and subsequent exodus to Australia. The book also contains a number of poems, photos and documents. Anna wrote the book late in life, after being encouraged to record her wartime experiences by her son. The book was printed privately in Melbourne in 1995.

Anna Bruell was born in 1919 and grew up in a small Polish town called Makow. Following the German invasion of Poland, Anna and her family fled eastward. They travelled via Jawarow and Zolkiew before settling in Lwow for a few months. In June 1940 they were taken by Soviet troops for relocation to Siberia. After a long, freezing, flea infested train journey they reached a camp in Tinda. They were then relocated to the Nierynzha labour camp. Anna worked sawing wood before she was chosen to work at another camp deep in the forest. Her mother stayed behind in Nierynzha and Anna would walk 15km each way to visit her on the weekend. Conditions in the camp were damp and freezing, and there was never enough food to satisfy her hunger after a hard days work. Anna developed an ear illness and began to go deaf. Through connections, Anna was able to get jobs as a bookkeeper’s clerk in the nearby village of Prjsk Otkrytyj. Despite her employment she earned little money and food remained scarce. Eventually she was released from her labours in a prisoner amnesty following Germany’s attack on Russia.

Anna and her family headed south to warmer climes, settling in Lenger Ugol where Anna supported her family by working as a dressmaker. The region was extremely impoverished, both refugees and locals. Anna’s family suffered from a humiliating feeling of hunger. Her mother sold jewellery, even her wedding ring, to make ends meet. Malnutrition, disease and theft were rife. Over time Anna’s clientele increased in number and status, yet she still was unable to provide enough food. She lived out the remainder of the war in Lenger Ugol. After the war she returned to Poland but realised that Jews had no future there. She stayed temporarily with her brother in Switzerland before emigrating to Australia.

The book is sparse on dates and historical events, but plentiful in descriptions of a young woman’s experiences on the edge of survival. Anna’s hardships seem endless. Yet she remarks that after hearing after the war about the concentration camps, she considers herself lucky.