The following amazing testimony is that of Helga and also her husband, George. The first part is mainly about Helga’s early years, fleeing from the Russians. The second part is mainly about her life when she moved to Northern Ireland and of George's and Helga's conversion.
George and Helga were missionaries in the Ivory Coast for 11 years (with the New Tribes Mission). They are now in semi-retirement and do an independent work in Lithuania with the few Christians there. George tells me that because the "Communists" indoctrinated the people’s minds so much, that they are just not interested in God. They were taught for years that there was no God. Today, for example, there are only around 520 Baptists in a population of around 3½ million. Remember to pray for George and Helga as this work is very dear to them.This is their story, as told by Helga. You can read Part 2 HERE
"Things Changed When The War Started"
I was born in the Old German East Prussia. The place where I was born was called Memeland. The nearest city to where I was born was called Memel. That was a great treasure to the old East Prussia Empire. Today, their city is called Klaipeda. Maybe you are not familiar with the old East Prussia. It stretched along the Baltic Sea, the whole way from NE Germany to the border with Russia. Today, it’s one of the Baltic States. It’s name is Lithuania.
I was born of course in the days before the Iron Curtain. Our community was full of Lithuanians because of wars that tossed their little country between Germany and Russia - finally remaining in the hands of Russia. Because I was an orphan, I had to work on a farm when I was not in school. The family that took care of me took me to Church every Sunday.
Things changed when the war started. Hitler was for a pure German race, so all the Lithuanians had to get out. Next , he issued an order that we were no longer to speak the Lithuanian language. Our school had to switch immediately to speaking German. This was a traumatic ordeal for me at 9 years of age.
"Russian Planes Were Also Shooting At Us From Above"
When I was 13, however, the Germans started losing the war with Russia. We were much more afraid of the Russians. All of us had to leave our homes and run for our lives. Some of us walked and ran, while the others came more slowly with the horses and wagons. At one stage the Russians were shooting all around us in a town. I can remember the bullets flying past me, but none of them hit me. I was not a Christian at that time, but I do remember praying. Somehow I did not think to thank God for each "close call."
We got out of that town fast, and we would have to cross a river on a big ferry. The Russians were catching up and we couldn’t lose any time. The children were to go first. My aunt had her two year old son and me, so we got on the first trip of that ferry, which took us safely to the other side. Then the ferry went back to bring some of the other people across. Lots of people got on with their horses and wagons. Right before our eyes, we could see the ferry go down with the weight- horses, wagons people and all. We had to keep going so we never knew if any of them got out and were saved.
We settled in a farmhouse and stayed for 2 months. Later, we settled in other people’s homes for 3 months. But by that time the Russians were getting closer, and we had to be on the move again. It was January, and very cold, with lots of snow. The Russians were behind us and shooting from behind. Russian planes were also shooting at us from above. I noticed German soldiers were fleeing far faster than the refugees, and suggested we run with the soldiers. So another girl and I ran for our lives.
At one time as we went along with the soldiers, we were put in a truck on the way to a harbour, and I saw a horror that I never forgot. People were lying there on the side of the road with bare feet in that freezing weather. They had little lunch boxes as though they were on their way to work, but they had holes in their heads and looked half alive and half dead. They were Jews that the Nazis had tried to kill. I had nightmares about that for a long time.
For Three Days We Couldn't Move
Next morning I realised what I had done. I had left my people and was all alone. A wagon came by, then another, but none of my people. I could only sit there and cry. No food, nothing to drink, bitter cold. The other girl and I went over to the soldiers again and asked them if they would take us wherever they went. Late that night we came to the harbour. In the morning there was a carrier boat ready to leave, the only boat that would be leaving. The soldiers would stay, but how could we get on that boat ? (There was such a crowd.) Suddenly the siren screamed out, to let everyone know the planes were coming. My friend whispered, "Don’t’ follow the crowd ! Stay here with the boat ! " The people nearest the boat quickly climbed on board and as soon as there was a load on board, the boat took off with us.
With no food or drink we were made to lie down in the bottom of the boat which was lined with hay…..and lice !! There was such a heavy frost the boat became frozen in the spot when we were half way over. For 3 days we couldn’t move. This is where I remember praying most. I recited the Lord’s Prayer mostly as I knew how to pray it from attending Church as a child. God answered prayer. An ice breaker boat came and rescued us. At one time, before we reached the end of our journey, Russian planes shot at us from above, trying to sink us ,and the boat caught fire. But the men quickly got it out and we reached the harbour safely.
Under The Train For Safety
In the harbour town, east of Germany, we were put on a freight train, crowded in like sardines. As it was about to start, the sirens sounded, Russian planes were coming and dropping bombs. We had to get under the train for safety, and as soon as the danger was over, we crowded back in and the train left. It took us to a city in Germany named Mecklenberg. The Red Cross were waiting with warm food, but my stomach had been too long without food and I could not keep it down. The citizens had to take us, one person each, to give us a place to stay. A woman took me, sent me to school and brought me to a Lutheran Church. When I turned 14 she saw to it that I was confirmed. When I was 15, according to Hitler law I had to leave this woman who was so good to me and work for a farmer, doing heavy farm work.
"A German Officer Caught Me"
When I was 16 the Russians came in took over the place and set up the "Iron Curtain." Here I was in East Germany, and I had no idea where my aunt was. We were told to write to the Red Cross in Berlin. I got word she was in West Germany. Of course I wanted to go and see her, but I had a problem - the border from East to West Germany !! I had to look for a guide, (at that time the border wasn’t as strict, still I knew if they caught me they would shoot me.) But I finally found my aunt and her little boy and we had a great time of rejoicing.
I went to do more farm work for a year and a half. By that time, another girl and I made up our minds that we would like to go back to East Germany to look up the people who had become our friends there. She was a year older than I and encouraged me. Our first attempt was unsuccessful. The German patrol caught us and took us to the Russian officers. They separated the two of us, and I never saw the other girl again. I was put behind locked doors and kept in a basement. Next morning, with others who had tried to escape, I was sent back West. But I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to see my friends so badly. I tried crossing a field, but a German officer caught me. He took me back to the same Russians who had put me in the basement. "If we catch you a third time trying to get over the border, we’ll shoot!", they said. But i was stubborn.
Behind The "Iron Curtain" And Back Again!
Again, I set out, determined to make it. This time I was more careful. I went from house to house, to find out all I could, especially about when they changed the guards. They told me to go quick when they changed the guards. I did , and I made it !!
I stayed In East Germany 4 weeks, seeing the ones I wanted to see until I felt satisfied. I would never go back to East Germany again. Now I needed a guide who knew all about the border from the Russian side. I found one, and a group of us headed off through the woods at night and got over without any trouble.
From then on I was content to be close to my aunt again.
The story does not end there ! CLICK HERE to read about Helga's life in Northern Ireland, how she came to know the Saviour, and also how her husband, George, came to Christ.
".. always abounding in the work of the Lord..." 1Cor15:58