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Student Gazette

Survivor of German prison camp glad for life in America
Friday, May 14, 2010

Zachary Dahoda is a fourth-grader at Okte Elementary School

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Do you know what it would be like to be taken away from your family and sent to a forced labor camp? Do you know what a forced labor camp is?

I met a woman who was in a forced labor camp. Her name is Antonia Semanek. She is 89 years old. I met her at the Halfmoon Senior Center, and she came to my Cub Scouts den and talked about her experience in a forced labor camp.

It all happened in World War II, when Germany invaded Russia. Toni, as I call her, and her sister were taken from their home in Russian by the Germans. Toni and her sister were put in a cattle car with no windows or ventilation and taken to the labor camp in Germany. She was only 20 years old. The Germans needed her because she spoke several languages. Toni became a translator.

Toni said, “They only gave us one loaf of bread the size of our hamburger bun to last one week. ... It was terrible, and so was the soup, which was just water.”

Semanek was in the labor camp for five years until the end of the war and the American soldiers freed her. She never went back to Russia. She worked in several places, and finally her brother-in-law’s family sponsored her to come to America.

She still volunteers at the senior center and is loved by all, including me. Semanek received a lifetime achievement award when she was 87 years old.

Semanek said, “I do not dislike the German people, but when you lose your freedom, you have lost everything.”

She is grateful to be in America, where she is free.

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