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HomeDrama StoriesThe Nurses. Chapter 26

The Nurses. Chapter 26

Tags: homecoming,

“Who is there?” the uncertain voice of her mother called out...

Munich-Pasing. January 1st, 1941.

It was very late when Maria finally arrived into Munich's main station.

Nothing had changed, there were huge Swastika pennants hanging from the walls and even at such a late hour it was still quite busy but she felt she was home, back in the familiar surrounds that she had grown up in.

The train had arrived at a platform quite close to the entrance and in no time at all she found herself on Landsberger Strasse waiting for one of the night trams to arrive to take her on the final leg of her journey home.

She didn't have to wait long before the squealing brakes signalled it's arrival and she climbed the steps into the dimly lit, almost empty saloon.

As it rattled and whined along the track, Maria looked out of the window at the rain-soaked streets and the reflections from the street lights glistening in the puddles.

How different it all looked now from that night in November more than two years earlier.

All the shops had been repaired and the proprietors were now good 'Arian' citizens.

She sighed at the memory of the terrible violence.

At the various stops a few people boarded but more seemed to get off until, for the final few stops, she was alone.

Eventually, the tram squealed to a halt at the terminus and Maria alighted with her suitcase and small canvas bag, pulled her cloak tightly around her and set off towards her home.

It wasn't far, just a few minutes walk. Although it was bitterly cold, her cloak kept her warm and reasonably dry despite the fine drizzle and as she passed the church of Maria Schutz she paused and looked up at the big round window above the doorway, blinking against the gentle raindrops falling into her eyes.

In her mind, she saw Father Weiss and that midnight mass just the year before. So much had happened since then and it seemed like yesterday that he had passed away.

Maria made the sign of the cross in his memory and whispered, “Gott mit Sie, Vater Weiss.”

Moments later, she stood at the front gate of her home and looked up at the windows, all were in darkness.

She pondered whether she should knock on the door or just use her key and so, after a moments consideration whilst she stood in the freezing rain she decided to knock. In these uncertain times, it would frighten her mother to death if she just suddenly appeared with no warning and although a knock at this hour would worry her parents for a moment, she felt it would be less frightening than hearing someone unexpected inside and so, she rapped as hard as her cold knuckles would allow and then stepped back to watch for a light.

Sure enough, an upstairs window was illuminated followed shortly by a light behind the front door showing through the colourful glass.

“Who is there?” the uncertain voice of her mother called out.

“It is only me, Mama,” Maria replied.

There was a sound of the rattling of a key being hurriedly turned in the lock and the door swung inwards.

“Maria! Oh my word, it is you!” her mother exclaimed excitedly, suddenly bursting into floods of tears and throwing her arms around her daughter as she stepped into the warmth.

For a minute they remained thus until her mother stepped back.

“Come in, come in,” she said, closing the door, “Oh, it is so lovely to see you, my Darling!”

Maria didn't say anything as her mother ushered her into the living room saying,

“You must be frozen! I'm afraid the fire is almost out but it is still warm in here. Let me take your cloak, I will hang it up to dry.”

There was only the briefest pause while Maria unfastened the clasp at her neck and allowed her mother to take the dripping cloak.

“It is so wonderful to have you home again! Why didn't you let us know? I will put some coffee on. You would like some yes?”

Maria felt her heart soar as her mother fussed around her and her smile was as wide as the Danube.

Anna Kaufmann finally stopped chattering to take a breath and looked at her daughter, her eyes and heart filled the joy of having her home again.

“Oh, I'm sorry,” she said suddenly, “I haven't given you a chance have I?”

Maria smiled again,

“That's all right, Mama,” she said, “I am just happy to listen to you.”

There was a pause, as though her mother wanted to say something but was unsure.

Finally, she asked,

“Are you home for good or just a visit?”

Maria took her mother's hand.

“I am afraid it is just a few days, Mama. I have to go to Karlsruhe for special training and then off to wherever they think I am needed.”

Anna's smile faded for a moment but then brightened again.

“Ah well, something is better than nothing, eh?”

“Yes, Mama, it surely is. Where is Papa?”

“I am afraid he is working tonight. He will be so disappointed he wasn't here.”

“Maybe,” Maria replied, “But think what a nice surprise he will have when he gets home.”

There was silence for a moment and then,

“ Don't you think you should hang that up instead of holding it. You will be getting wet yourself.”

“Oh, oh yes!” her mother answered, suddenly remembering she was still holding Maria's wet cloak. “I will hang it in the drying room.”

Maria didn't have coffee, instead she unpinned her hat and dried her hair in front of the dying embers and then she and her mother went upstairs to bed bidding each other a good night, hugging each other tightly before retiring to their rooms.

Maria's room was exactly as she had left it almost seven months ago and suddenly, she was home and those long months were as days as she slipped between her crisp white sheets and fell into a deep and contented sleep.

Although she had been exhausted it was only seven-thirty when she awoke.

Immediately, she thought of her father, remembering that when he was working at night he would be home about now, so she grabbed her robe and headed down to the kitchen.

Hearing voices from behind the unusually closed door, she stopped to listen.

She heard her father's voice first,

“I saw her cloak in the drying cupboard, when did she get home?”

“Just before midnight so keep your voice down, she was worn-out, poor girl,” her mother replied.

"In that case, I shall wait until she comes down before I go up.”

Maria quickly but quietly swung open the door,

“Then I shall not keep you waiting, Papa!” she said happily.


Herman Kaufman jumped up from his chair and almost ran to his daughter, taking her in a loving embrace as only a father can with his only daughter.

“Look at you,” he said, stepping back and holding her at arms length, “Still the same and yet... different.”

“Different, Papa? How so?”

Herman's face became serious,

“I see such maturity in your eyes. Something tells me you have not had a particularly easy time in France...”

“It has had its moments, that is true, Papa but more importantly, how are you?”

“Oh, I am fine, Liebchen,” her father replied and she could tell he wasn't hiding anything, as he continued.

“Things here are still the same, many troop trains and even those cattle trains pass through from time to time but otherwise, we keep going.”

He smiled lovingly at his daughter.

“You have a friend, I believe.”

“Oh yes Papa, we have such fun together. She is so much like me that even all the bad things that happen are bearable as we look out for each other.”

“That is nice, dear,” her mother said, “Is you friend from Munich?”

“Oh no, Mama, from Berlin.”

Anna and Herman suddenly looked at each other.

“Is that bad?” Maria asked, puzzled.

“Oh no,” he mother replied quickly, “No, not at all, only that when the war is over you will be so far apart again.”

“Well, yes, that is true but we will deal with that when the time comes.”

She paused for a moment, thinking and then, smiling half to herself,

“There is a soldier, a sergeant in the Wehrmacht. I think she likes him.”

“What,likes him or just likes him?” Anna asked.

“Oh, I think maybe she likes him,” Maria answered with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.

“He is nice, this sergeant?”

“Oh yes. His name is Michael Steiner. He is the soldier who helped me get to the hospital from Lille.”

Maria paused for a moment.

“Actually, I don't know if we will see him again, so I suppose nothing will come of it for her.”

They sat silently for a few minutes until Herman stood up.

“Are you doing anything today, Maria?” he asked.

“Not today,Papa. You sleep well. I will still be here when you wake.”

He kissed her head,

“It is wonderful to have you home,” he said before heading for bed.

That evening, as they sat around the table enjoying the meal that Maria and her mother had prepared together, it was as though she had never been away.

They chatted about the things that had been happening in Germany and about their friends and neighbours and the church.

It seemed that Father Weiss's replacement was a much younger man, a newly ordained priest from Laim, another district of Munich, just a few minutes away on the tram towards the city.

Anna said she thought he was very nice but everyone was wary of him because they did not know him. The services he performed were far more formal than those of Father Weiss. No-one was sure whether it was because he was a new priest and still followed the way he was taught or whether there was a more sinister reason because he never said anything at all that could be taken as seditious, so everyone spoke to him only of mundane, every day matters.

Anna said that he tried very hard to get to know people but he was kept at arms length.

Maria cleared away the empty plates and poured some more coffee.

“I have something to show you,” she said once they were settled again and took from her pocket the medal she had been presented with.

When she opened the box, both her mother and father gasped with admiration and more than a little pride.

“I didn't do anything special you know.”

“Understated as always,” her father said. “Everything you do is special.”

He stood up and gave her such a hug along with her mother.

“You never have really understood what an amazing young woman you are, have you?”

“Oh, Papa! You are making me blush, stop it!”

The following days passed by uneventfully. Maria spent as much time with her parents as she could,

She helped her Mama with the house work and the three of them would sit together just chatting or reading in the evenings.

At first, Herman would switch on the radio but the programmes were interspersed with propaganda from the authorities about how well the war was going and praising the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler until they got fed up of hearing it and didn't bother turning it on any more.

The day before she was due to leave, Maria and her mother were in the kitchen preparing dinner for the evening so it would be ready for when Herman arrived home.

The room was quite dull due to the dark grey sky, although it was not raining and suddenly there was a loud and urgent rapping on the front door.

Both Maria and her mother frowned.

“Who on earth could that be?” her mother said getting to her feet.

“It's all right, Mama, I'll go,” Maria said, holding her mother's arm.

The visitor knocked again, more loudly and more urgently.

When Maria opened the door, she was startled to see a young policeman standing there.

“Sister Kaufmann?” he asked.

“What is it? What has happened?” her mother said from behind her, voice heavy with worry.

“There has been an accident.”

“It's all right, Mama, don't worry,” Maria said before asking, “Where, what accident?”

The Policeman looked nervous.

“Just along the road there,” he replied pointing, “A car has been hit by a tram and one of the people there said you would be here. Can you help us please? It is bad!”

“Yes, of course, I will, take me there, quickly!”

Maria ran through the door and followed the Policeman as he ran ahead.

The scene that greeted her was one of carnage. The car had crashed into the stationary tram as it was discharging its passengers. The driver had been drunk and one of the victims was trapped between the car and the tram's bogie.

“I have sent for the ambulance,” the Policeman said breathlessly, “but I don't know how long it will be.”

There were four people lying in the road and she quickly ascertained that although in some distress none of them were seriously hurt, but the victim who was trapped was another story, he was a middle-aged man who had just stepped down when the car struck him and crushed him against the tram.

Glancing quickly at the car, Maria saw that the driver was still inside and that his hands were cuffed to the steering wheel.

The Policeman looked apologetic but said that was the only way he could stop him running away.

Maria said nothing, but examined the trapped man, he was barely conscious and she could see that he was bleeding profusely from his leg. One of the bystanders was trying to hold a piece of cloth against it but to no avail.

“Quickly, give me your belt,” she demanded to the policeman.

“My... my belt?” he stammered, “Why?”

"For a tourniquet, come on man, hurry!”

Without another word, he unfastened the belt around his waist, pulled it quickly from the loops and handed it to her.

Maria passed the belt between the casualties legs and pulled the thin leather through the metal hoop of the buckle, pulling it as tightly as she could around his upper thigh.

“Do you have a watch?” she asked.

The Policeman pulled out his pocket-watch.

“Good, now hold this belt as tightly as you can and if the ambulance does not arrive within the next fifteen minutes, release it for a moment, enough to let the blood through and then re-tighten it. Do you understand?”

The young officer nodded.

“No more than fifteen minutes!” she reiterated.

“She turned her attention to the patient.

“Can you here me?” she asked, lifting the man's head by his chin.

He nodded slightly that he could.

“Do you understand what has happened?” she asked and again, he nodded weakly.

“You have lost a lot of blood but you will be all right. You must stay with me, though, you must fight.”

Again, the grey-haired man nodded weakly.

There were many people standing around watching and Maria called out for help. Several men stepped forwards.

“We have to get this car off him,” she said urgently. “Two of you help me support him and the rest of you pull the car off... Gently!”

The three of them held the man as firmly as they could and the car slowly began to move.

The casualty screamed out with pain but the car only moved a little! Its bumper was caught in the bogie!

Again the crowd pulled, but it wouldn't come free and all the time the injured passenger cried out with each movement.

“Stop! Stop!” Maria shouted. “It is jammed. You have to free the bumper!”

The tram conductor suddenly jumped back into the tram, reappearing moments later with a steel bar.

He went to the front of the car and began levering the bumper away.

As the other men pulled there was suddenly a loud bang and the two vehicles parted company.

The car rolled backward.

In the distance, Maria could hear the approaching ambulance, as she carefully laid the man onto a coat that someone had provided for her.

“You will be all right now,” she said gently, “The ambulance is coming.”

The man's eyes were closed and his breathing shallow, his skin tone was very grey.

“Come on now, you can do it,” she urged, “Come on, stay with me.”

“I am so cold,” he said, voice quivering due to his violent trembling.

“Yes,” Maria agreed, “It is the shock and loss of blood but you're going to make it. You will be warm soon.”

As she spoke the ambulance squealed to a halt in front of them and the doors burst open.

“Oh, what a surprise, Maria Kaufmann!”

Maria looked up to see a familiar smiling face.

“Romy!” she exclaimed, “Of all the people!”

The pleasantries had to wait though and the victim was duly treated and loaded into the ambulance.

“Are you at home tonight?” The young nurse asked as she stepped back inside the ambulance, “I will come and see you when I get off if that's all right?”

“Yes do,” Maria called, just before the doors slammed closed and the ambulance drove away in the direction from whence it came.

Shortly afterward, a second ambulance had arrived along with a police car.

In no time at all, the other, lesser injured casualties had been taken to the hospital and the still drunk driver of the offending car had been removed to face his fate.

Surveying the scene, Maria took a deep breath and wiped her hands on the apron she was still wearing.

“Thank you, Sister.”

She turned to see the young policeman beside her. He was very pale.

“I couldn't have managed without you,” he continued. 

"How long have you been a Policeman?” Maria asked him.

“Three weeks,” came the sheepish reply.

“Three weeks?” she smiled. “Then you did very well indeed and I shall tell your superiors so if they ask.”

“That is very kind of you, Sister. Thank you.”

Maria looked at him.

“Are you all right?” she asked, “Can I get you some coffee?”

As the words left her mouth she realised she could not as she had dashed out without her money... or anything else for that matter but, the policeman refused.

“Oh, no, thank you, Sister. That is very kind indeed but I must get back and take care of the paperwork. I have not arrested anyone before so it may take a while.”

She smiled, remembering so many years ago when she first became a nurse.

“Well, you know where I live. If you need anything...”

The young man smiled sheepishly, blushing a deep scarlet, bade her farewell and began the lonely walk back to his station.

It was not more than thirty minutes after she returned home that her father arrived.

Hanging his hat and coat on the hall stand he hugged his favourite ladies and exclaimed,

“There has been a terrible accident up the road! Looks like a car has been hit by a tram. What a mess!”

Maria and her mother looked at each and, try as they might, they could not help but laugh out loud.

Herman was puzzled.

“What is funny about a crash? Someone could have been injured.”

“They were, Papa,” Maria said, her lips stretched in a wide smile.

“Oh, don't tell me,” her father said as the penny dropped, “You were there?”

Anna and her daughter giggled as Maria nodded.

“I might have known!” he sighed with a chuckle.

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