Olga’s Diary (Continued)
The baby room is painted in pretty pale colours, yellow, pink and blue with pictures of bunny rabbits, kittens and puppies stuck on the walls. There are ten cots in a row, each one containing a precious baby, and now the sisters have put another cot at the end of the row, for Marie. Now all I have to do is look after all of them.
Thank goodness the babies have a timetable. With one of the Sisters help, I bath the babies every other morning. I’m only allowed to make up enough baby food for one feed at a time and although it’s against the rules, the only way I can feed so many babies who are crying for their milk at the same time, is to prop up a bottle in the first baby’s mouth and then move on to the next baby.
After the babies have been fed I change their nappies and then it seems as if I have to start all over again. It’s an endless round of feeding, changing nappies and giving the babies a little cuddle. In the afternoon I put them either in a cot or, if the weather is good, in a pram outside.
When it’s quiet, I have to write up the babies’ reports. It’s the noisiest place to work in because there is always two or three babies crying at once. But I don’t mind. I have Marie with me. She is beautiful and so good, she rarely cries. I try to be fair and not pay her more attention than the other babies. Thank God I’m always busy I don’t have time to think about Mammie and home. I’m so tired by the end of the day. Sister Pateman and Sister Warner are very, very kind to me.
My good friend Moores wrote to me and told me she’s decided nursing is not for her so she’s going home to live with her parents. She wanted to come and see me before she left, but I wrote and told her I was too busy but I promised to keep in touch. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see her, I did, but I just couldn’t bear saying goodbye to her. I’m such a coward.
It’s been a long time since any bombs were dropped on London and just when everyone thought the war was nearly over that horrible Hitler has sent over a new type of bomb. It’s called a “doodlebug”, It makes a low buzzing noise like a motorbike then there is silence, which is its engine cutting out and it glides without a sound for a few seconds, then explodes.
Last night I sat on the stairs and in the distance I heard a doodlebug. It got louder and louder until it seemed like it was overhead when suddenly it stopped and there was silence. I counted to ten and waited for the explosion, but it landed in the distance. We were safe, but maybe somebody else wasn’t so lucky. Whenever the sirens went off we are supposed to take the babies downstairs into the basement but by the time we’ve moved the cots down there, the all clear sounds and it’s all over. Wimbledon has been hit a few times during these raids but has not suffered as much as some other parts of London where the devastation has been huge. Even in the Blitz moral in the capital wasn’t as low as it is now.
A few nights ago I heard a strange sound coming from one of the cots. As I went down the row checking each baby, I realised the sound was coming from the end cot where Marie was. The sound was her struggling to breathe. Sister Pateman examined her and said Marie was ill. She had pneumonia. She told me to go and look after the other babies and she and Sister Warner would see to her.
They put her into one of the bathrooms, put on the electric fire, turned the hot water on and filled up the bath so the bathroom was full of steam. I was desperate to help my baby and told them that back home when I had scarlet fever, Mammie boiled some onions and put them in muslin cloth and tied them round my ankles, and that helped bring down my temperature.
“Shall I boil some onions”? I asked them.
“No, Olga, go and look after the other babies and don’t worry, we’ll see to Marie”.
Then about every hour throughout the night they took turns watching over Marie, running the hot water so the level of steam remained high helping Marie to breathe. Any spare minute I could, I prayed to God not to take away from me the one thing that made the pain of what happened, the loss of my family and my loneliness bearable.
Two days after Marie was taken ill Sister Warner took her out of the bathroom and put her back into the nursery. With the help of God and two wonderful women, Marie had fought for her little life and won.
Marie is walking now and we have to leave here because she is disturbing the babies. The Sisters have asked me what I’m going to do. I think I’ll get a job in a private house so Marie will be able to come with me.
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