Author: Rulka Langer

Publisher: Aquila Polonica (U.S.) Ltd.

ISBN: 978-1-60772-000-3

Click Here To Purchase The Mermaid and the Messerschmitt: War Through a Woman's Eyes, 1939-1940


This rare eyewitness account of the early, chaotic days of World War II stretching from the relatively halcyon days prior to the onset of World War II, through the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, and the siege of Warsaw to the first few months of the Nazi occupation is told from the perspective of a young working mother. The book has already scooped the 2010 Benjamin Franklin Silver Award in the nonfiction category of the Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book, as well as being a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the History Book Club, and the Military Book Club. This second edition of the work includes over 100 black-and-white photos, maps and illustrations (some never before published) and other supplemental material not included in the original, which was published in 1942.


Rulka Langer came from a family of distinguished Polish intellectuals, writers and statesmen. After surviving the first five months of the war in Poland, Rulka fled the Nazi-occupied country together with her young son and daughter, aged 8 and 3, in early 1940 to join her husband, who was at that time a member of the Polish diplomatic corps posted in the United States. Having a background in political and economic writing, as well as in research for the Bank of Poland, she soon became a popular lecturer, writing The Mermaid (the official symbol of Warsaw) and the Messerschmitt in 1942 in an attempt to explain to Americans the devastation wrought by the War for ordinary human beings caught up in it.


Written from a young fashion-conscious woman’s angle, it is all the more poignant, as it reveals how the average civilian had their world literally dug up from under their feet by the unexpectedness of the onslaught of one of the mightiest forces that has ever besieged Europe. Who can, for example, forget Rulka’s initial embarrassment, on first volunteering for air raid shelter digging: “I felt rather silly with my high heel shoes, a pert hat cocked over my right eye, and a spade on my shoulder. I was also at a loss how to handle my red handbag and gloves.” Soon all personal concerns are lost, though, as Rulka becomes caught up in the heroic, though relatively short-lived, attempt made by the Varsovians to defend their city from the invading militaristic might of one of the cruelest powers ever to dominate large portions of Europe.


All those who enjoyed the adventures of the von Trapp family in The Sound of Music are likely to enjoy Langer’s writing, which has much in common with the former work, in terms of descriptions of loving relationships and noble deeds of outwitting the enemy despite all odds. Although there are undertones of the savagery and brutality of the war, these are not the major concern of the work, which is generally upbeat in tone, telling more about the daily trials and tribulations experienced by those living in an urban environment under siege. A wonderful, heart-warming read, which, nevertheless, does not try to cover up the harshness of the conditions to which the average civilian was subjected during World War II.       



Click Here To Purchase The Mermaid and the Messerschmitt: War Through a Woman's Eyes, 1939-1940