Jumping Off the Devil’s Shovel
About the Book
In early January of 1945, the horror of the Eastern Front inched ever closer to the estate of Stollen, East Prussia. The regional governor refused to allow soldiers and civilians to evacuate as the Soviet Army approached, and orders were given to "shoot on sight" those found fleeing the approaching terror. It was not until January 22 that evacuation was allowed.
Renate von Kuenheim and her brother Gert held hands as they stood in the barns of their ancestral home in Stollen. The thunder of artillery shells echoed in the distance, and fear gave way to resignation. Calmly, they discussed the best ways to die, a common topic among those who had heard the horror stories of the refugees from the east. Their father had been drafted into the army in 1944 and was out there to the east somewhere – alive or dead, they did not know. Their fate was now in the hands of a stepmother who despised them. As head of the estate, she was tasked with making decisions for their family and the twenty-three families serving the estate. Their stepmother resolutely refused to leave until, on January 23, nobody was there to take her call at the local Nazi headquarters.
Renate von Kuenheim's terrifying flight westward began the next day. Separated from her family and their villagers by the scheming of her stepmother, the beautiful seventeen-year-old Renate was left alone, with only her horse Tasha, the clothes on her back, a knife, and the pistol her father had taught her to shoot with. Her remarkable flight toward freedom lays before the reader, tales of the horrors of war, the strength of the human spirit and the love that can grow between a horse and master. It is a true story many readers may find unbelievable.
About the Author
In Germany, there is a saying that one who cheats death, either through luck or resourcefulness, has jumped off the devil's shovel. Renate Ruzich is such a woman.
Renate grew up as the daughter in an aristocratic family in East Prussia, Germany, on an estate that had been in her family for five hundred years. In 1945, at the age of eighteen, she had to join millions of refugees trying to flee from the approaching Soviet Army. Separated from her family two days into their flight, she had only her horse as companion as she struggled westward. During that brutal winter, Renate experienced horrors, deprivations, and looked the devil in the eye many times. In a sea of cruelty, she also witnessed flashes of humanity that gave her the hope she needed to persevere.
Mrs. Ruzich did more than just survive the hell of war; she built a new life in the ashes of the old. She even found the love of her life, Rudy, with whom on a clear, sunny morning in 1953, she steamed past the Statue of Liberty into New York's harbor.
Renate Ruzich continues to thwart the devil to this day. She has survived a broken back after being thrown from a horse; has beaten kidney, colon, and skin cancer; and has persevered after the loss of her beloved Rudy. Most recently, she survived an automobile accident at the age of eighty-seven.
Today Renate lives a quiet life near her beloved Blue Ridge Mountains in Orange, Virginia. She just celebrated her ninetieth birthday. She decided to tell her story that those who have been spared the horrors of war will understand its consequences.