The Girl In The Picture
She’s wearing a striped dress in the picture and she’s smiling. Two young guys - a local kid and an American GI are on either side. All three are leaning against a jeep. All three look happy. Happy because the war ended less than 24 hours before and that means no one dies today.
The GI in the photo is my dad. 18-year old Paul Huffman of Bluffton, Indiana. Dad has spent most of the last year in a tank fighting his way across Europe to end up in Blatna, Czechoslovakia on the day the war ended in May, 1945.
I see a lot of my dad in the photo. More hair than I can ever imagine him having. But he looks almost shy. He’s posing with this pretty girl about his age and the other kid. On the back he wrote to keep the photo quiet. No one should get the wrong idea about the picture.
But who was the girl? No leads. No clues. In his own notes he wrote about a giant American flag that was hidden in the village and the party they had that night. “It was the biggest American flag I had ever seen.”
Decades later she is still a mystery. Did they dance? Did they kiss? Or were they just two teenagers in the fact they wouldn’t get shot at tomorrow?
With a nudge from the Czech Republic ambassador in Washington, the local newspaper ran a story on my dad, the woman, and the photo. The long cold trail was about to get red hot.
“We found her,” came a middle-of-the-night email. “She’s 92, in good health, and still lives near Blatna. At long last, the pretty girl in the picture had a name - Blazena Hrabetova. To me, she also became a living link to my dad.
The Czech government has embraced the story. Blatna’s mayor has invited us to be part of the nation’s Liberation Festival marking the anniversary of the end of the war on May 8th.
My dream is to take the original photo back to Blatna and present it to Ms. Hrabetova. This is about a personal mission to honor my dad, and by extension, the thousands of other servicemen and women who stood tall in one of the world’s darkest moments.
This is where we need your help.
Seventy-three years ago, I suspect my dad left a big part of his heart with the good souls of Blatna. In the end it will be hard to let go of my favorite photo of my dad. But I think it’s time for him to go back. Back to a time when he knew, that since the war was over, everything was going to be okay.
I’m humbly asking for your help. For a one week trip, depending upon when we buy the tickets, even the discount brokers are charging nearly $4000. The rest would be used for expenses and getting home again. We can’t take you with us but you’ll have access to a daily blog and I’ll be posting lots of photos.
A story that I thought would end by finding a name is only just beginning. Please help me tell that story to the world.
- Paul Korst
- Vicki Davidson
- Travis Davidson