A Story of Faith & Survival

Tricia Smythe & Justin Mannato

"Don't be a bystander, be an upstander." Those were lasting words Gina Lanceter imparted upon the people of St. James on Sunday. Gina joined us for a special Adult Forum in the Parish Hall. She captivated the crowd with her story of escaping the Nazis in 1943 Poland.

Gina witnessesed the brutal murder of her 16 year-old cousin in the streets of her vilage. Shortly thereafter, she and her parents were ripped from their home and herded onto a cattle car to a concentration camp. "My mother said I should try and jump out of the window," she said of her escape plan.

Lanceter showed us an exact replica of the train window that she managed to squeeze herself out of in order to escape. To this day, she is not sure how she managed to get through the opening and jump from the train. She was just 13 years old at the time. Lanceter fell on the railroad tracks, injuring her head and ankle. She was also shot in her hip. 

Gina said she had the strength to survive because she thought of her father, who told her she needed to be able to tell everyone what happened to them. 

She also surived thanks to the kindness of strangers. A peasant fed her some food, and a priest later supplied her with a Christian birth certificate. She also spent some time hiding in a cellar while Nazi soldiers slept on the floor above.

It was a unique honor to have Gina Lanceter as a guest at St. James. True to her father's wishes, this was her 301st presentation. 

*Photos by Pat Piermatti