Who We Are – A WWII Love Story

Despite language barrier, German native falls for persistent GI

Woman posing for photo

Black and white photo of womanIf you’re hoping to catch Herta Uscinski, your best bet is to make an appointment.  She’s a very busy woman. Herta is also someone with a dramatic life story – the tale of a young German woman who found love in the wake of World War II, thanks to a determined American soldier.

She moved to Academy Point at Mystic two years ago, from the family home in West Haven, Connecticut. Her husband, Stanley, had died one year before that. Today, Herta takes full advantage of the facility’s many programs – movies, morning exercises, etc. – as well as continuing to pursue her own hobbies, including needlepoint.

In addition to two sons, Robert and Eric, she has grandchildren and great-grandchildren not too far away, and is surrounded by their pictures in her Academy Point apartment. “I have a lot of pictures,” she said, chuckling. “I love it.”

Herta, 90, was born and raised in the city of Karlsruhe, along the Rhine River in southwest Germany. When WWII broke out, her family moved further south, to the town of Immenstadt, in the Bavarian Alps, not far from the border of Switzerland. Her grandparents owned a ski resort there. It was where she’d learned to ski at the age of five.

She was a teenager when the war ended and yearned for freedom. “I just wanted to travel and live for myself. I had a bicycle and I went around Germany,” she recalls. Eventually, she settled into a factory job near home. One day, a friend she worked with asked her to come shopping. The outing began with the co-worker introducing Herta to an American soldier who happened to be a friend of the co-worker’s husband.

Stanley Uscinski was a Delaware native with a facility for languages. He spent twenty-four years in the US Army. During WWII, he served as a “communications specialist” in Europe. After the war, he stayed in Germany as a member of the US Army’s Military Advisory Group, helping to restructure the new German army, which is when Herta met him.

Portrait photo of man in armed services uniform“My friend introduced us, then we said goodbye to him and went shopping. But he was still there when we came back. He asked if he could take me out. I said no. I said, ‘I don’t know you, and besides, I don’t speak English.’” Stanley told her not to worry. He showed her the little dictionary he carried around for just such an occasion.

Not long after, he asked her out again. Again, the answer was no. The third time, he just showed up at her house. “He got down on his knee and asked me to marry him. I said, ‘No. I hardly know you,’ and I left the house. When I came back, he was playing chess with my father.”

Stanley’s persistence eventually won her over. “I did like him, and I fell in love.”

They married, had the two boys and stayed in Germany until the 1960s, when the US military called him home. Herta didn’t really learn to speak English until the family moved to the States. (She taught herself to speak the language, but you can still hear a slight German accent and an occasional “und” instead of “and.”) The family settled in Connecticut, where Stanley eventually took a job in the facilities department at Yale University in New Haven. He also served as an advisor to the Connecticut National Guard.

Herta keeps in touch with lots of family members still in Germany. She made it her mission to go back for an extended visit every couple of years and hopes to travel there again once the pandemic is behind us.

About Academy Point, Herta says, “I have a beautiful apartment. And there’s a lot of activities going on. And I have girlfriends here. We go outside walking.” She’s looking forward to doing just that, once the weather turns warmer. Meanwhile, she’s knitting little hats for her latest great-grandchildren.

Academy Point at Mystic