Five Facts from History That Are Stranger Than You Thought!
History is filled with iconic incidences and events that have been out of the box. Even thinking about them today, let alone executing them, is something that might scare the bejeezus out of the common minds. Here’s a list of five of the most ridiculous facts from the annals of history.
1. The Russian Widow with a Tank
Russians have a notorious reputation for going overboard when it comes to taking revenge or even engaging in fights. That is exactly what happened during the Second World War when Mariya Oktyabrskaya the wife of a Soviet soldier decided to take revenge on her slain husband. She was in Tomsk when she heard that her husband had been killed by the Nazis in Kiev in 1941. Furious with the news, Mariya took a step that no one would have thought of. A mechanic by profession she decided the only way to answer the Nazis was something big and belligerent.
IMAGE SOURCE: BING
She sold all her belongings and bought a T-34 tank which she donated to the Red Army. That wasn’t the only thing she decided to do. Naming her tank the Fighting Girlfriend she asked the State Defense Committee to allow her to run the tank into war. She enrolled in the army and took her training for learning how to use and drive a tank. She wrote the name of her tank on the turret and set foot into the battlefield in Smolensk as a part of the 26th Guards Tank Brigade.
She battled with her tank three battles fighting the Nazis on different fronts. Finally, after one year of running a rampage over the Nazis with her revenge filled the tank, she entered the battle near Vitebesk near Leningrad. Her tank got hit by a shell and she got down repairing it. She successfully repaired it but was injured by the shelling and died a few days later after being in a coma for a few days. She was made a hero and was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union by the Russian government. She was also mentioned by the US National Public Radio in a series they titled “The Rejected Princesses”.
2. Al-Capone and His Philanthropy Works
One of the most infamous mobsters in the world, Al-Capone has been the basis of some of the most popular gangster films, books, comics, and the very perspective we have of gangsters in the west. What doesn’t go well with an infamous mobster is the idea of social work or philanthropy. Soup kitchens have been common in the world for a few centuries and are one of the most common places for the poor to find two square meals in the day.
The Great Depression setting in after the First World War was a disaster for the poor Americans who lost everything during this time. The number of people who couldn’t find a meal for the day was increasing by the day and that is where the biggest gangster of the country comes into the picture.
IMAGE SOURCE: WIKIMEDIA
Al-Capone was the man who commanded the streets of Chicago and he thought it was his responsibility that every individual on the streets of Chicago doesn’t sleep hungry. With a huge storefront on 935 South State Street, he opened a huge soup kitchen that began work almost immediately. Capone’s kitchen began feeding over 2000 Chicagoans in a day.
The local Chicago newspaper, the Chicago Tribune who had always portrayed Capone as the public enemy number one was praising his philanthropic works for feeding the poor of Chicago. They interviewed an associate of Capone who said, “He couldn’t stand it to see those poor devils starving, and nobody else seemed to be doing much, so the big boy decided to do it himself.” The soup kitchen was employed pretty smiling women dressed in aprons who served coffee and sweet rolls for breakfast, soup and bread for lunch, and coffee and bread for dinner.
3. The Grandma Who Conquered the Appalachian
Emma Rowena Gatewood is a name that has been etched in gold in the annals of hiking history across the world. A jolly old woman from the state of Ohio, no one knew that this grandma would one day cross one of the longest hiking trails in the country without any help.
Born in the Guyan Township of Galia County, Ohio, her father was a farmer who also served in the Civil War. She and her 14 siblings lived in a small log cabin and were raised independently by their mother. Though he did not have a lot of formal education she self-taught herself about wildlife and woodland plants. A knack for reading encyclopedias and Greek classics also taught her a bit of poetry which she loved. She married Perry Clayton and had 11 children with him and lived with him for over 30 years. She divorced him after several bouts of domestic violence and then later lived independently all her life.
IMAGE SOURCE: BING
What kick-started the storm of hiking in Grandma Gatewood was an article in the National Geographic magazine about the Appalachian Trail and decided that this hike was something she could accomplish. At the age of 66 in 1954, Grandma Gatewood set out to conquer the Appalachian from the south of Mount Katahdin in Maine. This was one of her failed attempts as she got lost and ran out of food before the rangers saved her.
A year later at the age of 67, she told her children she was going for a walk as she began the hike again walking north from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia and reached Mount Katahdin after 146 days. She reached the top of Baxter Peak and sang the first verse of “America the Beautiful” before screaming aloud,” I did it! I said I‘d do it! “
4. The Polish Nurse Who Saved the Jews
Another fact from the annals of the infamous Nazi books is the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish nurse working for the Nazis at the Social Welfare Department. How she became a hero for the Jews is a story for a blockbuster film Oscar-nominated film.
In 1940, the German occupation in Poland rounded up around four hundred thousand Polish Jews and stuffed them into a small portion of the city of Warsaw that was renamed the Warsaw Ghetto. This is where Irene comes in as she enters the ghetto as an employee of the Social Welfare Dept. to check for typhus. Since the Germans feared this disease they did not doubt Irene and she had a free pass to move around the ghetto. She began helping the Jews by smuggling children and babies from the ghetto and reassigning them to other homes where they were masqueraded by non-Jewish names to protect them.
IMAGE SOURCE: WIKIMEDIA
There was a huge risk at what Irene was doing since the punishment for assisting Jews in any way for German-occupied Poland was death. Although this risk existed, she worked day and night for the Jews helping them with food, shelter, clothing and saving their children from the torture. When the Germans decided to exterminate the Jews of the ghetto, she sped up the process of saving the children with the help of Zegota, an underground organization created to help the Jews.
In 1943 Irene was arrested by the Gestapo but none of the information about the Jews was given to them. She was incarcerated in the Pawiak prison form where she was later taken to be shot dead. The Zegota crafted a plan to get her out from this and they did. She successfully was saved and went on to live till 2008!!
5. The Mismatched Shoes That Won the Olympics
Jim Thorpe is one of the most celebrated American Indian sportspersons in history who not only won Olympic gold but also became a champion in the world of baseball. Born in Prague in Oklahoma, he studied in Carlisle Indian Industrial School where he was recognized for his athletic ability and was coached by Glenn Scobey Pop Warner.
IMAGE SOURCE: WIKIMEDIA
One of the most iconic moments of Jim’s life was in the Olympics when someone stole his shoe moments before he had to run the race of his life. What does an athlete do when their shoes are stolen? They buy or get a new pair of shoes. But that’s not what Jim did. He saw that there were two shoes in the trash can and were not very torn. The problem was that they were different shoes. This didn’t deter Jim and he wore them anyway.
People thought this would be his downfall, but that wasn’t the case. Jim didn’t just win the race; he went on to win two Olympic gold medals. He finished third in another event and came fourth in another. Wearing two different shoes wasn’t a bad choice after all!