This really has to be a Valentine story to beat all the others. Amidst the heat and chaos of World War I, a young Polish soldier known as Stanislaus Omensky kisses his fiancée, Merna, before heading off to war. “I’ll dream of you,” he said. None of them knew that Merna’s dream would end up saving Stanislaus’ life.
In October 1918, in the final days of the Great War, Merna had a terrible nightmare. He dreamed that Stanislaus was walking through a dark tunnel, which ended in a confused mass of rocks and wood. He saw her place a candle to throw her strength against the obstruction, and fall back, weeping.
Merna had the same dream several times and pestered the authorities in her native Czernak to help her find Stanislaus. With many thousands of soldiers missing or dead, they had no time for her. In the summer of 1919 his dreams changed. Now he saw a castle on the top of a hill, with a tower collapsed into a mass of stone and timber. As he approached, he could hear a voice calling for help. Again, this dream came back to him night after night. She told whomever she could, and was met with skepticism and ridicule.
Merna began to travel across the field where Stanislaus’ regiment had last been seen. She had no money, living only on the kindness of strangers, but she refused to give up on her fiance and her dream. The area was filled with many ruined castles, but none matched the tower in his nightmare.
Then, on April 25, 1920, he climbed a hill near Zlota and jumped for joy. The castle that dominated the town was exactly the one of his dream. She ran into the city, dusty and screaming, and collapsed by the fountain, excited and exhausted. When he woke up, he told his story to the townspeople and ran off to walk around the castle rocks with his bare hands. Everyone in Zlota knew that the castle had been damaged during the war, but they didn’t know what to make of Merna’s tale. Still, many locals soon came to her aid, moving debris and rocks away from the base of the tower.
For two days they dug and then found an open area under the rubble. From the entrance came the faint cries of a pale and torn Stanislaus. He and Merna met again. The Polish soldier had been saved by the power of love and the strength of Merna’s conviction in his dream.
Stanislaus’ side of the story was just as surprising. He had taken refuge in the castle during a fight, and was buried when artillery hit the tower. He had found candles, water, cheese, wine and hundreds of rats, and lived in almost total darkness for two years.
The Polish military investigated and found all aspects of the couple’s story to be true. Stanislaus was honorably discharged, and the two married and lived, we may assume, happily ever after.
“The secret is not to dream,” he whispered. “The secret is waking up. Waking up is harder.” – Terry Pratchett