Shizuko Abe

An A-bomb Survivor as a Living Testifier

3. Wounds All Over My Body

In my parents’ house, two of my sisters had come back with their families. My second eldest sister had got married to a man living in Kure. Since her house was destroyed in an air-raid there, she was staying in the guest room of our parents’ house with her mother-in-law and her two children. My third eldest sister, expecting a baby, also was back for childbirth in our parents’ house and using the second floor of the barn with her three children. There was no room left for me in my parents’ house, so I had to go back to live with my mother-in-law. My mother and my third eldest sister, who was pregnant, came to take care of me every day. My second eldest sister was doing all the housework for the whole family of ten as well as looking after five children. The town office provided me with five cups of oil instead of medicine. Hearing that grated potatoes were good for burn wounds, my mother grated potatoes and applied them on my wounds every day. Around early-September, different radiation-related disorders started, such as diarrhea, hair loss and high fever. Then I realized for the first time that I had lost the sense of hearing of my left ear. The left side of my body may have hit the ground when I fell from the roof at that time, breaking my left ear drum.

The A-bomb’s heat rays directly hit me from the right. So, I was heavily burned on the right side of my face and body—from my right eyebrow to my neck, my right arm below the short sleeve to my right fingertips, and my right leg. Even though I was wearing dark-blue working pants, the skin on my leg under the pants had burns. As the keloids on my right eyelid rendered it immobile, I wasn’t able to close my right eye for a long time. Even while sleeping, my right eye remained open, and I got dust in my right eye all the time. As the skin of my right cheek and the right side of my jaw were also immobile due to keloids, I wasn’t able to shut my mouth tightly enough. So whenever I ate some food, it spilled out of my mouth. Around the middle of September, I was finally able to sit up in bed. Then I tried to stand up on my feet, but couldn’t. Whenever I tried to stand, the burn scar on the back of my knee broke and bled. It was really painful, so I gave up.

Feeling sorry about my drastically changed face, my family had hidden all the mirrors from me. One day in early September, when I was alone in the house by chance, I decided to find a mirror to see what I looked like. Crawling around inside the house, I found a mirror and looked at my face for the first time after the A-bombing. What I saw in the mirror was a face swollen red with an eye upturned by the burn scar. It was like a mask of a red demon, and far beyond imagination. I wept all day every day. Seeing me, my father hugged me tightly and said, “If you had died then, you wouldn’t be in this agony.” We wept and sobbed together, but at that time I often thought I would rather have died.

In the middle of September, Japan was hit by Typhoon Makurazaki, which was the largest ever in the history of the Showa era. On the 17th, it directly hit Hiroshima, which had lost everything and got flattened in the A-bombing. I heard that earth and sand from landslides flowed into the flattened city, and the hurriedly-built shacks were all washed away. The house where my mother-in-law and I lived in Nakano was flooded above the floor level, and the first floor of the house was no longer able to be used. So, my mother-in-law remained in our house using the second floor, and I had to move back to my parents’ house. However, because my second elder sister’s family was using the guest room and my third elder sister’s family was using the barn, there was no room left for me except in the storehouse. My family tidied up the second floor of the storehouse and laid out my bedding there. I still wasn’t able to walk by myself yet, so I went to my parents’ house on a cart and was carried up to the second floor on someone’s back.

Her parents’ house