Parma woman forced to quit school during WWII receives diploma after 73 years

Early school years spent in bomb shelters

PARMA, Ohio - Trudi Zitner was in the fifth grade when her education came to a halt. What little education she received was not about reading and writing. It was about surviving World War II.

"I could feel when the English planes would leave England. I knew it would take them a half hour to get over us and start bombing," said Trudi Zitner of Parma.

When the bombings from both the Germans and English reached their peak in southern Holland, teachers were explaining to the children how to stay alive.

"When the V2 rockets started coming over, they didn't always make it to England. We were taught that if you hear the engines stop, you had to throw yourself on the ground," Zitner said.

The war eventually ended and that's when Andrew Michnay entered her life.

Michnay was an American soldier. They fell in love and later moved to Cleveland.

Zitner began painting when she arrived in the U.S. While she felt she was educated, she never had a diploma to prove it.

"My daughter and grandchildren have college degrees and I'm thinking I don't even have a high school degree," Zitner said.

With strong support from her daughter, Bonnie Naftzger, she prepared for her GED test.

Zitner wasn't sure she did well on the test, but after 10 days of not hearing anything, she decided to make a call.

"I screamed. I had goose bumps all the way up. I didn't think I made it. I felt great," Zitner said.

"If one person is inspired to get their GED than I feel I have contributed to that through encouraging my mom," Naftzger said.

Zitner recently received a proclamation from the city of Parma honoring her accomplishments.

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