Archive | October, 2011

Growing up in Australia

31 Oct


Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to grow up in Australia. However, all my children grew up here and are very happy to live here. I ask myself, do people always love the place they grow up in? No, I do not think that is necessarily so. I for one was not happy with the educational opportunities that were open to me in postwar Germany. I was glad to leave Germany behind in 1959. I felt I did owe Germany no loyalty. In those postwar years a lot of Germans longed to live in America, the free country! I thought the next best thing would be to live in Australia.

These days I am glad that we were given the chance to migrate to Australia rather than to America. In Australia we felt straight away freer than in Germany. Peter started in a very low paid job. That meant, we were on an extremely low budget. Still we found life in Australia easy going. It took us only a couple of years to pay off a block of land! Somehow we managed the payments for the land by strictly buying only the most basic things. We spent little on clothes. Home cooked meals were not expensive. About once a week we could even afford to buy take-away fish and chips or a yummy take-away hamburger!

After the land had been paid for, a building society gave us a loan for a small house. We could never have achieved that in Germany! Our two babies were regarded as something precious in Australia. Whereas in Germany people’s attitude was something like: We young people with hardly any prospects for the future should not have any children. The question at the top of their minds was, how on earth could we dare to have children when we had no means to adequately provide for them?!

Over the years we raised four children in Australia. We soon owned our own home. I never had to go to work. Peter always earned sufficient to provide for his family. I chose to stay home with the children. Sure, our children were not spoiled with a lot of the things that todays children take for granted. But there was always a roof over their head, someone to look after them, enough food and clothes as well as the chance for a good education. I reckon Australia was the best place for children to grow up in. University education was free in those days. Even when the parents were on a low income level their children were given good opportunities to better themselves.

We came to Australia in 1959. A lot of things have changed since then. Maybe I feel a bit nostalgic as far as the 60s and 70s are concerned. Sure, a lot of progress has been made since then. Some technical progress has been enormous; e.g. with computers, mobile phones, digital TV etc. However, I reckon the growing gap between rich and poor has not been good. To my mind the difference between poor people and rich people has been growing to an unacceptable level. How can an enormously huge gap in assets and income level be good for society? I wonder whether any reforms are possible and whether the very rich could ever accept a somewhat lower standard of living so that the gap would not be quite as enormous?

I wrote the above about a year ago and came across it today in my files. Somehow it still makes sense to me today. How on earth can the excessive widening of the gap ever be stopped? Is it right for me to worry about it? I live in one of the richest countries in the world and personally I don’t suffer any hardship. Being seventy-seven years of age my life is nearing its end. Is it right for me to worry about what comes after me? Shouldn’t  I just count my blessings? Justice for all and the abolishment of poverty: It’s just a dream, isn’t it? Or maybe, just maybe it might become true one day!

Charlotte catches a Ride towards the End of 1945

31 Oct


Charlotte tells her story to her niece Renata. Daughter Uta is listening in the background.

Charlotte: ‘You have no idea, what things I had to do to find our furniture!’

Renata: ‘I’ve heard, there was a Russian soldier who wanted to kidnap you.’

Charlotte: ‘Too right. This Russian, who came along in a jeep, saw me walking along the Chaussee. He stopped and pointed to the seat beside him and then pointed straight ahead. He looked friendly enough. I felt very tired after a long day trying to find out, where all our furniture had ended up. I thought this  Russian was just a guy, who wanted to help out a tired looking woman. So as naive as I was, I hopped into his car. Before I got in, I pointed into the direction of the next village and asked him, whether he was going to Herzfelde. –   H e r z f e l d e?   I said repeatedly. The Russian nodded his head. He was very young and friendly looking. When he took off with me, his face broke out into a big smile. It did not take long, when he slowed down a bit. I looked to the side and then it dawned on me, he wanted to turn off into a side-road, more like a track really. I could see a lot of trees in the distance. So I thought, that this was, where he wanted to take me. In a split second I made a decision. He had just turned the corner, when I jumped out of the moving jeep and ran back to the Chaussee as quickly as possible. Then I was walking along the Chaussee, where quite a few cars were going in both directions. My friendly Russian came back to the Chaussee, yet he did not bother to invite me into his jeep again!’

Renata: ‘An amazing story. You are so brave, Tante Lotte!’

POSTSCRIPT:  I cannot remember the exact circumstances when and how Mum told this story.  My cousin Renata is a few years my senior. That Mum told her niece Renata the story in this way is my invention. However it could have happened this way.  That Mum was nearly kidnapped by a young Russian soldier, this is definitely true. Herzfelde is a small town east of Berlin. Our furniture had been stored at a place called ‘Ausbau’ as I had told in earlier blogs. Some of the neighbours had helped themselves to some of our furniture after the war and had taken it to different places in the area. I have no idea, how Mum managed to recover most of it and get it transported back to Berlin.

Wollongong Christmas Pictures 2010

23 Oct

I just found last year’s Christmas pictures which we took in Wollongong, NSW. I can’t believe, another Christmas is approaching soon. The year went so quickly.

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

22 Oct

                     CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

I remember vaguely a conversation which took place on our balcony in Berlin soon after Easter 1946. I know for certain that at the time Dad was still with us and that Mum had made friends with a lady from the neighbourhood who had established herself as a manicurist. The name ‘Julia Gratz’ is my invention.

The following conversation is more or less made up by me. I only remember for sure that this lady talked to Mum about ‘Gone with the Wind’. I am also pretty sure that this lady was very courteous to Dad and treated him with much respect. It is also true that I had just returned from Leipzig and was about to start school in Berlin. It is also true that I had to catch up in English and that an older school-girl volunteered to give me private lessons. I also distinctly remember that all of us were sitting on the balcony and that it was balmy spring weather.

As a writing exercise I tried to write the following in the third person.

                            BERLIN, SPRING 1946

Eleven year old Uta has just returned from her grandmother’s place in Leipzig. Her parents, Charlotte and Alexander, sit with her on the sunlit balcony.

Also on the balcony is a voluptuous blond woman. Her permed hair is well set. Her fingernails are excellently shaped. Her nail polish is of a pink colour. Her name is Julia Gratz. She has just finished doing Charlotte’s fingernails. This is how she earns a living in this black-market time. She is well spoken. She likes to talk to Alexander, trying to flatter him with ‘intelligent’ questions.

Julia: ‘What do you think, Herr Doctor, is there any chance at all that we get our proper jobs back? How long is it going to take before we recover from Germany’s disastrous downfall?’

Alexander: ‘I am sure it is going to take several years. I only hope that Germany is not going to be made to pay enormous amounts in reparation as was the case after World War I. But since we have been totally defeated, we basically have to accept, that the other countries can do with us as they like.’

Julia (turning to Charlotte): ‘I’ve just been reading GONE WITH THE WIND. I have enormous admiration for Scarlet O’Hara, how in the midst of having lost everything due to the war, she shows courage by sewing herself a dress out of some curtains. She does not want to look poor, when she goes to see Rhet Butler, who profited from the war and is very well of.’

Charlotte: ‘Yes indeed, this shows enormous courage. It reminds me, that I dismantled our old flag and used the material for sewing a colourful blouse. In times like this, you have to use whatever you can, to get by.’

Julia (talks to Uta, who had been listening intensely):

‘Uta, how do you like it to be back in Berlin? You must have missed your mum, when your mum was already in Berlin while you were still staying with your grandmother in Leipzig. Tell me, for how long did you go to school in Leipzig?’

Uta: ‘Actually between January and October schools had been closed in Leipzig, which means I’ve been in high-school since October last year. Cousin Renate gave me and Bob a few lessons at home while the schools were still closed. In October I was then straight away admitted to second year of high-school.’

Julia: ‘So now that you’re back in Berlin you start school here after the Easter break?

Uta: ‘That’s right. However I found out that I’ll have to catch up in English. It seems, here in Berlin they are much further ahead in English. I have been enrolled for the second year of high-school. They said, they want to give me a try and see whether I can keep up with that year.’

Julia: ‘I’m sure you’ll be able to make it. Maybe some-one can give you some private lessons to catch up in English?’

Uta: ‘Yes, I was told, that a girl, who is three years ahead of me, is willing to give me some lessons at her home.’

Julia: ‘It sounds like this may be the perfect solution for you. I wish you good luck!

Uta: ‘Thank you very much, Frau Gratz.’

Gaby’s World

21 Oct

Only one week ago I published a blog about my daughter Gaby. Since then quite a few changes in Gaby’s World came about.

It started with her carer becoming so sick that he had to be admitted to hospital. On short notice someone had to be found to stay with Gaby overnight. One of her daytime staff agreed to stay with her for the night and the following night and the following one. But how would it go on?

There’s an organisation ‘Respite Carers’ who helped Gaby a great deal to get more funding for continuous nighttime caring. The funding however applies only for the following two weeks. For the moment Gaby is somewhat relieved that the next two weeks are being taken care of.

Before Gaby got the good news about the new funding arrangements she was immensely upset and close to tears for it looked very much like, if nobody could stay with her overnight, she might have to be taken care of in an institution. All this made Gaby terribly anxious. Seeing her ‘independence’ slipping away, I think is one of the worst things that could happen to her. In her distress Gaby was somewhat lucky again because some people with some kind of authority took pitty on her and did their utmost to help her out. I’m sure she is very grateful for this. One person who looked into Gaby’s case meant the new arrangements wouldn’t ‘look good on paper’, but still was prepared to go along with it. That shows what can be done if people are of good will.

The picture shows Gaby promoting her favourite Football Club.

Going shopping with Gaby . . . .

15 Oct

Going shopping with Gaby and Honey, who’s Gaby’s lovely companion dog. Once every two weeks we meet our daughter Gaby in Merrylands Shopping Centre to help her with her shopping. Gaby loves to bring her dog along too. Since Honey is a registered companion dog for a wheelchair person, she’s allowed to take the dog into the shopping  centre. However when she goes to the supermarket to buy her groceries, the dog has to stay outside, that means ‘Grandma’ Uta has to stay outside too to mind Honey, while Grandpa Peter helps Gaby with her grocery shopping which usually takes her the best part of an hour. I don’t mind sitting outside, where there are some comfortable seating arrangements and carpets for the dog to stretch out on. Honey is no trouble whatsoever. I’ve been known to sometimes nod off a bit when I feel tired!

Yesterday however, when we met Gaby again, I kept myself awake the whole time while waiting for Gaby and Peter. What kept me really awake was an e-book which I liked reading very much. When we had some coffee earlier on, I asked Peter to take a picture of Gaby and me. Then I thought it would be nice if Honey was in the picture too. So I lifted her up. That made me laugh outragesly because it’s not normally my habit at all to lift Honey up. (Can’t remember ever having done it before.) Looking at the picture now, I really don’t like it very much, but I’m going to include it anyway for I don’t have any other pictures for today. I asked Gaby, would she mind if I put her pictures in my blog. Her answer was, that she didn’t mind at all, since she’s always being recognised by a lot of people anyway.

While I minded Honey, quite a few people talked to me about her,  recogning her as Gaby’s dog, petting her and asking about Gaby’s whereabouts. Yeh, Gaby is well known, that’s for sure. And not just in Merrylands but also in a lot of other suburbs of Sydney. In her electrified wheelchair Gaby travels around a lot on trains, busses and taxis. Nearly every day she goes out on her own somewhere. A collection box sits on the table in front of her, also her mobile phone. She collects money for a charitable organisation.  Some people approach Gaby on a regular basis to give her a donation. Honey, being fastened to Gaby’s wheelchair, always makes the rounds with Gaby. So no wonder that Gaby is a well known identity in Sydney.

Gaby was born 1957 in Berlin and came to Australia before she was two years old. On her fourth birthday she became very ill. The doctor who saw her at home, said the measles were around. That Gaby could not move at all, did not seem to make him suspicious. Then we called another doctor who established immediately that Gaby indeed could not move at all and an ambulance was called to take her to the hospital. It turned out she was struck down by polio. So that was fifty years ago!  – – – – -

It is amazing, what a well adjusted person Gaby is. She loves to live and do all the things that are possible for her to do. She loves eating and collecting recipies, going out with people, talking to people. In the evening she spends time with facebook, but Friday nights and sometimes weekends too she likes to go out. Overall she seems to enjoy life and makes the most of it.  I think that makes able bodied people perhaps wonder about their lives when they  find it hard to get enjoyment out of their lives.

 

My Best Experience

13 Oct

Last year, after our return from Germany,

I was asked which experience on our trip had been best for me. I thought for a moment. Then I said: ‘I think it was our excursion to the seaport of Warnemünde at the Baltic Sea.’

It was a pleasant early summer day with lots of sunshine. Having arrived at Warnemünde by train, we promenaded along a beautiful walkway with hundreds of other sightseers all the way to the lighthouse. Seeing the expanse of water all around us, I was reminded of similar places in Australia. From where we rested at a railing near the lighthouse we could see a stretch of beach. I noticed  there were not many people on the beach. This was probably because the air felt still somewhat chilly. However there was hardly any breeze and the sun felt wonderful. It was so good to be  at beautiful Seaport Warnemünde.
My sister-in-law pointed out to me a large round building some distance away close by the sea.  I could make out people sitting under huge umbrellas. It turned out that this was a restaurant. To my delight the four of us, namely my brother and his wife as well as Peter and I, ended up going there for lunch.

I ordered a vegetarian salad with pfifferlinges, a type of mushroom, which I like very much and never have a chance of eating in Australia. The salad arrived beautifully arranged with a sprinkling of daisies and cherry tomatoes.  The daisies were edible! This really made my day!

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