Archive | December, 2011

Christmas

17 Dec

Following is something I wrote in November 2007. It sounds like I could have written this today, only now I am four years older!


Time is running out . . . .

At age seventy-three, how much time do I have left? With every year time seems to be getting more precious. Whatever I still want to do in life, I should be doing it soon, very soon. There is no need to panic. It is just this feeling in me that I ought not to waste time; in other words, I should make the best use of it I possibly can. Making time for reflections as I do right now, I do not regard this as a waste of time. It nourishes my soul, it makes me look forward to spend the day in a productive way. There are the Christmas preparations to consider. How can I keep them to a minimum with that special Christmas Spirit in mind? Some spiritual songs usually help me along to get into the mood. Even in shopping centres the odd Christmas song can bring about temporary elation, a feeling of peace and comfort in a buzzing shopping centre! And even if this sort of mood happens only for brief moments while doing the shopping , it is still appreciated and helps to cope with the mad commercialism that surrounds us everywhere.

The special food at Christmas I like very much. On the other hand I hate it, if food is being wasted. I rather have not too much food of everything. How awful, if food has to be thrown out because we cannot keep it fresh enough in the Australian heat once it leaves the fridge. There may be one and a half dozen people at our family gathering. People bring food along. I would like to keep the food that I am going to provide to a strict minimum. Unfortunately I know already that this is an impossibility at Christmas time! I suppose I’ll just have to grin and bear it. I am determined to make the most of the Christmas Spirit where-ever I may come across it and enjoy the closeness of family and friends. Indeed I am looking forward to a Joyful and Happy Christmas. I did not always feel joyful and happy at Christmas time: There are some happy memories about Christmas, but there are also some very unhappy ones . . . . May the truly happy hours at Christmas time be plentiful and greatly outnumber the sad and lonely hours! This is what I wish for everyone.

Memories

17 Dec

Daddy’s Anger

My husband and I lived with our two babies at my father’s place. Our application to migrate to Australia had been successful and we were looking forward to soon be leaving old Germany. Since our fare to Australia was being paid for partly by the German government and partly by the Australian government, we had to pay only a minimal amount for the voyage. Even that was hard to come up with since we had absolutely no savings. So my father volunteered to help us out a bit.

As a matter of preparing for our departure, we were trying to get rid of a few things which we could not take along to Australia. We put an ad in the paper, thinking, if we could sell the baby cots and pram, it would mean an extra bit of money for us.

I had not anticipated my father’s reaction to this. My usually so placid and relaxed father blew his head, when he saw the ad. ‘Why didn’t you tell me, you needed more money?’ he screamed. ‘I would have given you more!’

‘Do you have no consideration at all for what people might think, when they realise, that my own daughter needs to sell things in order to acquire a bit of money? Don’t you think people might wonder why on earth I do not provide for my daughter? Have you thought about my reputation at all?’

‘People in my position normally hand those things over to charity. How dare you ask for money for anything like that!’ He just went on and on about it and got more and more excited. I started to get anxious the poor man might get a heart attack. My timid apologies did stay totally unnoticed until he had calmed down a bit. But once he had calmed down, the matter was forgotten. He never mentioned it again. And we never did sell any of the items. We just left everything behind in my father’s storeroom in the basement of the building where he lived.

Out of last Year’s Files

17 Dec

The following is an edited version of what I wrote about a year ago. I was reflecting on what Mum was like during my early childhood years. I was also reflecting on the way women and men communicate with each other.


MY MOTHER

Mum doted on me. I was her first born child. I am sure I got a lot of attention during the first years of my life, and not just from Mum, but also from her sister who had no children of her own. Later on I realised that my mother would very much have loved to have a daughter in her image. What a disappointment it must have been for her that I was in a lot of ways the exact opposite of her! I did not like to be a girl. Oh, I wished so much to have been a boy. Girlish things just did not interest me one bit!

On the ninth of June 1938, when I was not quite four yet, I was very excited about the arrival of a baby brother. Just two months after the birth of the baby Mum left us children in the care of our live-in home-help. Why did Mum leave? I remember a call from Mum’s sister who was holidaying in Westerland on the Island of Sylt. I imagine Aunty would have said something like this:

‘Please join me, I am so lonely on that island here, I don’t like to have to spend all the time with that pretentious mother-in-law. She watches me like a hawk! Please, please, come, spend some time with me. It would be so good to have you around here! We can have such a lovely time together. And listen, I’m going to pay for your airfare. You can stay in my room with me. Mother-in-law is in the connecting room.’

Mum promised her sister, she’d fly to Westerland the same day. She was quite excited about this. In her excitement she forgot to ring Dad’s office to let him know about her plans. Or did she deliberately not ring him because she sensed that he would have objections to her leaving like this while a two months old baby was depending on her? I remember when Dad came home he was furious when he found out that Mum had taken off to join her sister and left us children in the care of an eighteen year old home-help! I believe Mum stayed in Westerland for a whole week. When she returned, she talked excitedly about how she had been spending time with her sister in Westerland.  Come night-time they waited till Auntie’s mother-in-law was fast asleep, pretending they were going to sleep too. However as soon as they thought the old lady was fast asleep, they escaped through their bedroom window and went dancing. I remember seeing pictures of them that were taken on the dance-floor. They had already acquired a nice brown tan from having spent time on the beach. I remember looking at the photos and seeing how very brown their faces looked in sharp contrast to their white dresses. Two young marine officers, smartly dressed in their uniforms, could be seen with them. Later I found out, that one of the officers was Helmut Lorenz who six years later became Aunty’s second husband after her divorce from the first one. And the other officer was no other than Max Tomscick, who after the war became Mum’s friend and whom she would call ‘Bambie’.

I cannot recall that having to stay without Mum for a week did cause us any hardship. So the young home-help must have coped quite adequately. The baby was probably given formula. When Baby Brother was nearly a year old he developed a skin condition called ‘Milch-Schorf’. He was not allowed to drink milk then. When he was a bit older, he could drink milk again.

Mum’s third child, also a boy, was born during the war in 1941. We had a Polish maid at the time, who soon cared for the new baby as though he was her own.. She became his ‘Dada’. She was the main contact person for the first three years of his life. This second brother became a very happy and contented child, whereas the first brother was always highly sensitive and suffering from Asthma through most of his childhood. I think the first brother never had a close relationship with any of the various live in home-helps we used to have. I think he had a close relationship with me for the first few years of his life and later on with his brother. My father, when he was around, would pay a lot of attention to us children. But I suspect, this very sensitive brother did not get much womanly attention, Later on in life he failed to establish a long lasting relationship with a woman.

 

 

TALKING TO WOMEN AND TALKING TO MEN

Women talking to women is easy, uncomplicated; there is no pretence. The women are just being themselves. Unless of course one woman in the group happens to be very dominant with an abundance of male hormones. When there are several such women in the group, there may be constant fighting for dominant positions. As soon as a male person enters a women’s group, the mood in the group tends to change . . . .

My experience is, that I get on very well with women if the talk centres on womanly things. Of course women tend to discuss also certain male issues from a woman’s point of view. Which is fine with me, and I enjoy participating.

However I ask myself, why is it, that subjects, on which I have formed my own opinions, which are not necessarily mainstream, I rather discuss with a sympathetic man than with a woman? Somehow I get the feeling, it is easier to discuss such a subject with a man, if the man happens to be  interested in such a subject. I often get a better response to my ideas if I open up to a man.

Naturally the number of men who are interested in discussions about philosophical questions is limited. It would be a bliss for me, if I had opportunities to meet such men on a regular basis.

 

 

After the War (1945)

12 Dec

 

When the front in the east broke down, my father discharged his driver and he discharged himself. He ‘organized’ a bike for himself and started cycling towards Leipzig in civilian clothes.

 

 He arrived in Leipzig in the very early morning hours and went straight to Sophienstrasse, believing us to be there at grandma’s. What a fright he experienced, when he saw the bombed out place with a huge pile of debris, where the entrance should have been! He cried and cried, because he thought, we were all dead. It was still a bit dark and he could not see clearly. Next thing he thought, he ought to enquire at the police station, whether anyone in that cellar of Sophienstrasse 20 had survived the bombs.

 

To his relief he found out at the police station, that everyone in that cellar had survived! They were also able to provide him with our new address in Leipzig, which was the place of grandma’s sister. That meant he did not have far to go to find us. I remember, waking up that morning, where Mummy was already awake, sitting up and talking to Daddy, who sat at the end of the bed!

 

The Americans, including the Canadians, were still in Leipzig. I cannot remember, that there had been any fighting in the area before the Americans came. The Canadians I had seen first. They were all very tall, very slim looking guys, probably only around twenty years old. They moved through a neighbouring street in their jeeps. Some soldiers were walking close to the jeeps, extending cables along the road.

 

Some German civilians stood around, watching our ‘occupation force’; they were clearly amazed, how good-looking, fresh and young those soldiers appeared. They did their work in a non-hurried, casual way, here and there throwing some friendly glances towards young and old people, who stood watching them. To us, this meant, the war was over.

 

In this beautiful spring weather we could look hopefully to the future again. Since my grandmother’s old apartment had been destroyed by bombs, and since her family of seven needed accomodation, she was allocated an apartment after only a few weeks waiting time. The new apartment was in a different part of town, not so close to the city any more, but still close enough for walking to the city centre.

 

I cannot remember how all the furniture, which Grandma had saved from the ruins of her apartment, got to the new place at Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse. But I know for a fact, that every piece of furniture had been set up in the new place. The residential buildings were only on one side of Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse, the other side of the street was a nature strip along a canal.

 

We kids went for lots of walks with Dad along this beautiful nature strip during the upcoming summer months. As far as I remember Mum never came along for these walks.

 

In June 1945 the Russians replaced the American occupation force in Leipzig and the Americans moved to Berlin. It so happened that our apartment in Berlin was from then on in the American Sector of Berlin!

 

What sticks to my memory is how contingents of Russian soldiers marched through the streets of Leipzig, singing loudly. The had marvellous voices!

Reflections

11 Dec

Post W W  II

I am thinking back to what our education was like in Germany after WW II. We had hardly any school books. For a long time very few new books could be printed because of shortages due to the war. The stock of books in school libraries was also very limited.

A lot of the teachers did not return from the war or had not been trained adequately because of the war. The majority of our teachers were women teachers. I remember however two very ancient male teachers: They were most likely in their seventies. Modern history lessons were not allowed to be taught. We dwelled on ancient history, however no books on that subject were available. We were also taught physics and chemistry without having access to any books. Biology? Yes , it was taught, but again no books what so ever. As I remember, there were a few basic books for English, French and Latin from the school library.

What puzzles me now, is how in the whole of Germany there was a totally anti-militaristic mood. Germans had had absolutely enough of all the fighting. Germans were longing for peace and prosperity. Nobody wanted to experience any war activities ever again! War toys for children were forbidden. No German child in those days was encouraged to play war games, and the children who had seen with their own eyes what war was like, did not long to play with toy guns and the like.

Is this, how Germans prospered soon after the war, by neglecting to spend any energy on the build-up of war-machines as well as armies? As we know, the East German Republic went a rather different way and did not prosper the way the West German Republic prospered. Now I am asking myself, why spend huge amounts of money on the build-up of war-machines and armies? Should not an adequate police force be sufficient for every country? But here we are. The sale of weapons is as good a business as ever. Even ‘weapons of mass destruction’ are still being produced. And we have no guarantee that there is adequate control over who can use them at what time and under which circumstances. Why contemplate using them at all? I do not understand. Why build them? It does not make any sense to me.

When I was a teenager in postwar Germany, America stood for FREEDOM and Prosperity. We did not see the USA as a country who would need to fight wars. Why has the picture changed so much? Who’s fault is it? As a teenager in potwar Germany I and my whole family were desperately poor. But I believed in the good of people. I believed that people could live peacefully together, that people did not need to fight wars, that people could prosper. Somehow I still wish to believe all this despite the reality that tells me, people are a long way from achieving this kind of peace all over the world.

In Love with Leipzig

10 Dec

I found an interesting contribution about the German city of Leipzig.

http://blog.goethe.de/meet-the-germans/archives/179-In-Love-with-Leipzig.html

As a ten and eleven year old in 1945/46 I did get to know a bit about this city. Sure, when we first moved there to stay at grandmother’s place, the war hadn’t finished yet and we experienced quite a few bomb raids.

As I told in another blog, one bomb raid in April 1945 turned out to be disastrous for us. This was probably the very last bomb raid that Leipzig had to endure, because soon after the American troops together with some Canadians occupied the city. When the Canadians moved through neighbouring streets to lay out some cables, we kids were watching them. We were impressed by their appearance. They were all very young looking, tall and lean in immaculate uniforms. We welcomed the foreign troops.Them being with us meant, we wouldn’t be bombed any more. From now on we could sleep in peace!

We were a family of six. Having lost our home in the bomb raid, we applied for accomodation for our family. We were given a flat in an area where the buildings weren’t damaged at all. Our flat had three rooms plus kitchen and bathroom. Had grandmother been just with Renata, the two of them had not been able to get a flat of this size. Only families of five or more were assigned accomodation with so many rooms! So we were lucky again.

About Leipzig I remember the ‘Ratskeller’, where we had a few times a lovely meal. I always thought it was something special to eat out somewhere. But I loved Grandma’s cooking too. She always like magic produced excellent meals even when there was not much food available. She was a great one for improvising. And never ever was any bit of food thrown out. She always pointed out to us, to throw away good food, was a sin. This kind of thinking still sticks with me today!

I also  remember the Thomaner Church in Leipzig and the Thomaner Choir. I believe the journalist who wrote the blog about present day Leipzig is from England and lives in Berlin now. He went for a visit to Leipzig and ended up loving this city. If ever I have a chance to visit Germany again, I plan on paying Leipzig a visit together with Peter, my husband, and Peter, my brother. If you are interested in finding out more about Leipzig, please look up the above link.

OUR LUCKY ESCAPE

8 Dec

OUR LUCKY ESCAPE

Some of my children know a bit about our lucky escape in 1945. In case they want to find out a bit more about it, I am now trying to write down whatever I do remember.

During the last war years we had stayed away from Berlin, living east of Berlin in a desolate country area. With the Russians fast approaching at the beginning of 1945, my mother decided, we would move to grandmother’s place in Leipzig, rather than go back to Berlin to our apartment which we still rented. We children were never allowed to visit Berlin during the years of the bomb raids.

From the beginning of February 1945 my mother, my two brothers and I stayed in Leipzig with grandmother and cousin Renata. As I remember it, there were frequent bomb raids. We were used to the sound of the sirens and having to stay in the cellar for hours at a time.

After Christmas, schools had not opened any more. We played a lot in the surrounding streets with other children. But we were never allowed to stroll very far. In case of an alarm , we had to be within the vicinity of our cellar. For us children this was just part of every day life. My brothers were three and six years, I was ten years old. The winter was very cold, but we still had enough to eat, were dressed warmly. In the kitchen there was always a fire going in the oven for cooking and for hot water. In the bedrooms we had enormous feather-beds to keep us warm.

There was talking about that this bloody war was soon to end. We sure were looking forward to this! I cannot remember ever having been scared or thinking that anything bad could happen to me. Or to my family. To us children it seemed rather entertaining to be sitting in the air-raid shelter. Many people congregating as soon as the sirens went off, was extremely exciting! We did get to know everyone, who lived in that tall five story building. The adults would talk to us children, asking us questions, just being friendly.

And we would listen to the adults talking to each other. I remember that I always found it interesting to listen to adult conversations. And sometimes all of us would sing a few songs. I loved the singing of songs! When we could hear bombs hitting somewhere in the neighbourhood, it never seemed very close to us. This meant we were all right. Often my three year old brother entertained everyone by singing solo. They were cute little children’s songs. People always encouraged him to sing more songs because they loved his singing.

In April there was another bomb-raid. We had a relaxing time with everybody in the cellar. It was a long lasting alarm, went on for hours. Since it was in the middle of the night, mum wanted us to go to sleep. We were able to stretch out a bit on our makeshift beds. But I don’t think we were able to go to sleep that night. My brother Peter was still singing his songs when several bombs hit us. This time there could be no doubt that the bombs had fallen right on top of us since the noise was absolutely deafening! My six year old brother Bodo started crying. I felt so sorry for him. It was terrible seeing him being so horribly scared. I said to him he needn’t be afraid. Soon everything would be over.

I was right. It did not take long at all. All of a sudden, it was very quiet. Then some people started moving, investigating, whether we could still get out. Our main exit was full of debris. Impossible to get out there. There was a bricked-in escape to the cellar of the next door building. To make use of this escape, quite a few bricks would have to be dislodged. Then someone shouted that the window, that led from the cellar to the footpath in one of the adjoining cellar-rooms, was not blocked. It was easy, to get out through there!

A sigh of relief went through the crowd. My brother Bodo was not scared any more either. My brother Peter had never been scared at all. People said, this was because he had still been too little to understand. Later on, we found, that the building had been hit by up to five bombs. Right to the ground-floor,  everything had been torn away. Miraculously, a lot of the ground-floor was still standing. This was my grandmother’s apartment! My grandmother was able to save some of her furniture together with all our belongings. A lucky escape indeed.

                     

                     

 

A Lucky Escape

6 Dec


My Family’s Reaction

After reading my account regarding the lucky escape from the bombs in 1945, two of my grand-children had a few questions. One asked, whether there had been a lot of noise, when the bombs came down, the other one wanted to know, which song little Peter had been singing, when we were bombed. And had the lights gone off?
Well, we always had some candles handy, in case the lights would go out. On this occasion for sure the lights all went out instantly. The noise was horrifying as the bombs hit us. It was such a terrific noise  that nobody could be in any doubt, our house had been hit this time. In the quiet that followed and before people started to move around to look for an escape, they did light a few candles.
Five bombs  had hit our building in quick succession. Immediately afterwards it was absolutely quiet. That meant, there were no more planes in the air. What if the last plane, that was around, just had to get rid of the last five bombs before flying back to follow  the other planes who were on their way back already?
As far as little Peter’s song is concerned, I think it was probably the song about little Jack who wanders off into the world and his tearful mother stays behind. After seven years the boy thinks of his mother and very quickly runs back home.

 For people who can read a bit of German,  here is the text
for the song about little Jack (Haenschen Klein):

 Haenschen Klein, geht allein, in die weite Welt hinein.
Stock und Hut stehn ihm gut, er ist wohlgemut.
Aber Mama weinet sehr, hat ja nun kein Haenschen mehr.
Wuensch dir Glueck, sagt ihr Blick, kehr nur bald zurueck.

 Sieben Jahr,  frisch und klar, Haenschen in der Fremde war.
Da besinnt sich das Kind, kehrt nach Haus geschwind.

              Five Bombs have to be dropped

“Damned, the chute is jammed!”
“Hurry up,  hurry up, we must go back!”

Finally the bombs are released: All five of them are dropped close together  in a residential area. The plane with three men on board  follows the other planes.  It is April 1945. Today most bombers make  it safely back to England. It is their lucky day.
The five bombs hit a house in Sophien Strasse in Leipzig. They ripped apart a solidly built five story residential building.The whole building is completely gone, except for the groundfloor: Bits and pieces of the ground-floor are still standing! Even some completely undamaged furniture can be seen somewhere on the ground-floor.

The rest is just loads of rubble near the road in the front and also in the back.  Where the entrance to the building used to be, there is just an immense heap of debris. It looks like nobody would have come out from under there, if this is where the entrance to the people’s air-raid shelter had been.

Miraculously everyone did come out from under all that debris. The cellar-rooms were not damaged at all. One of the cellar-rooms had a window out to the street, which was not blocked at all and people were able to get out through there.

A lucky escape indeed.

Thirty-three Years ago

6 Dec

This week we’re going to celebrate our youngest daughter’s birthday: She’ll turn 33 on Friday. Yesterday another daughter of ours turned 53!

Here is a picture of our lovely baby with me at North Wollongong Beach.

I am 44 in this photo. I think our dog was already 13  or 14 years at the time.

Uta’s Diary

5 Dec

5th of December, our second daughter’s birthday; the youngest daughter’s birthday is coming up in four days. The two girls are exactly twenty years apart!

Tomorrow, Tuesday, is Thai Yoga for beginners with Chaija Noradechanunt from the University of Wollongong. In the pamphlet it says:

‘Enjoy stretches, breathing work and relaxation practices in a women only place.’

On Tuesday, the 13th December, is going to be the last class for this year.

I like these Thai Yoga classes. I hope they’re going to continue next year. For the Thai Yoga I go to Coniston, which is two trainstops away from where I live.  The Older Women’s Network hire the Community Hall in Coniston for these classes. They say:

‘You’re in good company with Illawarra OWN Wellness Centre. What is a Wellness Centre?

A Wellness Centre provides older women with a different model of health and wellbeing. We offer a holistic approach to improving and maintaining health and coping with illness by providing a variety of choices for healthy living. The Wellness Centre provides an informal, friendly and supportive environment.

We are committed to:

.  Flexible, “drop in” attendance

.  Learning from each other, as well as from health professionals

.  Consumer involvement & participation

‘Social isolation is a threat to the well being and health of us all. As women tend to live longer than men, they are more likely to feel isolated. Being on a limited income further restricts many people and decreases our ability to lead full and productive lives. To enjoy healthy senior years our minds and bodies need to be active and we need to do all we can to ensure we foster a willingness to stay well by keeping active.

An older woman is generally considered to be 50 years and over. Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women aged 45 Years and over. All are welcome at the Wellnes Centre.’

Thursdays I usually go to a class here in Dapto. It’s a gentle exercise class with Marta Venegas. This class is to improve core strength and balance. I  like these classes. Marta always brings stimulating music along. She sees to it that we keep up with a bit of dancing and also some more serious fitness training. Some of the exercises can be done sitting or standing. This class is breaking up next week. The break lasts to the beginning of February! I must aim at going to the swimming pool more often to maintain some kind of fitness.

My laptop is playing up sometimes. I think I need to take it for another service.

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