I was so touched by Steve’s father’s poetic essay that I decided to reblog it. What his father said about the Soviet dictatorship that his family could escape from can be equally applied to the Nazi regime. The world is still amazed how it was possible that Germany, which produced Goethe, Schiller, Lessing, Bach, Schweitzer etc. etc., could turn into such a monstrous country. ‘Lilacs’ is a beautiful piece of writing. I read it to my wife, who was also deeply touched by it.

Portraits of Wildflowers

In 1912 my father, Jack (Jacob) Schwartzman, was born in Vinnytsia, a town then under Russian control in the part of eastern Europe that is now Ukraine. In the 1920s his family escaped from the tyranny of the Soviet Union and came to America to be free. Upon his arrival here he spoke Russian but not a word of English. He learned quickly and soon became a craftsman of his new language.

The tyranny now engulfing Ukraine makes this a right moment for a poetic essay that my father published in the spring of 1966, when we weren’t even half-way through the original Cold War. Now that we’ve entered a second one, the essay is as timely as it was 56 years ago. Feel free to repost this in a spirit of solidarity.

 Solomon and Anna Schwartzman in eastern Europe in 1923
with their younger son Isidore and older…

View original post 930 more words

New Theme New Look

In the shortest post since this blog’s beginning, I ask you, my dear readers, to evaluate the appearance of the various elements, such as the title, main photo for the header etc. If you have little time to write a comment, please indicate your impression on a scale of 1 to 10. Thank you! Did you notice that WordPress offers fewer themes than a few years ago? They tell me that the reduction has to do with the new block editing. Too bad!

Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch5 Part 16

A Happy Childhood in a Time of Fear and Oppression

While my parents increasingly suffered under the oppressive political system, my brother and I experienced a happy childhood. We were oblivious to the hardships my parents had to endure. My mother had to struggle every day to provide food and other necessities.

The Three Panknin Children

Even essential food items such as butter, flour, sugar, meat and cheese were scarce, and there were long lineups at the grocery stores every day for the limited supplies. Luxury items such as coffee, cocoa, chocolate, citrus fruit and cigarettes were hardly ever available. Ironically, the most coveted things for many people were cigarettes and coffee.

Food was scarce, but basically, everything from clothing to building materials was in short supply or unavailable. Regular planned outages rationed even electric power. While West Germany had a rapid economic boom after the war, East Germany had an economic decline. People in the East were angry and upset that they had to struggle for survival under a totalitarian system while their brothers and sisters in the West were enjoying freedom and prosperity. If people complained or criticized the system, they could be “denounced” to the authorities and severely punished. People could no longer trust each other. For many demoralized people in the East, West Germany became the “Promised Land,” They started calling it the Golden West. Significant numbers of desperate people escaped to the West, risking their lives and giving up all their material possessions in the pursuit of freedom and happiness. There wasn’t much that West German people could do to help their friends and relatives across the border.

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lakes

Wednesday’s Photos

Bizarre Shapes at the Lakeshore

On February 15, as a belated Valentine’s gift by Mother Nature, a cloudless, deep-blue sky invited us to a photo session at the Fauquier boat dock. Odd shapes and colour combinations waited to be discovered and captured by the elderly but sprightly Fauquier couple. Multi-coloured pebbles, tubular-shaped lichen, moss already stirring in the crisp February air, and some strange-looking dried plant sticking up its head against the blue sky. Enjoy!

Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch5 Part 15

Scarlet Fever and Diphtheria

Biene contributed this post.

 Shortly before we started school, my brother and I fell ill with scarlet fever, a severe disease at that time, often leading to death. We were hospitalized. It was a very traumatic time for us. Missing my mother was almost more agonizing for me than the pain and the fever of this savage disease. My brother was far worse off than I was and was put in an isolation chamber partitioned from the ward by glass walls. I often saw doctors and nurses bend over him with serious expressions on their faces.

Our Home in Gotha

My mother knew how distressed we were. During the day and even at night, she would race on her bike to the hospital. She would find ways to sneak into our ward and comfort us, disregarding strict visitor regulations until she was asked to leave. My bed was close to a window. I would often stare out onto the street in the hope to spot my mother in the distance on her bike.

Antibiotics were very scarce in East Germany. Even in the West, there was only a limited supply because of the recent war. My brother was at the point of death when a desperate doctor asked my mother if she had relatives in West Germany. He suggested to phone them and ask for antibiotics to be sent to the hospital. He helped my mother contact her aunt via his private phone and make arrangements with a doctor in the West. Making these calls was a risky undertaking because contact with the West was considered a severe offence. Miraculously the mission was successful.

When the antibiotics finally arrived, I was already on the road to recovery. However, for my brother, they came just in the nick of time. He was saved from death but suffered from a weakened heart for the rest of his life. Shortly after we recovered, my newlywed sister and husband came down with a severe case of diphtheria, from which they took a long time to recover. They were in quarantine for many weeks, and my parents had to look after their infant son during that time.

Looking back now, I wonder how my parents coped with all these extreme hardships. As my mother often told us, my brother and I were the reason why they never despaired or gave up. We were their pride and joy. Trying to raise us for a better future gave them strength and hope. Especially my mother was prepared to sacrifice anything for our well-being and prospects for a happy future. Without personal freedom, these prospects were compromised. My parents felt increasingly oppressed by the totalitarian state.

Natural Splendour of the Arrow Lakes

Wednesday’s Photos

Igniting the Imagination

Winter will be around for a little while. As long as sunshine is illuminating the landscape, we do not mind. It is preferable to mild, but rainy, foggy weather. Today’s photos focus again on the bizarre shapes that the roots form in a snowy setting. I find it intriguing that snow can take on so many different tones, ranging from brilliant white to dark blue. I made the same observation with ice. To get that effect, the sky does not need to be blue. Enjoy!