Although we did not like to eat in the crowded and noisy dining hall, my brother and I adjusted quickly to our new life in the camp. I, in particular, was a very picky eater and often felt nauseous just from the food odours permeating the building. My father had experienced extreme hunger as a POW. Therefore, he had no sympathy for me and would get very upset and angry when I refused to eat certain foods or left something on my plate. Eventually, my mother would feed us separately at different times so my dad could enjoy his meals without stress.
After a long break in Dortmund, my brother and I could go to school again right at our camp. Makeshift classrooms were set up in one large lecture and meeting hall. We sat at round tables, which was a nice break from individual desks. I always loved school and even enjoyed homework. Since one teacher instructed us in a multigrade setting, we often had to work independently. Math problems were my favourites because we could read or draw when they were completed. I would always draw beautiful princesses in elegant dresses.
I remember the day I received my first report card. My brother and our friends walked across the big courtyard back to the living quarters. All of a sudden, we were stopped by a stranger. “Well,” he asked, “who of you children received the best report card today?” Immediately some of our friends pointed at my brother, some at me and some at another boy. “Let me see your report cards,” the man demanded. Timidly we handed them to him. After studying them for a while, he handed them back except mine. “You have the best,” he said, “congratulations, you deserve a reward.” He reached into his wallet and gave me some money, about $5.00. I was so stunned that I could barely say thank you. I had never had so much money before. My dad was so proud to hear the story that he matched the stranger’s reward.
Canadian white violets (Viola canadensis) are growing among the regular ones in our backyard. They are tiny and delicate flowers. You need to lie down on your belly to photograph them properly and make their inner splendour visible. The pine cone in the second picture was a pretty addition to complement the violet’s beauty. My wife and I are happy to see them grow in abundance as soon as winter has loosened its grip. Enjoy!
My mother was distraught after our first night in the crowded dormitory shared with twelve strangers and other strangers passing through our room from the adjacent sickroom. She feared for our health and well-being due to the proximity of the contagious people who had to pass frequently through our door to visit the facilities or other places in the building.
After my mother voiced her concerns to the management, we were assigned to a small private room furnished with two metal bunk beds, a table with four chairs and a small wardrobe. Although this room was smaller than my father’s study in Gotha, we felt happy to have more privacy. We still had to share our door to the hallway with the occupants of the neighbouring room; a young widow and her two children. Her son was five years older than my brother and me, while her daughter was two years younger than us. But despite the age difference, we became good friends.
Rainer and Gabi’s mom always looked glamorous. She dressed like a film star. I knew what film stars looked like from pictures of American actors and actresses in the packages of chewing gum. I started collecting those pictures when staying with our friends in Dortmund. When I commented on her mom’s clothes to Gabi, she told me her mother’s secret. Her mom had found a way to contact actors’ fan clubs in the United States. She would tell them about her plight as a widowed refugee asking for charitable donations. She would receive big parcels with the most fashionable, expensive outfits, shoes and accessories, often only worn a few times by her idols. Gabi’s brother Rainer went to the Merchant Marine Corps as a cadet after he turned 14 years old and had passed grade 8. He brought me a beautiful scarf from one of his training sessions in Hamburg, the biggest harbour in Germany. My mom proudly displayed it on the wall, as you can see in the picture. I admired and adored Rainer. He would be travelling to many of the places my dad had shown us on the world map.
The last remnants of snow in the shadowed places have melted away. The grass is green, and the trees slowly but surely have begun to leaf. On a recent walk over the picturesque Fauquier golf course, I captured the following three signs of Spring. Enjoy!
Happy to be reunited with our beloved parents, we had to say goodbye to our new friends in Dortmund. Our parents told us that we would not go back home to Gotha for a long, long time until the two separated Germanys would be reunited again. First, we would have to live in a refugee camp for some time until we would hopefully find a new home in the Rhineland region where my mother was born. After the destruction caused by the war and the rapid immigration of refugees from the East, housing was in short supply. There was a construction frenzy all over West Germany to keep up with the urgent demand for housing. People had to live in temporary shelters often for an extended period.
We were assigned to live in a refugee camp in Lower Saxony. Abandoned military barracks were converted into a refugy camp in Sandhorst, a small community close to Aurich, a quaint small town. This camp could house thousands of refugees. The buildings looked bright and clean. Lots of green spaces surrounded them. Meadows and lush pastures stretched to the endless horizon on this flat landscape. We were assigned to a room with six bunk beds. Three other families shared the room with us. A door led to another room about the same size as our dormitory. Occupants of that adjacent room shared our entry to the hallway. Thus there was much traffic through our room, and there was little privacy. We were told that we should avoid close contact with the people in the neighbouring room because they had a very contagious disease. I noticed that my mother looked quite shocked when she heard that. However, my brother and I were very excited about the prospect of sleeping on the upper bunk beds.
After we stored our small suitcases under our beds, the camp attendant led us to a big hall lined with multiple long racks of clothing of all sizes. American charities and other organizations donated them, and people from all over the world. We were invited to pick some clothing we needed and liked. That was exciting for me because I had never had the opportunity to choose a dress on my own. I had always worn hand-me-downs sent from my mom’s distant relatives. I picked a dress, which the attending lady told us was donated by a family from South Africa. I loved the dress and imagined a girl like me having worn it in a faraway place. The kind lady invited us to pose in our newly chosen clothes for a photo out on the lawn in the mild spring air. We all looked happy in this rare family picture, the first in the “Golden West.”
Last week I posted five images that I had taken of ice-free Heart Creek, which I interpreted as a sure sign of spring for our northern latitude. I experimented with long and short exposure times to show the different effects by creating the impression of flowing and ‘frozen’ water. These photos were generally well received by my blogging friends. Linda wrote in her comment that whenever she sees water in motion, she likes to hear the relaxing sound that goes together with a murmuring brook. I felt the same and so I went back to Heart Creek and shot the following video. Enjoy!