I had been meaning to write a post about the chapstick I made, but that will have to wait another day. I spent sunday afternoon at my grandmother’s with my mother (her former daughter-in-law).
My mom had just returned from a trip to Poland, where she had searched for the property her father had owned before WWII. Both her parents are from regions that fell to Poland after the war. Both her parents died young, so she never had the chance to know much about them or their extended families and was left all alone at a very young age.
A couple of years ago she went searching for her mother’s family’s place in Poland also. She had nothing to go by but a couple of postcards and photos from the 1940’s, but she asked her way through the region, finding the village and the houses she looked for. All throughout her trip the polish people were incredibly kind and helpful. She was pointed to an old farmer who spoke german and who lived right next door to the house her mother’s family had owned. And here comes the incredible part: the old farmer handed her a business card that someone had left with him years ago. It was from a cousin my mom had never known, who had come to search for the place also and, knowing there should be family somewhere he didn’t know, left it there for them to find, should they ever come there.
My mom called him and visited him in Berlin and through him, was able to find out more about her family. He had been a young boy when they had to flee from their homes at the end of the war (before my mother was born in western Germany). He had a baby sister and a brother. They fled with their parents and my mother’s family (her older sister, mother, aunt and grandmother) but everywhere they went the Russians had already come. My mother’s family went back but the cousin’s family went on. Along the way they were discovered and the father was led into the woods and shot. The mother in a panic then fled back home with the three children, losing all their possessions along the way. Soon however that village was also invaded, and the mother was raped and shot in their home. The three children were then left all alone and fled west with a trek of people. They reached Berlin, where their baby sister was kidnapped by one of the women in the trek and they were only able to locate her a couple of years later. They had lost contact with my mother’s family, who later fled to a different part of Germany.
Why do I write this? Partly because I can’t get it out of my head and partly because I think stories like this remind us, with our often petty little problems, how damn lucky we are to live in the times we live in, free and fed and warm. And that there are people out there who aren’t so lucky today.