|Grandpa Walter in front of his garden hut. His garden was always well stocked with vegetables, fruit and flowers.|
During my 28 years on this planet I've already lost quite a bunch of people I've loved. Not just the "we didn't stay in touch" or the "she treated me kind of bad and that's why I ended our friendship" kind of losing either. (Sadly, that has happened, too.)
No - death seems to be an old acquaintance by now, even though you never get used to this fellow. When I was not yet four my real father died of diabetes, wrong lifestyle and the bitterness of living on the wrong side of the Wall. His heart just stopped one winter day in January of 1987. The year that followed must have been the hardest my mother ever had to endure. I don't remember much, but I tried to cheer her up and drew many black princesses. (So much to the theory that little children don't get the meaning of death.) In 1988 I got a new dad (and was very proud of that, too. I bragged in kindergarden.) and he is my father to this day. Yes, we've been lucky that way. Still, there is an amount of sadness left in me as I will never know my real father. Can't even remember him. But more on him later.
It isn't a big surprise that my grandparents, who had lost their only son at such a young age, would set their hearts on my well being. My mother worked very hard as a taylor as long as the GDR persisted and she dropped me off at my grandparents house every other day or so. My grandparents were already over 70 at that time and they died both at age 86 in 1997 and 1998. I loved them. I still do. And I miss them very much. Grandma Ida was such a good hearted person - her warmth and gentleness have become legend in my family. She also cooked splendid meals.
My grandpa Walter was very inventive. He could make almost anything out of scraps of metal or just out of plain trash. Remember: There was never much available in the GDR.
I was a total grandpa-kid. And he taught me a lot about nature and being smart. Even though he was hard working and very popular in his community, he never owned much and was never sad about this. He was from Dresden, where he was born in 1911. He lived the life the famous German author Erich Kästner describes in his childhood memoirs: living a life on almost nothing - in the back of huge apartment houses. His father fell in the first World War - I don't know where and when. (I did some research and his family name isn't that common. I found four people, whose names could match. The fell on the western front in France.) My family doesn't know much about his mother either. She died, when my grandpa was still young. My mom told me the story that a German shepherd dog ran down the stairs in their big apartment house and took her down with him. She fell so badly that she died.
My grandpa came to Thuringia in our little town, where a famous orphanage existed. (To this day.) But you know how it was in those days (the 1920s): the children had to help making hay and do all sorts of farm work. A local family (existing to this day, too) became his patrons, but they obviously made him work even more. He never really forgave them, I think.
I think he learned to become a mechanic, but I'm not sure. Eventually there was war again and he was off to the Eastern front. A girl from the then- eastern German parts (nowadays Poland) was made to write him as an encouragement (quite common during war times). They liked each other and met, when he was on front vacation. It was love at (nearly) first sight and they wed soon after. (He had to tramp from Greece to the wedding and missed it by a week's time.)
Other than that - there never was much talk about the war. And I was far too young to pay attention to it anyway (which makes me sad today).
My grandma had to flee as part of one of the great treks from Poland - very pregnant. They met again in my little hometown and lived in a little apartment in the house, that later became my home, too. (But now we own the house. My grandparents had to pay rent.) Money was always scarce. In those days one could go to a grocers (who knew you anyway, because the town was so tiny) and he would be willing to give you credit if you hadn't any money left. Obviously, if you got your paycheck the next month, you had to pay off those credits first. And again there would be too much month left, while the money was already gone. Soon, they had two daughters (my aunts) to care for, and life wasn't getting easier.
I don't know much more about the times between those early 1950s and the late 1980s when I got to know them, but I inherited quite a bunch of pictures, of which I'll show you some.
Please be aware once again, that these pictures belong to me (well, nowadays anyway)! I am well aware that they actually might have some historical value as some of them depict everyday life in a closed off social communist society. And sorry, my scanner is kind of old.