How I Lost my “Lust for Life”


Our family including my uncle and aunt spent the summer of 1963 at Lake Ammer in Bavaria, southern Germany.  Lake Ammer is the sixth largest lake in Germany.  Since sailing is a popular sport there our father equipped our fold boat with sails.    Our boat resembled a light weight canoe which could be folded up.


My twin brother was excited by the prospect of  easy sailing instead of strenuous paddling. Boats of any kind were his passion.  And he was already a very skilled model boat builder. He loved sail boats in particular.  The previous summer he had learned to sail with a friend on the island of Corsica.



The weather was beautiful that summer at Lake Ammer.   For the first few days of our stay the lake was still and calm like a mirror under a cloudless sky.  I enjoyed the wonderful sandy beach. When I was not swimming or sun bathing, I would sit under a shade tree and  read the interesting biographical novel  “Lust for Life” by Irving Stone.  A great read which is based on Vincent Van Gogh’s turbulent life. Vincent Van Gogh was and still is  my favorite painter.

Van Gogh

My brother was a bit disappointed that he had not been able to go sailing yet. However, that was to change on the first weekend.   On a beautiful Sunday morning , Walter and I went very early to the beach. Our parents had gone on a short excursion by themselves.  I was absorbed by my novel, when my brother suddenly called me.  Looking up from my book I noticed lots of  boats sailing gracefully close to shore on the white-capped lake. Sitting in a secluded and sheltered spot I had been protected from the wind.   “Biene, do you see all those sail boats?”  my brother shouted excitedly. “Let’s go and try ours.” Suddenly a cool breeze was blowing through my hair.  It wasn’t very often that my brother invited me to participate in his fun activities.  I quickly grabbed my towel wrapped it around my book and followed him to the water where our boat was anchored.


Walter expertly got everything  ready for our first sailing adventure. To try it out,  we first sailed fairly close to shore like the real sail boats in the distance.  It was exhilarating to speed effortlessly through the waves.  My brother felt like a captain in command.  He would tell me to shift my weight occasionally from side to side. I obediently followed his commands.  Normally we would argue about everything.  But I had never sailed before.   Imperceptibly, the wind was getting stronger and the waves higher.  We were ecstatic!  This was fun!   Lots of other boats were sailing ahead of us along the coast line.  Suddenly my brother suggested, “Why don’t we try to cross the lake?  We have never been to the other side.  At this speed we’ll be there in no time.”   I had no objections. I loved adventures and was curious to explore the other shore.


In no time we reached the middle of the lake.  “Strange”,  I suddenly thought,  “there are no other boats here. Why do they  keep on sailing parallel to shore?”  I tried to  gently shift my weight to look back to our now distant beach. Suddenly there was a strong gust of wind billowing our sails.  My brother frantically tried to maneuver the sails.  “Sit on the edge of the boat, quick! ” he commanded sternly looking worried.  Although I had reservations, I did not dare to voice an objection. I quickly lifted myself up to sit on the narrow rim of the boat,  when the wind shifted again without warning. Then  everything  happened like in slow motion.

I see the look of horror in my brother’s face while I am gently tilted backwards into the water with the  white fluttering sails tipping in my direction. I am sinking deep down into the cold water.  When I finally surface I see my brother beside the capsized boat looking shocked and angry.  My first reaction is a fit of hysterical laughter.  “What happened?” I stupidly ask while trying to catch my breath.  It all seems so unreal.  “Stop laughing!” my brother yells holding on to the overturned boat. When he tells me to cry for help I am racked by another fit of laughter.  “Why don’t you?” I manage to  reply.  “We’ll swim to shore”,  I suggest.  I am a strong swimmer with lots of stamina. Almost beside himself my brother shouts back, “Never!!! We have to stay with the boat”  Slowly I am regaining my sanity.  I am looking around trying to assess the situation.  We are  in the middle of the lake far from either shore.  The waves are high. The water is churned up and cold.  We don’t have life vests. There are no boats in sight except the sailing boats looking like miniature toys  in the far distance.  Suddenly panic seizes me.


Our desperate attempts to right the boat fail.  The weight of the water-logged sails is beyond our strength.  One of our paddles float away on the waves.  My brother does not allow me to retrieve it.  We  continue to cling on to the boat bobbing in the waves.   occasionally crying out for help which we realize is useless.  Nobody can hear us.  Time seems to stand still like in a bad dream.  Increasing panic is gripping my heart when I look at my brother’s white horrified face.  In my heart I keep on stammering,  “Please, God help us, please, dear God help us….”.   Almost paralyzed by augmenting fear we suddenly see a big motor boat approaching. Almost instantly our fear turns into joy.  Help is on the way!!!!   But our relief and joy are short lived.  The big motorized yacht moves by us at great speed without stopping.  Didn’t they see us?  The waves are high and our overturned boat is blue.  They must have missed us. This time our desperation is almost overwhelming.   What shall we do?  What can we do?


Numbed by cold and fear I am unable to make a decision. I am worried about my brother who  looks ghastly white and is very quiet.  After what seems like an eternity, we see another (or is it the same?} boat approaching from the direction it had vanished.  A small flicker of hope revives us enough to start screaming on the top of our lungs for help. The big boat slowly approaches and then starts circling us. It stops!  Two men climb down a ladder and grab our hands to pull us out of the water onto the deck. Two ladies wrap us in blankets and help us move into a cozy cabin to warm up and rest  while the two men manage to retrieve our boat from the lake.

Our rescuers were American tourists who had initially not seen us in the water.  One of the men, however, had spotted our paddle floating on the water.  This miraculously  prompted their search for us.  Apparently we were hardly visible in the high waves and they had almost missed us again.

Luckily our parents only found out about our near drowning after we were rescued and safely returned to them. Contrary to our expectations our father did not scold us or get upset over the loss of equipment and damage to the boat.  He loved adventures and was happy and proud that we survived. He commended us for staying with the boat and not try to swim ashore.

And I did not lose my “lust for life”  at the bottom of the lake. I only lost the book which is easily replaceable. Thanks to God  who miraculously saved us for our next adventure in the mountains,43

New Year’s Eve with Anna Karenina (1960)

Dear friends,

Christmas is approaching fast and as it often happens I am far behind with my preparations.  However, I do not want to disappoint you and take another break from writing. After all, I just recently got back into the routine.

As I indicated before, my teenage years were not always easy and happy for me and very trying for my parents as well.  In spite of my good friends, I often felt isolated, alone and confused.  I wanted to experience life more fully than i was allowed to by my restrictive parents.  Often I withdrew for long periods of time into the world of literature.   Thus I experienced life and love vicariously.

When I was about 15 years old, i discovered the Russian classical authors, especially Dostojevsky and Tolstoy.  Their voluminous novels were right for my taste.  The longer the better.  I would immerse myself into the fictional worlds and  hated to come back to my reality.

New Year’s eve 1960 was a dreary dark day.  My parents had invited some friends to celebrate with  us, but many had to decline because of the flue going around.  My mother had worked very hard to prepare for a cheery and festive night, but I was in  a gloomy mood.  There were no young people only friends of my parents and towards the end of the party my brother, who had celebrated with his buddies.

I felt depressed.  Life was passing me by I thought.   After spending some obligatory time with my parents and their company I withdrew into my room with the excuse that I was not feeling well.  My mother knew that my time of the month was coming up and let me go without major protest.

Wrapped in a warm and cozy blanket I sat in my easy chair trying to uplift  my spirits with some fancy chocolates, which one of the kind guests had brought for me. Then I started reading Leo Tolstoy’s novel Anna Karenina and didn’t stop reading until way into the New Year when all the guests had left and my family was fast asleep. Needless to say, Anna Karenina’s life and tragic end affected me very much.  For a long time I felt caught in the restrictive webs of fate like Anna….but by the grace of God I did not succumb, but was able to get free and find the love and life I always longed for like Kitty and Levin in the novel.

Anna Karenina

Many years later I took a course on Russian literature at the University of Waterloo and wrote this book review.  My professor was impressed by my insights and rewarded my efforts with an A+.  Hope you give my a good grade as well.


Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Most readers will agree that Tolstoy*s Anna Karenina is a masterpiece of world literature. In this novel Tolstoy is able to express with amazing simplicity, what is seemingly inexpressable in human nature.

He not only brings to light but also to lucid understanding the most secret inner life of his characters. He conveys their subtlest, and most elusive intimate thoughts, feelings, emotions, spiritual longings and hidden motives. And he analyzes with utmost precision moral and psychological issues and conflicts. He also illuminates the elements of life’s mysterious relationships and links, which may lead to a character’s fate. Tolstoy creates a powerful illusion of reality in his novel mainly through the abundance of detail. From detailed de­scriptive narrative the author frequently shifts over to generalizations and thus leads the reader imperceptibly to metaphysical understanding. Tolstoy manipulates the reader’s consciousness from seeing to knowing by directing his attention from particulars to universals. He constantly juxtaposes characters, events and philosophies and thus provides a multifaceted view of his world. The numerous themes and plot lines are all interwoven and linked together in an intricate way. Each short chapter of the eight books develops its own theme, which may only be concluded later on in the novel. There are two major plot lines.

Anna k2
Anna is the main character of the first plot. Although the novel was written over 100 years ago, Anna is a modem woman in the sense that she seeks personal happiness at all cost. She refuses to live a life of self-denial with a husband she cannot love and who is unable to ful­fill her passionate longings. Anna places her quest for happiness over her social and moral duty. Through her extra-marital relationship with Vronsky whom she deeply loves she expects to find self-fulfillment and happiness. Anna, a beautiful and talented woman, is great in her honesty and courage to refuse a life of pretense and duplicity. She does not lead a secret affair, as so many do in her society. She separates from her husband and lives openly with her lover. Anna is not evil in a sense that she acts out of malice. She is very loving and attracts the love of many, yet the consequences of her unconventional behavior are disastrous. Anna who is de­nied a divorce from her husband is pushed into the role of an outsider from society through her open illicit affair. She also has no right and access to her son, whom she loves dearly. He becomes the innocent victim of the marriage break-up and so does her infant daughter by Vronsky.

Tolstoy does not deal harshly with Anna but shows with deep insight and sympathy how Anna suffers from the psychological consequences and the irreconcilable conflicts resulting from her broken marriage and her living together with Vronsky. He also illuminates the complex inter­relationships of Anna’s inner being with the circumstances of her life, which lead to her fateful death. Tormented by guilt and unable to cope with her compulsive jealousy towards Vronsky she commits suicide.
Although the enigma of death is a recurring theme in this novel; the book does not end on this note of despair. Tolstoy juxtaposes life to death. Life triumphs.
With Levin, the major character of the second plot, Tolstoy deeply probes into the purpose and meaning of life.
Levin, who is modeled after the author himself ,is a seeker and an eccentric thinker. He lives in the country and is deeply concerned with serious social, moral and religious questions. Levin marries Kitty who once was romantically attracted to Vronsky, Anna’s lover. Tolstoy describes with delicate tenderness how Levin and his young wife get to know each other and grow together in spite of struggles and conflicts in their young married relationship.
Out of his experiences with Kitty and the search for answers from the simple life of the peasants on his estate. Levin comes to understand the meaning of life. He realizes that it is man’s purpose to live for goodness and unselfish love as a reflection of divine love and goodness. Levin also regains faith in a God he rationally rejects but prays to in times of crisis and need.

With these two plots Tolstoy leaves the reader with the powerful message that uncompromising egoistical passion in the pursuit of happiness will lead to destruction and death. However, the pursuit of goodness out of love for others will lead to life and spiritual happiness. In this respect, both Karenin and Anna have failed in life. Anna loved without adhering to the principles of goodness while Karenin acted on principles of goodness without true love of the heart. Love without goodness and goodness without love can be destructive. This idea is expressed in many different ways throughout the novel. For example Tolstoy juxtaposes two wronged spouses. Dolly forgives her husband out of committed love and concern for her family. Karenin forgives and acts out of rational principles of goodness but without considerations of true love. While Dolly’s family prospers in spite of material worries, Karenin’s family is destroyed. Disintegration of the family unit was a great moral concern for Tolstoy. He valued the welfare and integrity of the family highly because of its utmost importance to society.
In our day many of the social conditions, which played a major role in Anna’s fate, such as obtaining a divorce and gaining custody of her son, have changed. However, the psychological consequences of a marriage break-up,, which Tolstoy so masterfully describes, remain largely the same.
All the characters of this novel are convincingly complex human beings with whom the reader can identify and who elicit his sympathy.
Tolstoy never openly moralizes or judges, yet he conveys a powerful message of faith in love and goodness, which will never lose its relevance to humanity.

Hello friends. I am Back

Dear friends  and followers of my blog, last year, on my birthday I started writing about  my  journey through life.  Every living being on this planet has a unique and miraculous story.  This is my attempt to share my experiences with family, friends and the world since we are all interconnected in mysterious ways.

Eagle feather blog

I am a person who lives in the present and does not often dwell on the past or daydream of the future    However, by writing this blog  I started to like reliving memories of my life.

At the beginning of summer I took a break from writing because that beautiful season is so short.   I am like a sunflower and need to turn to the light to survive,


I love the sunshine and activities outdoors with family, friends and new people we meet when camping or travelling.  In summer when I charge up  energies there is no time to spend in front of the screen  The vibrant and life-giving forces of Nature are calling me to the wonderful world  outside.

Whatshan Lake

I am a sun worshiper.  For me sunlight is vital to my physical and emotional well being.  Water is another element I adore which enhances my joy in life and invigorates my spirit,  Since my early childhood I love the freedom and peace when swimming in lakes and rivers,   Gliding through pristine waters always washes away stress, negative feelings or thoughts It energizes me.

Solitary walks along the beach or in the forest have the same calming and uplifting effects on my sense of well being.  I come to realize that many of my best memories are connected to experiences in the natural world with people I love.

It gives me joy to see that our five sons are all drawn to the same life-giving forces of the outdoors  and are seeking out experiences in beautiful natural environments like hiking, mountain climbing, horseback riding, swimming, boating, gardening and walking.

Forest Light

This summer started off with the wonderful visit of our second son Richard from Montreal. He came with our two little granddaughters, Azure and Emeline.   I let the pictures speak for themselves. As the well known saying  goes,  “A picture is worth a thousand words.”   Azure and her little sister are such sparkling and multifaceted  personalities that i could not even do them justice by attempting to describe them in a thousand words.   Their unique personalities have to be experienced in person.

Azure Em

Uncle Stefan, our youngest son from Vancouver, also joined us during that time to share in the family fun.   He is the strongest family bonding glue of all his brothers.

Me girls Rick




One of the highlights of the short visit was a trip to my favorite beach and campsite at Taite Creek.  June is always a wet month and a storm was brewing.   In spite of the menacing clouds on the horizon,  spunky little Azure   (following in the footsteps of her grandma) was the first to brave the still frigid waters of the Arrow Lake    With chattering teeth but bubbling over with excitement she then danced around the fire.   Little Emeline snuggling in her father’s arm clapped her hands in admiration of her older sister  Their singing and dancing around the fire at my favorite campsite are memories i never forget,

Em taite

Dear friends,  for today I’ll close my post.  I am so glad to be back  It’s a dark and stormy November night.  Through the coming dark season there will be more time to write   The last picture was taken at Taite Creek which is even beautiful at this time of year.   I wish you happy memories of your miraculous life.   Let the summer sun be reflected in our hearts.

Dunkle nacht

Settling into Our New Home My Mom the Beloved Host

On my last post I took a short break from my life story to insert a story about my relationship with trees.   Now I will continue where I left off with my biography.

We had finally moved to our new home, a small but brand new apartment situated at the outskirts of town.  From our back windows we could see a mostly deserted rural road.  It was flanked by  fields and meadows,  In the distance  it led to forested hills. My father loved this view especially when there were spectacular sunsets.

My brother and I had a long walk to school along a busy major highway.  But we could also take the public transit bus if we were pressed for time.

As you remember, being late was a major offense in our school and we made sure we always were on time.

One morning, i had overslept, because our mother was ill and did not wake us up in time. When I  was running down the three flights of stairs I remembered that I had forgotten  my bus money.  I tried to run up again as fast as I could.  Almost there, I slipped and banged my forehead against the stone step.  I was bleeding profusely from a wide gap.

My mother frantically called my brother back from the kitchen window and told him to walk with me to an emergency doctor in town since she was not feeling well and could not take me.

My reluctant brother and I walked furtively to town ashamed  to be seen by people who could assume we were playing hooky.  Skipping school without a major reason was considered almost a crime,

The doctor was the father of one of my classmates.  He was very kind and made me feel at ease with his friendly talk.  He did not x-ray my head because he thought it could cause more harm in the long run.  He stitched up my wound and sent me back home.   My brother went to school and I think the principal accepted his excuse for being late.   I was more stressed walking through town on a school day  than by my injury,

As I mentioned before my mother was very hospitable and enjoyed company.  Most of my friends would come to our place to do homework and so did my brother’s friends.

My girlfriends were excited because this way they would have the opportunity to meet some boys.  Since I did not have the best relationship with my brother at that time i was not interested in his friends either and could not understand my girlfriends’ attraction to them.  I will tell some anecdotes about that time in a later post.

My mother was very popular.  She would always provide us with delicious refreshments.  Especially the growing boys always had a ravenous appetite.

IMG_8145One hot day my mom did not have any baking to offer,  So she opened a jar of canned apricots.  She passed them out in little glass bowls,   One of the boys kept on staring at the bowl without starting to eat.  Finally he handed it back to my mom and said with an apologetic tone in his voice,  “Frau Panknin,  I really don’t like raw eggs.”   Needless to say,  we all went into hysterics laughing so hard.  His single apricot in the pale juice did look like yolk.



My   young-at-heart  mom also had a sympathetic ear for all our friends and they would value her advice or feel comforted by her genuine kindness and understanding.  I still have contact with a few friends of that time and they still talk fondly of my mother.

Today is Mother’s Day and I will cut my post short to go out into the sunshine to celebrate Life.   I wish all the mothers a loving and joyful day.  I think mothers will always live in our hearts forever. Forget-me-nots (Vergissmeinnichts)S

I love you forever Mom!




Two New Friends (1956)

After our return from summer camp in Berg Neustadt our parents told us the exciting news that the construction of the apartment building was nearing completion.  If all went according to schedule we would celebrate Christmas in our new home.

Angelika had moved to Wolfsburg during the summer    My friend and I had been an inseparable pair keeping  mostly to ourselves.  Angelika did not like to “share” me with other girls and had jealously guarded our friendship.  I felt lost without her.   I was apprehensive about going back to school fearing to be without friends.  Once in awhile Angelika and I  had been invited for a special occasion  to Gisela’s house.  Gisela was the girl from Eisenach, the famous town close to Gotha, where the Wartburg is located.

4But as so often in my life, my fears were unfounded.   Gisela and her friend Gudrun felt sorry for me and asked if I wanted to walk with them during recess.  They also invited me to do homework at their homes.  They always took turns.  Knowing my situation they did not mind that I could not invite them back because of the Old House.  I promised them that they could always come to my place once we had moved.  They were fine with this prospect.

Gisela lived with her grandparents, her mom and older sister in a new apartment,  not too far from our prospective home.  Gisela’s pretty mom, a petite, dark-haired woman, was a war widow. Gisela had never known her dad, a pilot, who was killed shortly before her birth.

After the war and their flight from east Germany  Gisela’s mom worked as a seamstress, while her parents took care of the household chores.  Gisela, a tall long-legged girl with big brown eyes, always wore  the most stylish and beautiful dresses which her talented mom designed  and sewed for her.  Gisela was a bit more serious  and reserved than most of our classmates and, therefore, appeared to be older.

Seamstress at Work - Photo Credit:

Seamstress at Work – Photo Credit:

Gisela’s grandparents always received us warmly,  when Gudrun and I came for a visit and they treated us with delicious homemade refreshments. They took a genuine  interest in our lives and liked to tell us stories of the their exciting past,

Unlike Gisela,  Gudrun  was very outgoing and radiated warmth.  She always had a sweet smile on her  round face.  Blond,  blue-eyed and well developed she liked to take life easy and have fun. While I still wore hand-me-down clothes  from my second cousins, Gudrun had the most beautiful  skirts, blouses and dresses, which her mom sewed for her.

Like Gisela’s mom,  her mother  was also a war widow and  a seamstress.  She also had a tailoring business at her home.  Gudrun’s grandma lived with them. But her grandpa was dead.  Gudrun’s Oma did the household chores while her mom sewed on a big long table in a corner of the spacious kitchen close to the window.

Gudrun’s well dressed  mom looked glamorous with her fashionably styled  blonde hair, her heavy  makeup and her bright red, enormously long fingernails.  They were curved like claws.  I secretly wondered how she could handle delicate materials with them.  She would take frequent smoke breaks showing off her long  fingers by gracefully holding the cigarette.  She half closed her mascaraed eyes, leisurely  and slowly exhaling  the smoke through her rounded red lips.  Smoking looked so pleasurable and alluring to us girls.


Photo Credit: ifyouinsist @Flickr

Periodically.  a male friend of the family who was a truck driver for a brewery would visit Gudrun’s mom.  At those times there  was a lot of laughter,  joking and  thick clouds of smoke, which were coming from the sewing corner distracting us from studying for school. I think her mom’s friend  was a father substitute for Gudrun.

Gudrun had a record player, a luxury our family could not yet afford.  She owned records of the top hits, most of them presents from her mother’s friend.   We would listen with excitement to the catching songs and rhythms of Little Richard, Elvis Presley. Connie Francis and Brenda Lee. As soon as Gudrun’s mom and Oma were out doing errands, we would even dance around.  When our top idol Elvis sang, “Love me Tender” we  were mesmerized and started dreaming of first love.

Elvis-Presley-009  I envied Gudrun and Gisela for their wide skirts with stiff petticoats that swung in style when they twirled and spun around trying to dance Rock’n Roll.  But I still had fun and was thankful for my two new wonderful friends.

petticoats 2







Early Childhood in The Green Heart of Germany


Gotha is a picturesque city located in Thuringia,  one of the most beautiful regions of Germany.  It is called the Green Heart of Germany because of its vast pine and mixed  forests stretching over rolling hills. There are many romantic towns and villages which attracted great poets, composers and other famous artists and philosophers throughout history.

Gotha House

We lived on the main floor of a spacious villa not far from the castle and its amazing park.   It is the biggest landscape park in Germany and contains  many rare and exotic trees.

This wonderful park became our playground.  Every weekend,  through the changing seasons, my father would take us on long walks to this charming place.

Before we even went to school,  he had taught us to identify and name trees, flowers, plants and animals, more than I can name and identify now.  My brother and I  would collect colorful leaves, tasty pine and hazelnuts,  shiny chestnuts, acorns, pine cones, rose hips, and other seeds and berries.  These treasures would delight us more than toys.  We loved to watch the birds, chipmunks, insects, butterflies, frogs, toads, snakes, salamanders and other small animals living in this enchanting realm.  Two big ponds were another exciting attraction to explore.

One day,  my dad came home to report that he had jumped into the main pond in full gear to save a little boy from drowning.

Some of my earliest  memories are holding my dad’s hand and walking in this peaceful and magical place.

After his first few visits home to meet us, my Dad was taken prisoner by the Americans and spent a year in several prison camps.

My mom and my sister had to cope on their own surviving the hard times after the war with two small infants to care for. Food and other resources like fuel, and power were in short supply.

For the entire year of 1945 Gotha was occupied by American troops until the Russians took over the military command in the spring of the following year.

One day when my mom was preparing a meager meal of watery porridge in the kitchen, she noticed a black soldier walking around the back door of our house placing something under the landing of the staircase.

When my terrified mother had summoned up the courage to step outside to question him, he greeted her with a warm smile and pointed under the deck saying in a broad drawl,  “Milk for babies.”

Every day, until the Americans left, my mother and sister would find precious care packages under the landing deposited by this warmhearted  man.  Miraculously  help had come from a most unlikely source, from the enemy!!!

I wish I could still thank this generous soldier who showed us love instead of hatred and helped us survive.

When my dad was finally released from the Americans his ordeals were not over.  As former officer of the German army my dad was no longer allowed under the new Soviet regime to work for the police force in Gotha.

For many weeks after he came home, he was interrogated at odd hours at night about his Nazi past.  My dad had always resisted the Hitler regime and had never joined the infamous SS, even though all higher ranking officers were put under great pressure to do so.  Eventually these torturous investigations were abandoned because no evidence against him was found.

First Attempt to Escape to the West

My brother and I were three years old when my mom made the first attempt to escape with us to the West.

At that time the newly established borders between the divided Germany  were not yet fortified by  fences, ditches and surveillance towers.  There were heavily armed border guards who patrolled the unmarked dividing line between the East and the West.

My mom’s plan was to cross the densely forested border at a remote village with my sister and us two,

Once safely across my sister would take us by train to relatives in the West while my mother would return home to escape with my Dad via Berlin to the West to rejoin us later.  At that time the wall had not yet been built and it was still possible to escape from the eastern part of the city to the West by the subway system which still joined the two parts of Berlin.

The memories of that night are etched in my memory forever.  My mom and my sister were struggling to push our twin stroller over a rugged forest path at the approach of night.  When the going was getting too rough my mother allowed us to walk a short distance ahead of them.  Tired of being cooped up in the stroller for too long my brother and I started to run and chase each other around a bend of the narrow path when a gigantic figure with a gun stepped out of the dense bush and blocked our way.

Biene and Walter

We all stood motionless for a long moment until my mother and sister came around the path.   My sister started to scream with fright but my mother stayed calm.  She tried to explain that we lost our way but the guard was not fooled.

He told my mother that he would walk the other way pretending he never met us, on condition that she immediately returned to the village.  If she refused to comply, he would have to shoot as were his strict orders.  If he showed mercy, his own life was at stake.

He did show some pity though by giving my mother directions to a house where the porch door was unlocked so we could spend the night under cover.   “There will be shooting tonight”, were his last words.  Once again we experienced the  unexpected mercy of an enemy soldier.

We spent the night huddled in the corner of a spacious porch.  My sister broke down crying hysterically,  We had never heard her cry before and it scared us more than the sounds of shots fired in the distance.

Part of the reason for my sister’s breakdown was that still unknown to her she experienced the first stages of pregnancy.

A few months later, she married her long time boyfriend and soon after our first nephew was born.  Thus, my brother and I became uncle and aunt at he tender age of four.

1948 Wedding Elsbeth Paul

Hello world!

The theme of my blog is this miraculous life. Like life, I don’t know where my blog is leading me, but I know I will be talking a lot about miracles and wonders.

Today is a dark,  dreary November day.   I am suffering from a cold  which prevents me from walking my  regular 10 000  Flex steps and  rake up the last leaves from our enormous nut trees.   But there is a small silver lining.  I have some time to continue the  post on my new blog.

I want to tell  you about the first miracle in my life.   I was born in Germany,  a few months before the end of  World War II.   While every new life on this planet is a miracle, the birth of my twin brother and me was even more miraculous.    My mom had been told by doctors after the birth of my half sister  that she could have no more children.   For twenty years my sister was the only child.  My  mom was 43 years old and thinking she was in her menopause when she found out that she was pregnant with twins.

On the last Sunday of October I entered the world fifteen minutes before my twin brother.   A retired, old doctor who was exempt from war duties, my awestruck sister and a full moon casting a soft light in the candle lit bedroom witnessed our birth.

My father, a reserve  police officer,  was stationed in Croatia at the time.  The next day the police department  notified  him by a telegram of the joyous event.

His comrades designed and drew a beautiful card to congratulate him on his “master shot”,   a suggestive play on words in the German  language.

birth congrat 44 croppedbirth congrat 44_2

It wasn’t until early January 1945 that my dad was finally able to hold us in his arms for the first time.   We rewarded him with brilliant smiles.

My dad’s leave from the Balkan countries to meet his new family  miraculously saved his life.  While he was home  getting to know us, the German troops in Yugoslavia were completely cut off from the homeland.  When his leave was over,  my father could no longer return to his battalion.    Most of his unfortunate comrades who had stayed behind were killed.   He would very likely have endured the same fate.



Papa and the twinsMutti and the twins


Today is Remembrance Day.  With countless others all over the globe I remember the sacrifices of the brave young soldiers who fought and died for our freedom and welfare in the two world wars and other wars of our time.   And I remember all the brave families who had to let their loved ones go.

I dare not imagine the agonies I would have felt if my brother, my husband, any of our five sons or our grandson, or even our two granddaughters had to fight in the war.  UNIMAGINABLE!!!

Today I want to write about my parents who lived through the two world wars and suffered through the devastating years before andafter these wars, especially World War II.My  mother was born in the spring of 1901.  She had three younger brothers.  Two younger sisters had not survived long after birth.    My  mom’s parents loved each other and their four surviving children dearly.   They were a close knit, happy family.   When my mom was eleven years old another child was on the way.   Everyone anticipated the birth with great excitement.

Then, one day in early summer when my mom returned home from school she was told that her mother and newborn sister had died in childbirth.

Her dad never recovered from this great tragedy and loss of his beloved wife.  Three years later he also died.

My mother was sent to a convent school by her guardian aunt and her brothers to a foster home.  I don’t have many details because my mom rarely talked about her past.

Born in the Rhineland region of Germany, my mom incorporated all the positive qualities attributed to a typical Rhineland personality.   She was always cheerful and full of vitality.  She loved life and above all people. Her keen sense of justice and fairness combined with an indefatigable fighting spirit.  Her memory was astounding.  She could recall events and people of the past in minute detail.  She was very resourceful and overcame many insurmountable obstacles.   She always fought for freedom in all its forms.


People would gravitate towards her; even complete strangers would love her almost at first sight.  Sometimes my brother and I were a bit embarrassed by the attention strangers gave her when we traveled with her.

Her hospitality was famous and all our friends loved to visit our home.  She took a genuine interest in other people.   She had good advice and people accepted it with gratitude.

She was also beautiful.   After she left the convent school, she found employment as a receptionist for a popular photo studio and frequently sat as a model for her employer.

My half sister was born when my mom was 23 years old.  My mother never talked about that time and the identity of my sister’s father has remained a mystery to this day.   My nephews are still searching to find out who their grandfather was.  Until I was 20 years old I did not even know that my father had adopted my sister.   My parent’s generation kept a lot of secrets.

There are some indications that my sister’s father was not acceptable to my mother’s strict catholic guardians.   Very likely he was a Jew.  I remember a rare moment when my mother told me that she was once given a beautiful necklace by a Jewish man who loved her very much but died in a motorcycle accident. At that time I did not know that my sister had a different father.   Looking back now there is the possibility that my mother wanted to force the marriage by her pregnancy. Tragically, her lover died in a fateful accident, before my sister was born.  This is speculation.

How my mother coped as a single parent and how she eventually met my father I do not know either.   I only can presume that my father must have loved her very much to overcome the social barriers of that time to marry an unwed mother and thus jeopardize his status as police officer.

1928 Walter and Elisabeth small

My Dad

 My father was born 1898 in West Prussia,  Germany where his dad owned a construction business.  His mom was a lot younger than his dad. I inherited her name Gertrud.  My father had an older brother and a younger sister.   His dad died when he was 17 years old.   Shortly after  this great loss, my father enlisted as a soldier at the western front in World War I.

He suffered from shell shock which triggered a nervous condition from which he never completely recovered all his life.

After the war,  he apprenticed as a dental technician and worked in that profession for several years.    In his mid twenties he entered the police force and moved to Westphalia where he eventually met my mother.

Early on in his career he had an accident returning home from duty on his bike.  He fell on his revolver which went off and shot a bullet  through his kidney.  He lost his kidney but miraculously his life was spared.

My dad did not have the outgoing, cheerful personality of my mom.  Although he could be humorous  and enjoy company, he was more introvert and loved to read, study and write.  History was his passion.

But he also was an outdoor enthusiast and loved to hike, bike, ski. swim, go camping and boating in his canoe like paddle boat.  My mom and dad explored all the major rivers of Germany by embarking on extensive boating and camping trips in the summer.

Until late in his life my dad led hiking clubs.  He loved  exploring  and marking new trails.  He also loved collecting mushrooms and became an expert in that field researching new species and cataloging them

He also liked to compose poetry, especially ballads which he would  illustrate with beautiful ink drawings.  The only thing he lacked were practical skills.  According to my mom he could not even “cook  water.”  While my mom was loved, my dad was respected.