Essays from Central Europe , Part 1info
A Travel Novel
10/17/20212 min read
This October I let myself drift back to my family roots and undertook a small trip via Marienbad to Silesia, the homeland of my maternal family.
It all started when I realized last year that I wanted & needed to travel again as a grown man to the homeland of my mother’s family. In contrast to many people in Germany whose father or mother were expelled, I was granted to get to know the homeland of my mother still as a child. This had to do with the special situation of my family after the war. Since the Upper Silesian industrial area was close to the border with Poland, they also knew Polish and decided to stay there after the war despite the numerous reprisals. It was not until after the Polish Matura that my mother, for example, moved to the West. Other relatives did not do so until the early 1970s. My mother spoke perfect Polish and had numerous personal contacts from her youth. Thus, my parents often drove to communist Poland through the even more communist GDR, handed out my father to deaf-mutes, collected works of art by Polish painters and many other treasures that were not considered valuable to the customs officers trained in the real-existing scarcity materialism.
I was left with the parents of a childhood friend of my mother on a small Upper Silesian farm, where they did almost everything themselves. I still remember the butter churn, the pig slaughter, the gigantic cows that I milked by hand, the frighteningly hysterical turkeys and, last but not least, the eerily deep ponds behind the house that had been created by collapsed coal tunnels.
When I told of the intention of my trip, there was the same reaction throughout Germany: everyone had relatives in the former eastern territories: whether East Prussia, Silesia, Sudetenland, or other areas. Everyone encouraged me to make the trip, and everyone admitted that they had never been to their family’s homeland. Even though I don’t know all the individual stories: I can relate. The often unspoken trauma of the lost homeland, the many related sufferings endured; all this never invited one to confront it again. Instead, the younger generation often gave up trying to learn something about the unknown homeland in the East from the older generation. Far too many people have already died, who locked up in their souls everything that was connected with their youth and acted as if it were all irrevocably over.
The further east I went, the more I realized how little that was true.
To be continued…..