My research this summer has marked a shift in my life as a thinker. Always writing about life writing, I’m now writing about something closer to home. My mother’s experiences of being a child in Germany during the second world war. What’s so special about her story?, you ask, knowing that millions of Germans were children during the war. Well they had a very particular experience that has not been talked about much here in Canada. It’s not widely known. Immigrants (like us) who came to Canada to leave difficult histories of Europe behind don’t want to remember. My mother, as well as my grandmother and great-grandmother, were just three of the millions who were forcibly expelled from their homes in the Eastern zones in 1945. They had lived in Hammermuhle, a village near Stolp in Pommerania. That land is now Poland. The Russians were advancing on them. They had to leave. They were Fluchtlinge (refugees). They travelled by train, boat and on foot almost 500 km to the West.
Mum was born in 1932. This is a map from 1932. This was her world. Of course you can’t read this map. And can hardly write this article, but I also cannot stop writing it.
A version of this map hangs on a wall in my mother’s house. Hers came from her school text book. She never went back to school after the expulsion and resettlement, so her school map is from her primary school days. Hers is in colour! And has traces of her pen marks on it. It’s a family heirloom. Her mother must have saved it, hung on to it, and then gave it to my mother at some point. She saved it. Folded up between the covers of a book. Several years ago my father had it art-framed with special glass that will prevent it from fading. It is the only object I want to inherit from my mother when she passes. I will keep it safe.