Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grandma - marriage

The political climate in the 1930s was turbulent. Maria had no permanent position (see part 1 and 2 for the previous parts of the story), and would receive a new job every two years that forced her to move to some other corner of the country. She had had a number of marriage proposals. One was from a friend in her village, who had loved her all his life, but was the son of the village drunk. While she liked him, and thought very highly of his mother who had raised her children alone and sent them to school, she did not want to marry him. She was afraid that either he or their children would drink too much. When his mother asked her to finally make the decision to marry her son, she answered she could not.  I also suspect that even though he had been reported to be good looking, grandma saw him as a friend and was not attracted to him.

Another proposal came from a colleague in Bucharest, which she temporarily accepted and even settled a date for the wedding. However, he soon wrote how ardently he was preparing preserves and pickling tomatoes and cucumbers for their wedding feast. The letter was meant seriously, and she thought that focusing on such trivialities and writing about them showed that he was shallow and not very smart. So, she canceled the wedding. She later considered this a blatant show of immaturity on her side towards a man who was trying to write a nice letter to his sweetheart. I wondered if she had made a mistake in choosing a much harder life style instead of one closer to home or perhaps one where herself and her children would be put first. But then in the latter case maybe the pickles would have been put first. When I asked her if she had found her last suitor good looking, she described him as bald and male, and also 10 or 11 years older than herself, which left my teenage self very disappointed. Then there was a guy who would spend most of his time with Maria and her best friend. He was very close to both of them, but when the friend tried to make a pass at him, he became very angry and he never saw either of them again.

 Octavia was one of Maria's former colleagues from the university. She would take all the women professors to picnics in a beautiful carriage that was in the keeping of her brother, Iulian. Iulian was a very successful forest engineer who planted and maintained forests, and coordinated the building of relevant infrastructure. At the time, he had an astronomically high salary of 99, 000 lei per year, which was 30 times greater than the salary of a school teacher. He had a big nose, green eyes, a charming smile, and a shorter leg, which was a reminder of an accident from childhood. He also never saved or invested any part of his big salary, but instead gave it all away. In the Holocaust period, he held a position in Oravita, which is a town near border. There he could "hire" Jewish workers (they were free labor offered by the government) and later help them flee the country. His work in forests made the disappearance easier and less questionable than it would have been otherwise and his large salary helped in settling any resulting disapproval. However, he could only hire men, and so his mother and sister did their part by hiding women in various parts of the house. Grandpa did not like talking about this period. The only thing he said was that he was thankful when he found out that the people he and his family had helped reached safety, and that all the ones they had helped made it. This shows he was not shallow. He also never did care about the pickling process.

 Towards the end of the second world war, Maria had a position in Balti, Basarabia. Octavia and Iulian were also moved there. Basarabia was the frontier and the younger teachers and engineers were sent to help rebuild it. She spent her free time volunteering to field hospitals.  She was most impressed when children died in her arms with no external injuries. A young geography teacher fell in-love with her, but she did not feel it made sense to marry when there was so much to do to help save lives. Ion Antonescu himself came to thank volunteers at the frontier, and shook hands with Maria. She described him as short, perhaps even shorter than her, but with an obviously strong personality.  When Basarabia was lost, they had to flee back to what was left of Romania.

Maria's next position was in a village near Bucharest. While Maria and Iulian were attracted to each other from the beginning, at first he was not sure it was safe for him to marry.

Bucharest on April 4, 1944
In 1944 Bucharest was bombed. The city would glow at night from the many fires. Iulian, who had gone to Bucharest for his next contract, had to turn around and flee.  He stopped in the village where Maria was and asked her if he could stay there for some time, and perhaps return to Bucharest later. In the meantime, the landlady's sister also arrived from Bucharest. She had had two small children, but only the oldest lived through the latest bombardment. The baby had been about 8 months old, and the mother still carried him in her arms. She had smothered him accidentally in an attempt to protect him when hiding in the bomb shelter.  With this sudden heartbreaking turn of events, there was no room left in the house for people who were not family. So, Maria had to leave and Iulian offered to take her and her sister home in his carriage. There was no possibility to leave by train because the railways were being bombed.

As he dropped her off close to Curtisoara, he sheepishly inquired 'What would your father say if I came and asked for you hand?'. Maria responded proudly 'My father will say what I say.' 

After the war ended, Iulian returned to propose. It was spring, and her father was plowing the family land. Iulian enthusiastically took over, and plowed all the land himself, while using all the grain and corn in the stables to feed his own horses. Maria discussed her decision with her father; he asked 'do you think you are doing right in marrying this man? will he be kind to you?'. Her answer was practical as always 'Father, I am 32 years old, and I want a family.'  Also, Iulian's energy and enthusiasm was bewitching. He was outstandingly intelligent (although not quite as good as her at solving math problems for the olympiads; but she was too modest to take note of that),  had a big smile and an even bigger heart. She thought that she was ready to support him and the family they will create wholeheartedly. When discussing their future, she told him so, and his response was everything she had been hoping for.

Maria: 'You must understand that I have no dowry. I have my degree in Mathematics. So, when you will not be able to work, I will work and support our family.' 
Iulian: 'I only want you. I will buy you everything. Take nothing with you. ' 

Maria gave her last salary as an independent woman to her father to buy food for the family horses. She had been practical all her life, but for once, even while the whole world seemed to be collapsing around them, she wanted to believe in romance and happily ever afters. So, she left with nothing from her old life other than the clothes she was wearing. Her shinning deep-blue eyes laughingly held the pair of green eyes next to her, and she felt a sense of belonging and pride when watching the answering light in his eyes. They left in a carriage drawn by beautiful, big horses with a driver who was wearing white gloves (Iulian's official driver), and the people in the village temporarily thought that their brightest and strongest woman had been lucky.

The Cinderella part of her story lasted until they reached the nearest big city. There they searched for clothes to buy, but the stores were empty because of the war. So, Maria immediately sent a telegram to her father to send her the clothes she had left home. They then went to Iulian's office, where a bulky police officer was waiting for him claiming to want to break his good leg (the one that was not medically shortened) with a large wooden weapon. Maria hurriedly asked 'what is wrong? how can I help?'.  The response came in a gruff voice 'Who is this woman?'. The calm answer of the secretary 'She is the fiance of Mr. Engineer', made the man suddenly turn around and leave. He did not want witnesses. The incident was later blamed on a woman named Singureanca (mot-a-mot translation of the name: the lonely one) in whom the police officer was interested. He was reading Iulian's correspondence and viewed him as competition due to some letters that were sent by Iulian's mother. When telling this story, grandma would say that this was the first out of many times she had to protect her husband from serious injury.

After they married, he procrastinated going home, which left Maria confused. She and Iulian's sister had been friends in university. They had originally met through her, and she did not think there would be cause for concern. However, when they arrived, everyone in the neighborhood was crying and wailing as if she had brought Iulian home dead. The neighbors knew about the wedding from a friend who had seen them buy rings, and so everyone was prepared - not to welcome the bride and groom, but to judge and find fault. It did not matter that Iulian had married a woman who was intelligent, and beautiful inside and out or that she loved him. It was, of course, most important that she was from a different part of the country. Maria was from Oltenia, which was seen as inferior to Banat. Her clothes were not the latest fashion, and her presence obviously meant the potential loss of their main source of income, which came from Iulian. Up to then, he had spent all his time and money in helping the people around him with no previous thought to himself, and it was taken for granted that he would continue to do so without trying to build his own life. However, Iulian's mother, Ana, proudly stood up among the crying and gossiping women who came to her to offer their condolences and said 'E profesoara'. Everyone suddenly went quiet, and soon left for their own homes.

The extended family and neighbors had no real need to be afraid because Maria was just as kind as Iulian, if a little more practical. Furthermore, any sign of an era in which people of value were rewarded was gone, and communism began. As unfair and as criminal as the previous totalitarianism had been, communism was worse since it promoted unfairness under the guise of making everyone equal, and in the beginning, the Russian army was there to enforce it.  A network of spies and special security forces was built that kept the population under control with the treat of torture. People who dared to disagree were sent to be tortured in political prisons that destroyed them. Many young people were deported to Siberiato Baragan or sent to labor camps/concentration camps built under special instructions from the Gulag

Maria's prediction came true. Iulian was soon no longer allowed or able to work. While 'everyone' who worked received an equal salary, people who had educated parents were considered of 'unhealthy origin'. They were a threat to the new society. Maria did not posses the 'unhealthy origin' because her father had been a peasant and was more unobtrusive as a plain school teacher.

When communism destroyed their careers, Maria and Iulian considered themselves lucky. The two former engineers living on the same street as them had a worse fate. One was in jail for political reasons, and the other was carrying coal to atone for being privileged before. Iulian was demoted from engineer to gatekeeper after refusing to sign that a forest that had been stolen was not there to begin with. His position was taken by a shepherd who could not write and signed with his finger. The promoted shepherd spent his time facilitating various thefts and frequently insulted Iulian.  Iulian loved forests and their needless, wasteful destruction was hard to watch. He was diagnosed with paroxysmal tachycardia. Episodes of very rapid heart beat would occur when he was insulted at work or when their pig was killed for his meat. He was thus allowed to retire in his late 40s.

Maria, Mariana (my mother) and Iulian
Maria's salary was about ten times greater than Iulian's, and it was not large. He taught mathematics in Hungarian at a minority highshool in Lugoj. There were times when they had a hard time making ends meet, but she was used to living on little money and made the little they had last. Only after they both retired, the difference in their pay started to decrease.

I learned to count money on their pensions. Even then, grandpa's pension was about half that of grandma. Their money was always placed together under some towels in the closet. It never mattered who made what. Grandma was kind and generous, and grandpa was man enough to not care that he was bringing less money into the household than his wife. He was also never lazy. No work was 'below him'. He had the strength and patience to find enjoyment in us and in all the little things he could do to help around the house. He practiced Yoga, washed and wiped dishes, chopped wood, lit and maintained the fires in the house. Grandma and grandpa taught me that personal belongings come and go, but that family matters.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Grandma - young

Maria had a happy childhood in Curtisoara (for the beginning of the story see the previous post) which was spent playing with her siblings, and with the other children in the village.  The only cloud on the horizon was that her best friend sang in the village choir, while Maria was not allowed to sing. They told her she had no ear for music, which was very confusing for the child.  She pointed at her ears and argued that there was nothing wrong with them.
While not musical, she was enthusiastic in most of what she did. She and her friend once boiled the skull of a dead cat until the bones separated from the meat. They later cleaned the bones and gave them to their teacher to use for hands-on biology lessons. In addition to being interested in science, she also liked reading. She would read while guarding the family cow, and often closed her eyes to say poems by heart. At other times, she was tempted to group her cow together with those of other children. The children would then play together. The cow was generally good, but in one of these instances of neglect, she ran and hid in someone's cornfields, and was not found till morning. By then the damage was extensive, and her father had to borrow money to pay for it. 

One day an inspector came to test their teacher and appraise the village school.  He asked Maria to go to the blackboard and write: 'Ducandu-ma la scoala m-am intalnit cu mama' (Going to school, I met my mother). She wrote the sentence correctly, justified the hyphens, and explained the sentence structure. The inspector was very impressed and praised the teacher for his methods. The teacher recounted the episode to her father, but it did not stop there. From that day on, every time the teacher passed their front gate, he reminded Gheorghe (Maria's father and my great-grandfather) 'to send the girl to school'.
Sabina's home. Now the Ecaterina Teodoroiu memorial house.

Maria started fifth grade in Targu Jiu. One of her colleagues was Sabina Toderoiu, the youngest sister of Ecaterina Teodoroiu, a young girl who was both a nurse and a soldier in the first world war. All the other Toderoiu children died in the war. Ecateriana became national hero that is placed between Joan d'Arc and Florence Nightingale. Their home is now a museum that is still maintained by someone in their family.

After paying Maria's first year of school, her father ran out of money. So, Maria came home, and studied on her own from some old books she borrowed.  A year later she was walking the streets of Targu Jiu and crying in the rain. Since she had no other good clothes, she was still wearing her school uniform with the addition of a cap that partly covered her eyes. The director of the highschool passed by and stopped to ask her what was wrong. Among sobs Maria explained 'I want to go school, but ... father ... has no money'. At the suggestions of the director, the teachers  funded a special scholarship for Maria. She became 'bursiera comitetului de profesori'. They covered her tuition, room, and board in exchange for supervising the younger students when they did homework, and helping with their integration in school.

Gradma is the 1st person on the second row (left).
A few years later Maria finished highschool. However, the graduation exam was sustained in only a few centers in the country. She was expected to go to Turnu Severin (90 kilometres away), but had no money to get there or pay the local expenses. So, she sent a telegram to her father that read 'Vinde vaca sa dau Bacalureatul' (Sell the cow so that I can take the highschool graduation exam).  The cow was an important member of the family, and could not be sold.

It was close to election time. So, her father and the village mayor petitioned one of the two parties candidating. This resulted in funding not only for Maria but for all the poor girls in the county who qualified to take their highschool graduation exam. They were each awarded a stipend for room and board, while transportation was arranged in a big truck. Maria was examined in all subjects that were deemed important. In geography she was asked to explain the course of the Danube river. She started with its origin in the Black Forest in Germany and continued with all the other major cities it passes through forgetting only Turnu Severin, the city the exam was in. However, even with this slip, she did well on this exam and on the others, and even saved a little money from her stipend to bring back home.

After highschool, she enrolled in university in Bucharest with financial support from her oldest brother, Constantin, who had just started working. A few hundreds of students would start university each year, but only a hand-full graduated. One of her teachers was Gheorghe Titeica, who founded the Romanian school of differential geometry. Titeica had outstanding pedagogical talent, and cared deeply for his students. He had told Maria that his secret to teaching was that he still prepared his lectures, even through he was already experienced (and famous). He started every lecture by placing his pocket watch on the table, and always finished on time while succeeding to explain all the material clearly.

Another one of her notable teachers was Dan Barbilian (pen name Ion Barbu), also a mathematician. Although he was not as talented at lecturing as Titeica, she watched Ion Barbu become one of the greatest Romanian poets of the 20th century. His writing career started after a bet with his friend, the literary critic Tudor Vianu, where he argued that everyone had latent literary talent and could write, even himself. He further claimed that mathematicians would make the best poets if they had time to write, and successfully proved his point. His strength of opinion and unsmiling posture greatly intimidated his students, who frequently failed his exam in analytical geometry. Maria passed all exams in their first round. She obtained her degree in mathematics (primary specialization) with a secondary specialization in astronomy. A number of years later, she encountered Dan Barbilian again while researching the library where he worked due to the complicated political environment. With her now adult eyes, she saw him as a kind and polite little man with white hair, who helped her in her search. She thought that she and her colleagues had been very silly to be afraid of him. 

In the meantime, Constantin dies suddenly of meningitis. Maria goes home to help her parents and tries to hide Constantin's death from her mother, Ioana. She realizes her mother knows when she sees her carrying water. In Curtisoara, a person who loved the deceased was expected to bring water every day for six weeks to someone in need. This water is thought to appease the thirst of the dead in afterlife.  Ioana insisted to do 'the spring of afterlife' herself as a last show of love, even though she knew she was not well. Great-grandpa was the untrained doctor of the village, and he and Maria tried to help with medication from plants in tea, and baths, but the condition did not remit. She died six weeks later - as soon as she finished her last duty to her boy. 

The story remained that Ioana's heart could not be mended after the death of her first born son. Her own death left more heartbreak behind. Her youngest daughter was 11, and still liked to fall asleep close to her mother's breast.  Her youngest son was 13, and already away to school. The image of the young boy arriving home on someone else's horse to find his mother gone would stay with Maria until the end of her days. His forehead had been bleeding from the speed with which he hit the passing branches as he rode.

Maria became a mother figure to her youngest siblings.  She often had to get them out of scrapes. At one point she remembered receiving a telegram that read "Lost all clothes. What to do?". It turned out that her youngest brother had gone swimming, and all his belongings had been stolen. Maria immediately took leave from work and got onto the first train to deal with the situation. He eventually became an electrician in the navy, and lived his life close to the Black Sea, where we sometimes visited. After a severe bout of encephalitis, her youngest sister announced that she was moving in with Maria because the villagers did not believe in her recovery, and did not think she could be sane. Her father's only question before letting her go was "how will you get there?". She answered coherently and so he gave her money for the trip and his blessing to do what she thought was right. She stayed with Maria until she started college to become a Mathematician herself. She graduated from the university in Bucharest after her father's death, but still chose to become a Math teacher in Targu Jiu to stay closer to home. She raised her children there, and also helped raise some of her nephews and nieces. 

The next part can be found in the following post.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Grandma - the beginning

Grandma (2nd row, 1st person; left) & extended family in 1957
In telling stories from the past, I have neglected the wonderful, strong women who have shaped my life. This April there are 13 years since my grandma died. I loved her almost as much as love my mother. So, this post is about her. It offers me a brief respite from work on Easter. I can close my eyes and imagine that she is sitting near me and telling me these stories once again.

Grandma had a strong sense of duty and a wicked sense of humor; had she been here today, she would likely tell me to go back to work on my science and/or job applications.

traditional house from Curtisoara
She was born in the fall of 1912 in Curtisoara, a small village in the mountains that stretched on one long street.  Part of that village is now a museum that exemplifies life in the 19th century. I went to Curtisoara in the early 1990s. My great-grandfather's house was still there, and some of my grandma's friends were still alive. They were all living in houses that looked like the one in the picture and are now museum pieces.  They told us Grandma was the first woman in their village to attend university and study the hard sciences.  She obtained a degree in Mathematics with a secondary specialization in astronomy. So, I was not the first woman in the family with a scientific interest in stars.

She taught Mathematics at various levels throughout her life. In Lugoj she taught mathematics at the pedagogic highschool (after graduating the students became school teachers). She also taught a class of children from the local orphanage, and sometimes evening classes for people who worked and/or were not allowed to attend regular school due to their 'unhealthy origin' (children of intellectuals, of former officers in the army, of property owners, etc). She was a talented teacher who inspired her students through kindness, intelligence, quiet elegance and bravery. Her parents and siblings adored her, and she loved them back equally fiercely. Each went through their own struggles, and tried hard to make the most of their lives. Most had some innate talent and appreciation for mathematics that transmitted through generations. Her youngest sister is the bride in the picture above. She was the second woman in Curtisoara to obtain the university degree in Mathematics.

When we visited Curtisoara, grandma's childhood best friend told us that Maria (my grandma) should have married one of their boys. My mother tried to take this as a joke, and explained that we were there and we were so very good looking because our grandpa had been like us.  But they insisted that the other man had been more handsome than my grandfather and was still single at 90. And added that he had loved Maria all his life. The village and his family still blamed her and by transition us for ruining his life by not loving him back. Such a marriage would have kept her close to them, and likely given her an easier life that did not involve moving every two years across the country in various contraptions. The village felt very strongly about this. The younger brother of the man she 'should' have married almost attacked us with his walking stick. Of course, grandma had gone back to Curtisoara many times herself, but nobody in the village had had the courage to criticize her or her decisions.

Overall, it was an interesting visit.  I enjoyed seeing the house that my great-grandparents had built. Great-grandpa did not have the time and resources to finish the last room in the house, and all these years later it was still unfinished. The village itself still looked very much like it did a hundred years ago - only it had older people, a lot fewer children around, and cars instead of horses. It was easy to imagine grandma running up and down that street as a little girl.

A few days later we returned home. I quickly told grandma the whole story, and I explained how mad everyone was at us for her decision to marry grandpa. She took it lightly, and said we should have pointed out the obvious. There was no need to be upset because Maria was now single and ready to marry again, and would consider the wishes of the village this time around.

Every night Grandma would tuck me in bed with a cup of milk, and tell me about her life. I listened to her stories over and over again, and yet I find I cannot do them justice in retelling.  I also do not have any pictures of my Grandma from when she was young to help me. However, I will always remember a pair of kind, deep blue eyes, a slight upturned nose, and a warm smile set on a perfect oval with porcelain white skin that never tanned. She must have been stunningly beautiful, and yet funny, practical, brave, responsible, and hard working.

Grandma started life as Maria Diaconu in a family of uneducated farmers. My great-grandfather was the son of the former village mayor. His father died when he was two. My great-great-grandfather's first marriage had been arranged. His bride was forced to marry him when she had loved another. So, she attended the marriage ceremony to please her parents, but then ran up the hill to her lover.  My great-great-grandfather found another woman who agreed to live with him. However, in their village, a man and a woman could only marry in front of God once, and the church refused to dissolve his first marriage and allow him to marry his true wife. They had a number of children, but all of them died young other than Gheorghe, who lived to become my great-grandfather. After Gheorghe's father died, his mother was shun by the village, and her former husband's property was taken away from her by trustees until the boy became of age. His first memory was the trustees remark to his mother: "this one will die, too, and then you'll go to hell". Growing up, Gheorghe had been too poor to be able to attend school. Instead, he learned to read and write from friends. By the time he was 18, his father's fortune was mostly squandered. He fought for what was left in court, and was able to recover 2 hectares of land. In the meantime, he married Ioana, a beautiful, strong woman with blue eyes who already had a young child. He made no distinction between her first son and their other children.  When asked, grandma said 'Constantin was my brother; anything else is nonsense.' However, 80some years later, the village still remembered.

Ioana and Gheorghe had four more children before the first world war (WWI). Maria was the third. Soon after Maria was born the Balkan wars started. Gheorghe had to leave his young family to fight before Maria could remember him. On the front-line in Bulgaria he contacted typhoid fever and was declared dead. A letter was sent to his wife to announce he had died. The Balkan wars continued with WWI - also called 'the war to end all wars'. Men did not come home between the two wars. Ioana supported five children on her own, and still send her oldest son to school when she had little help at home. She could not read or write well herself, but she had the determination and strength of will to study with her child. They learned to read and solve problems in Mathematics together.

Maria was 2 in 1914. Her first memories were of Constantin and her mother studying and of the fear and hunger induced by the war. When the German soldiers first occupied Romania, her mother and grandmother put all their belongings in a cart and hid with the children in a nearby forest. The cart was pulled by their cow. Maria learned how to make balls that bounced from cow fur. The tricky part apparently was convincing the cow to not be unhappy about the hair removal process, and stopping her from getting angry or running away. They attempted to eat acorns to survive, but found they were not nutritious. Eventually, they had to return home. 

Her mother, who was still young and beautiful, covered her face in soot and gimme to avoid tempting the soldiers. However, when seeing four crying children clinging onto their mother's skirt, the German officer who came to requisition food exclaimed 'Kinder, Kinder' and left. A few days later their two-room home was used to host the troops. Maria woke up surrounded by soldiers sleeping on the bedroom floors and started crying. To stop her wails, one of the soldiers threw her a huge bread, and another a doll. She went to the kitchen to find her mother with her arms full. But they were afraid to eat the bread lest it was poisoned, and the doll was thought to impersonate the enemy, who had killed many men from their village and kept away the ones who still lived.  So, the siblings soon destroyed it. As she grew older Maria felt sorry for those soldiers on the floor because she understood that they were men just like her father, who had a hard time fighting on foreign lands.

Her most dramatic memory from that era was her father's return. He became unconscious when he was sick of typhoid fever while fighting in Bulgaria in 1913, and so he had been registered as dead. He was then thrown in a pit with other dead and dying soldiers. They covered them with lime dust to prevent the spreading of the fever, but there was no time to bury them. Gheorghe woke up in a mass grave surrounded by dead men, and crawled out. He walked to a nearby village. There he met two kind women, who saw him as a man in need of help instead of as the enemy. They cared for him until he recovered.  He then had to return to the front lines (otherwise he would have been declared a deserter and killed) and continued fighting for five more years.

Maria still remembered how happy they were when his first letter came. Her oldest brother, Constantin,  found it and came running and screaming 'Mama, Mama, father is alive! there is a letter! it's in his writing!' He was the only one of the children who had been old enough to remember him. Some months later Maria and her younger sister were splashing in a small basin of water in the the yard when they saw an unknown man arrive. So, Maria ran inside and told her mother that a stranger had come. The stranger was their father, and to the small child he seemed a legend who had come to life. He soon sat down holding his youngest daughter, whom he had never met before, on his knee and started telling stories. At six, Maria felt old and wise, and also a little envious that her father had not been there to hold her when she was four. After eating, she took his hand and hopped along on one foot to visit grandmother. On the way, he stopped to eat some berries from a random, dusty bush that grew along the road. This shocked the little girl, who had placed a dead snake in that bush only the day before. How could her father eat them? It was not safe to eat the berries of a snake.

On his largest plot of land (the 2 hectares), Gheorghe soon started building a house for his family. They moved in before the last room was finished when Maria was about 13 and already in school.  He never had the money to finish it, and so this was how Mihai and I saw it some 70 years later.

My great-grandfather's homecoming gave hope to the many women and children in the village, who dreamed that their husbands, fathers or sons will come home. However, the village was too small for another such miracle to happen. I can still see my mother's cousin sitting at her window every day and hoping that her uncle would come home. He had been sent to fight in the second world war in the first line of soldiers, and 'disappeared' when he was just 18. His family never gave up the hope that somehow he escaped until the last of them was dead.

Continued in the next post.