This year we are celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the end of World War Two. It was such a long time ago. I’m trying to remember what it was like for me in those turbulent years of War, and what it was like for my father as a POW in Germany. It will be part of our Family History. From time to time I might post an extract on my blog. It’s a work in progress. So here is Part 2.
Part 3 – Bregana
The only travelling my mother and I undertook in those days of war was to the farm in Bregana. Once, when we were on the bus, she suddenly put her hand over my eyes, saying nothing. It was too late – I saw bodies hanging from the trees, like limp scarecrows. Fear silently crept into my young soul.
In spite of the war and my father being absent, I was happy in Bregana. My mother let me stay on the farm during school holidays. Aunty Zora was her good friend and the same age as my mother, and her daughter Nada was the same age as I. Nada’s little brother was four years younger. Their father, Uncle Pepi, was also an innkeeper and hunter. The whole household, with maids, cooks and farmhands, accepted me as one of their own. I was made to feel at home by so much kindness that I would come to consider their place as my second home.
And what a charming home it was with so many farm animals! Horses, cows, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, pigeons, a goat and, of course, cats and dogs. You could never be bored, there was so much going on, so much to explore. We even had a go at milking a cow, but it proved too difficult for our small fingers. Still, a cup of fresh milk was ours to enjoy right there, when the maid finished milking. Collecting freshly laid eggs and feeding the chickens was a much easier task.
Our daily round of the farmyard provided a special thrill when there was a new-born calf on its wobbly legs or a foal in the stable, and in the pigsty a sow with tiny, pinkish, squealing piglets lined up along her belly, suckling eagerly, their mother uttering a soft grunt of satisfaction from time to time. Behind the pigsty was a mulberry tree, next to a stinky cesspool, but the mulberries were too yummy to be bypassed because of the stench. There were three orchards surrounding the farm house and the inn, and a garden with a bee house and a raspberry hedge which was regularly plundered by us. The cherry tree and the pear tree didn’t fare any better because climbing a tree was a cinch.
A very special place for us was in no man’s land: a crystal clear stream, Bregana, flowing under the bridge which to this day connects Slovenia with Croatia. Our summer paradise. We could spend hours there wading in ankle-deep water, collecting pebbles of all colours, building dams and pools, sailing paper boats or boats made of half a walnut shell, and even spear-fishing with a table fork.
In winter we wanted snow. Plenty of snow. There was no end to fun in the snow, from snowball fights and building a snowman, and a bunker since it was wartime, to skiing and sledding. We usually returned home half frozen and wet, but a change of clothes and a hearty meal revived us and we were ready to settle down near the fire for a game of cards or a board game. Not only did we have good clothing and plenty of delicious food, but we were also showered with love by everyone. No wonder Bregana is the place my old soul wanders to when it needs refreshment.
But I also remember poverty and cruelty. I remember poor peasant children in rags and barefoot. I remember the smell of fresh blood when the door of the slaughter house opened wide, revealing the carcass of the crucified animal. I remember the squealing pig being dragged into the execution chamber. I remember the little kittens were always drowned, although we never saw it done.
On the farm with our mothers
The Germans occupied parts of the farm. Soldiers were milling around all the time. A few higher ranking officers, fortunately not the dreaded SS, lived in spare rooms in the family home and they would sometimes join us in the living room for a chat. Aunty Zora had a beautiful voice. She would sing Slovenian songs and German ones as well, and we would sing along. I remember well singing Lili Marlene. I didn’t know then that this song was popular with soldiers of both sides. Vera Lynn and Edith Piaf, both as popular as Marlene Dietrich, sang it in English. But I knew it only in German. It’s a love song.
“Written as a poem in 1915, during World War I, it was published under the title “Das Lied eines jungen Soldaten auf der Wacht” (German for “The Song of a Young Soldier on Watch”) in 1937 and was first recorded by Lale Andersen in 1939 under the title “Das Mädchen unter der Laterne” (“The Girl under the Lantern”).” Wikipedia
Here it is for your enjoyment. You can sing along, if you wish, and if you don’t know German, you can hum!
Or you can sing along with Vera Lynn, who sings like a nightingale. This song will warm your heart as it warmed the hearts of soldiers far away from home.
Towards the end of the war, both my mother and Aunty Zora were helping the partisans. The Germans didn’t know, of course. One officer, however, did know. But he obviously wasn’t a Nazi because he offered to escort them to the flour mill where they would leave a parcel with medications in a special spot for the partisans to pick up during the night. Without his protection they would not have been able to accomplish these dangerous tasks – German soldiers were everywhere. I wonder why he had put his own life on the line. Did he hate Hitler’s Third Reich right from the start? Was he sick of war? Was he in love with Aunty Zora? The lucky thing was that no one among the Germans had found out about his clandestine activities. Lucky for him and lucky for our brave mothers! After the war, the kind officer, Jul Wanemacher, naturally, was always a welcome guest in Bregana.
© Copyright 2015 Irina Dimitric