Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘Europe’

Romantic Comedy at It’s Best

Tales From A Broad by Jeannine Henvey
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

TFABIf you like Jane Austin you’ll love Tales From A Broad. If you enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love, and Under the Tucson Sun, you’ll want to languish in Tales From A Broad. If you liked Sex In the City, Pretty Woman, An Affair to Remember, and any of a hundred other romantic books and movies, you will find great pleasure in reading Tales From A Broad. If, on the other hand, you don’t like comedy, romance, “chick lit”, “women’s fiction”, or anything remotely similar, you’ll still fall in love with Tales From A Broad.

Lucy Banks is jilted by her fiancé, Cooper, days before there New York City wedding. Wallowing in self-pity, regret, dismay, and righteous anger, 42-year-old Lucy is given a ray of hope and possibility with a surprise visit from her concerned sister, Morgan, and 24-year-old niece, Tess. They have brought plane tickets to Europe for Tess and Lucy to travel together, in hopes they will each find a fresh start, perhaps some personal insight, and if nothing else, a little fun.

At first reading, I mistakingly thought this was a personal journal of the authors, but soon discovered that it was written so well that it just seemed personal. Everyone is flawed, complicated, and unique. Lucy is funny as hell, and delightfully snarky. Each experience, including chance encounters with a young man, Mark, and his older brother, Simon, bring new revelations to Lucy and Tess, pushing their boundaries and how they see themselves and others.

One of my favorite movies I saw last year was a 2014 Indian film called Queen, about a young woman who is dumped days before her marriage, and then decides to go on her honeymoon by herself to Europe. She stays at a youth hostile and meets a wonderfully eclectic and odd collection of new friends. She also comes into her own, and becomes clear about who she is and what she wants. Tales From A Broad follows a similar plot, but with an older woman and more mature perspective.

Tales From A Broad is not contrived, or trite, and will have you laughing, crying and rooting for Lucy’s happiness, whether you are an avid fan of romantic comedies and women’s literature, or not.

The Truth of Fiction

If you read the story, Loving Annalise, without any knowledge of where the characters or events came from, it would appear to be an intriguing and loving romance that was complete fiction. In fact, it is taken from real life experiences of a friend from Austria, who married two brothers (not at the same time).

The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, is so often true, that it is no longer a cliche. Anything one can think of happening in someone’s life, probably has, is, or will take place. When they all come together, with some perspective and distance, these experiences can also make a great story.

When I first heard a few of the details from my friend’s life, about growing up on a farm in Austria, going to nursing school in Vienna, falling for an abusive man, then later realizing she was in love with his brother, it sounded like a movie. When I asked if she would sit with me for a few afternoons and tell me the entire story, and she said yes, I was surprised and delighted.

The result of her sharing her life resulted in Loving Annalise. It is more than a simple, or even complicated romance, and includes childhood mishaps, coming-of-age, family drama, first loves, big city expectations, erotic encounters, suspense, blackmail, and redemption. The majority of the story takes place in Austria, and Western Europe, with the climax coming home to The States.

If there was ever an example of a life that reads as fiction, Loving Annalise fits the bill, and goes straight to the heart.

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Angie’s Diary Loving Annalise

An Erotic European Romance By Gabriel Constans on Saturday, September 12, 2015. Angie’s Diary.

The morning sun opened our lust-covered eyes. Tomas pulled me near in my half-asleep state. The next thing I knew, we were engaged where we’d left off the night before. “Damn,” I exclaimed. “What a wonderful way to start the day!”
imagesAs I lingered in our pleasure, he threw on a robe and went into the kitchen to make breakfast. I stared at the outline of his behind, appreciating his graceful stride as he disappeared from view.

We’d spent months planning this honeymoon. The kids were with Mutti and Vater in Chicago for two weeks, and we’d rented the cabin in the beautiful Rockies three months in advance. It stood above a shimmering clear lake, about an hour and a half outside Boulder. The closest residence was a quarter-mile away, and we were well-stocked with every necessity. The most essential item we’d packed with care was our freedom—the freedom to explore our love without guilt or remorse. Our self-imposed exile was over.

The scents of fresh coffee, toast, and bacon, mixed with the sounds of pans, silverware, and clinking glass, drifted into the bedroom. I pictured Tomas, with a smile of contentment, squeezing fresh orange juice and setting a tray. His gentle humming, a rendition of an old English love song, mingled with the sounds and smells of the breakfast.

The sun’s rays shot through the window and reflected off my wedding ring. It had been Omi’s when she’d been married and her mother’s—my great-grandmother’s—before that. It was a small, simple diamond set in a silver band. The light reflected a thousand colors of the rainbow. I looked closer and was amazed by its brilliance.

Jens had been like that ring. He’d overwhelmed me with his worldliness and intelligence. But like a fake diamond, he soon lost his luster, and our love faded to a dull gray.

***

Loving Annalise An Erotic European Romance

The bike vibrated between my legs as my arms encircled Jens’ waist. I was scared, but also excited. The wind blew through my hair as we wound through country roads and back to the city, ending up at a party with Jens’ buddies. I was in the bathroom for half an hour combing out my snarled hair. When I emerged, they were drinking, smoking and talking about the World Cup and politics.

“Germany doesn’t have a chance against Brazil. Their forwards are too fast, and Germany’s defense can’t keep up,” said Jens’ friend Paul.

Jens shot back, “Speed isn’t everything, my friend. Germany has strength. They’ll wear them down. You wait and see.”

“Yeah, look where strength got them: almost annihilated!” replied Paul.

“Why do you always bring in politics?” questioned Jens. “World War II has nothing to do with soccer, you idiot. And even if it did, you’d be wrong there, too. Germany has rebuilt itself from the ground up and is one of the strongest economic powers in the world. And mark my word, someday the Wall’s going to fall, and they’ll be unstoppable.”

“You must be drunk,” snorted Paul. “The Wall’s never coming down. You and I will be dead before that ever happens. You think Khrushev is going to allow it? No way! Never! The U.S. doesn’t really want it to fall either. They’re scared to death of a united Germany. Who can blame them? It wasn’t that long ago that we were under their thumbs as well.”

“Paul, you have not only lost your mind, but your reasoning ability as well,” Jens grinned. “Who did you say was drunk?”

They laughed and raised their glasses. “Mark my words, NATO would love to see The Wall crumble, and by tomorrow night, you’ll see the new world champions of soccer celebrating in Berlin.”

The night went on. Everyone grew louder and more adamant about his position. I didn’t dare say a word. I was too afraid to open my mouth, and I didn’t have a clue about half of what they were discussing. I was happy to just be there and sit by “my man.”

Around one or two in the morning, we swerved back and forth to the hospital. Jens dropped me off by the maintenance entrance. I took off my shoes and snuck in like a burglar. Kristan was wide awake and insisted I tell her “everything.”

“There’s not much to tell,” I said. “We just drove around for a while and went to see a friend of his.”

Annoyed with my reluctance, Kristan exclaimed, “Not much to tell! Didn’t you even kiss him?”

“No, why would I?” I asked naively. “We just met.”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re impossible.”

I told her I was tired and went to bed. I could tell she was annoyed with my answer and knew I’d kept a lot to myself. I pulled the cover up to my neck, felt my legs still vibrating from the bike, and thought about Jens. He must be the most wonderful creature on earth! He’s so smart and handsome! I’d die for him here and now.

Jens and I continued to escape the watchful eyes of my benefactors at least four to five times a month. We went to movies, concerts and parties and took long walks. Jens did most of the talking and usually decided where we’d go, but I was happier than I’d ever been. Part of me enjoyed being told what to do and being taken care of. As the oldest at home, I’d always been the responsible one. Now I was the youngest. Jens was seven years my senior. I didn’t need to make any decisions—he was my mentor. His presence in my life opened new vistas and possibilities.

Three months later, the inevitable question arose. When he asks me to sleep with him, will I? It wasn’t a difficult decision. I was sure he was the love of my life, and I had no reason to hold back. He’d suggested I start taking the pill a month earlier, when I’d turned eighteen. He’d obviously decided already. And since I’d taken him up on his suggestion, it wasn’t a matter of if, but when.

“When” happened on a cold, windy, Friday night, after we’d gone to see the movie Easy Rider starring Peter Fonda. Jens loved biker movies. I didn’t understand all the drug references or American slang, but the need to let loose and be carefree spoke to all cultures and languages.

After the movie, we went to Paul’s home and discovered that no one was there. I learned later that they had it all planned.

Jens was very sweet and restrained himself from attacking me the instant we walked in the door. I could see in his eyes that he was holding himself in check, waiting for me to “give in” and “let go.”

He kissed me hard, took off my sweater and shirt, but had trouble getting my pants down. I stopped him and did it myself. He took off his clothes. I’d never seen a grown man naked, let alone one this excited. I stifled a giggle, and we continued our play into the bedroom.

Kristan was right: it was awkward. All the sensations were new. It felt strange to have another person inside of me. But this wasn’t just anyone—it was Jens! I wanted to show him I was a real woman. I’d never felt so close to another human being.

That night I went home and didn’t whisper a word to Kristan; it was too personal. I associated sex with love and was sure we were moving down the yellow brick road to eternal wedded bliss, with adorable children following in rapid succession. My head hit the pillow with a contented sigh.

Two days later, Jens took me to a ritzy downtown eatery known as Pole-Nord. I entered with a waltz in my step and a glow in my heart. I’d borrowed a silver, shimmering, low-cut dress from Kristan and spent hours on my hair and makeup. My expectations and exuberance filled the room to capacity. I felt like Jacqueline Onassis; I could have dazzled kings and queens with my brilliance.

As we sat waiting to order, Jens asked how I was doing.

“Great. How do you think?” I winked.

“You look gorgeous,” he said, but without any spark.

“Thought you’d never notice.” I smiled coyly.

After a few more moments of my intoxicated admiration and fawning, he began to unravel.

“I’ve got to tell you something,” he hinted.

“Yes…,” I stated with intimate glee.

“I’m not sure how,” he hesitated.

Here it comes, I thought. It must be hard to propose. I couldn’t wait much longer or I’d burst.

He moved his napkin on and off his lap several times, took a deep breath, and continued. “Well, there’s no easy way to do this.”

“What is it, Jens?” I asked with a shy grin, knowing all the while.

“It’s tearing me up.” He lowered his gaze and his voice.

A flicker of doubt crossed my mind. “What’s tearing you up?”

How could asking me to marry him be tearing him up?

“She doesn’t mean a thing,” he blurted.

I physically recoiled like a gun.

“What?” I mumbled. “She?”

“I was only eighteen,” he whispered. “Her father made us.”

“Made you what?” I asked, hoping against hope.

He looked up. “Get married, you idiot. What do you think I’m trying to tell you?”

Ashamed at my own ignorance, I continued to react like a schoolgirl who’d been attacked by the class bully. “Get married,” I stuttered. “You . . . you were married?”

Impatient and red-faced, he glared, “Not was married. I AM married. Why are you making this so difficult?!”

“Difficult?!” I exclaimed.

I couldn’t believe my ears were being defiled with such obscene hypocrisy. My outrage embedded itself in his floundering gills. “You’re married! You’re telling me you’re already married?!” He nodded. “You were married when we first went out . . . when you took me to see your friends . . . when you made love to me?!”   He looked away and nodded again.   “And I’m being difficult?!” I shouted.

I’m not sure why I didn’t stand up, kick him in the balls, and leave right then and there. I was paralyzed with shock; I simply froze and watched the crap pour from his lips.

“Yeah, I’m married,” he confessed, “but she doesn’t mean a thing. I’ve never loved her, and she knows it. It’s no big secret.”

They have no secrets, I thought. How nice.

“We’d have never have married if her father hadn’t threatened me,” he reiterated. “Hell, we’d only known each other for four months.”

“What’s her name?” a voice asked, as if it hadn’t come from my own throat.

“Julia,” he said with a hint of appropriate distaste.

“Julia,” I repeated. It felt sharp on my tongue.

“Yes, Julia,” he echoed.   “I’ve told her again and again that we’re through, but she doesn’t get it. She and Franz will do fine on their own. He’ll be much happier without us fighting all the time.”

Reluctantly, I asked, “Who’s Franz?”

“Our son,” he stated, as if everyone on earth knew.

My skin began to crawl. I felt the blood drain from my face. “Your son?” the mystery voice continued. “You have a son?” I asked, as the aftershocks continued to rock my world.   “How old?”

“He’ll be seven this March,” he said with a hint of pride.

My voice left me, and I sat in stony silence.

He whined on and on. “They mean nothing to me. Do you hear me? You’re the only one who matters. You’ve got to believe me! Don’t ever think of leaving. I couldn’t live without you!”

Grabbing my hands tightly, he continued, “You’ve got to understand!”

“A son. You have a son?” I thought my head would shatter. “Why didn’t you tell me?” My insides were screaming. My mind refused to believe the obvious, and I whispered with one last hope, “You’re joking, aren’t you?”

“I wish I was,” he said.   “I didn’t want to hurt you.   Can you ever forgive me?”

“No,” I said resolutely. “Never!”

“It didn’t seem like the right time,” he blundered. “I tried, but whenever you’d look at me with those beautiful blue eyes, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t stand to make you cry.”

“And now’s a good time?” I replied rigidly. “After all we’ve been through?!”

“I understand,” he said gloomily. “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”

Understand? I silently intoned, continuing to stare with a porcelain face at the blue velvet wall across the room.   He doesn’t understand squat!

“Don’t shut me out!” he implored, squeezing my hands tighter. “Annalise. Annalise!” He shook my shoulders, and I returned to the pain of the moment. “Say something. Don’t just sit there; it’s driving me mad.”

“What do you want from me?” I asked flatly.

“Your love,” he lamented. “Don’t let a past mistake cut us down.”

All my insecurities rushed to the surface, as my need for affection and direction overpowered any reason left in my hollow shell of a body.

An unknown force removed the adrenaline from my muscles and mind; I calmly looked Jens in the eye and said, mysteriously, “I could never leave you.” I smiled unconsciously.   “We’ll work it out.”

I heard a sigh of relief exhale from his lungs like a gust of wind, as he suffocated me with kisses, hugs and reassurance. “I knew you’d understand. You’re one in a million, I tell ya . . . one in a million.”

I retained a semblance of misplaced dignity and insisted he divorce immediately. “If not, we’re history!” I exclaimed, thinking I was being assertive and strong.

I had a rabid case of snow blindness, and I kept crawling up Mt. Illusion, ignoring all signs of the impending avalanche.

The rest of the evening was a drunken blur. I doused the bonfire of my betrayed trust with an ocean of booze, demanding “one more” until I had to be carried home. Throwing up on the floor of his precious BMW was the only inkling of justice I could manage.

True to his word, Jens divorced Julia within the month and maintained contact with his son by buying him expensive gifts, which he delivered with his usual warmth and personal touch . . . by way of the Postal Service.

***

When I turned eighteen and finished nursing school, I jumped off the mountain’s ledge into the fiery pit: I irrationally moved in with Jens and his seventy-four-year-old grandmother, Rochelle. We inhabited the top floor, she the lowlands.

Rochelle was a little senile and talked as if we’d been married for years. With her failing eyesight and wandering mind, she often called me Netti, as if I were her niece. Honesty isn’t as meritorious as it’s always cracked up to be. There are times when fudging the truth a little—or outright lying—is the most compassionate course.   If I’d attempted to tell Rochelle the truth about her grandson and me “living in sin,” I would have drained her pious Catholic heart of all her saintly blood. She would have turned over in her grave—before she’d even died.

I never met Jens’ wife or son. Apparently, Julia had more wits than I’d expected and skillfully kept her distance.

The only persistent threat to our fragile happiness, other than the relationship itself, was my family. The thought of them discovering my living arrangement loomed over me like Godzilla about to attack Tokyo. They had to know sooner or later. And if the news didn’t come from me first, they’d hit the roof . . . and the floor . . . the walls . . . and then me. So Jens and I arranged a little visit. I told my family I was bringing my boyfriend, period.

The little visit went from disaster to disastrous.

Continues at: Loving Annalise

More stories and articles at Angie’s Diary.

Tango with the Mango

Tango with the Mango
by Gabriel Constans

It is believed the tango is a dance that originally derived from the milonga of Argentina and the habanera of Cuba and the West Indies. It became popular in the United States and Europe around World War 1. The tango is a flowing, elegant combination of movements accompanied by romantic, lively music with a throbbing beat.

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There are hundreds of varieties of the delicious mango, including red, green, yellow, and orange. Mangoes are reported to help rid the body of unwanted odors, and to reduce fevers. They are high in vitamin A, and are said to delay some effects of aging if they are eaten frequently.

Yield: 5 cups

1 ripe mango, peeledand seeded
1/2 cup pomegranate juice
1 tangerine, peeled, seeded, and sliced
1 banana
1 ripe papaya, peeled, seeded, and sliced
2 cups filtered water

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend on medium speed for 45 seconds.

Pour, serve in tall glasses, wrap your arms around your partner and drink, as you dance the sultry tango.

Havel and Jong il

From Nation of Change by John Feffer
20 December 2011

Two Leaders, Two Deaths

North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and Czech leader Vaclav Havel occupied the opposite ends of the political continuum. One fought against the corrupt communist powers; the other consolidated communist rule. One tried to inject morality into the practice of politics while the other pursued political ends with little or no reference to morality. Having made their marks first in the artistic sphere, they were both in some sense reluctant politicians. Once in power, they managed to stabilize their respective countries during difficult times. But they failed in their efforts at more dramatic transformation.

Vaclav Havel waving to adoring crowd.

Kim Jong Il was only the second leader that North Korea ever knew. He ruled in the shadow of his father, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. The son had none of the charisma of the father, and none of the credentials either. Kim Il Sung fought as a guerrilla against the Japanese colonizers. His battles may not have been particularly impressive – and certainly not as impressive as North Korean propaganda has made out – but he at least could point to a revolutionary record. With no battlefield experience, Kim Jong Il even felt the need to fabricate his birthplace in order to suggest an authentic revolutionary past. Official North Korean history put his place of birth as the legendary Mt. Paektu in the northern part of North Korea, when in fact he’d been born in Russia.

The younger Kim established his reputation as a film director, translating his father’s revolutionary operas into cinematic blockbusters. He always seemed more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. He rarely made public comments. He stayed close to the military, which backed his rise to power. His first major policy as leader after his father’s death was to observe a three-year mourning period, during which his country descended into famine. He was always a half-hearted proponent of reform, backing some economic changes and then reversing himself (accepting private markets then cracking down on them, banning cell phones then encouraging their use within the elite). His chief interest, other than expanding his own huge film collection or enjoying the good life, was to preserve the power of North Korea’s ruling class. He was, at heart, a deeply conservative figure, more comfortable with the tropes of Korean nationalism than with the slogans of revolutionary communism.

Kim Jong Il waving to military troops.

Kim defied expectations in many ways. The North Korean government didn’t collapse after the elder Kim’s death in 1994. Nor did it crumble during the subsequent food crisis. Kim Jong Il managed to maintain alliances with China and Russia, coax South Korea into significant economic investments, bring North Korea into the nuclear club, and keep the United States at arm’s length at a time when other leaders (in Serbia, Iraq, and Libya) suffered regime change at the hands of U.S. forces.

But in the end, Kim Jong Il didn’t fundamentally change North Korea or offer an alternative economic or political system that could rival that of China or South Korea. He will ultimately be remembered as a transitional figure between his ruthless but transformative father and a future that has yet to be determined by his son and successor Kim Jeong Eun.

Vaclav Havel, more than perhaps anyone else of his political generation, represented the power of the dissident intellectual. A playwright and essayist, Havel brilliantly exposed the deceptions and stupidities of the communist system in Czechoslovakia. He spent time in jail. He helped nurture the small civil society that would prove so critical in 1989 in transforming not only his own country but the entire region of East-Central Europe.

Havel became president of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1989, a position that he claimed to have run for only reluctantly. However reluctant he might have been to assume the kind of political power that he had spent years deconstructing in print, he quickly became accustomed to high office. “Actually power, political power turned out to be something of an aphrodisiac for Vaclav Havel — four presidencies in two countries for 13 years,” observes his biographer John Keane. “Any obituary worth its salt will point out that if Vaclav Havel were writing honestly about Vaclav Havel it was the low point of his political career.”

Of course, even Havel’s low point was considerably better than most politicians’ high points. He effectively guided Czechoslovakia through its initial transition phase and then the “velvet divorce” that produced the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He fulfilled his promise in 2004 to bring the Czech Republic into the European Union, and today it ranks below only Slovenia among the former communist countries of the region in terms of per-capita GDP.

Read entire article at Nation of Change.

Child of the Holocaust – Part 1

Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call by Gabriel Constans.

Child of the Holocaust – Gitta Ryle – Part 1

Auschwitz. The word is synonymous with death, loss, murder and extermination, the worst barbarism that can be inflicted by one human upon another. For many it symbolizes evil incarnate. Most of us know it only as that: a symbol, a word, a dreadful image from the past. Yet for others, such as Gitta Ryle, Auschwitz is a living, cold reality that consumed her beloved father and grandparents who were starved, beaten, gassed and incinerated in its Nazi machinery of hatred and racism.

Mrs. Ryle survived the holocaust by being hidden in French schools with her sister and was reunited with her mother at the war’s end. While pregnant with her third child her mother died of a heart attack. Gitta’s years of family separation and loss were compounded and reawakened with the death of her husband from cancer.

Over the years, Mrs. Ryle has spoken of her life during the war with increasing frequency to elementary, high school and college students. Her living, breathing, realistic account of her experiences has brought history and its relevancy to the present, before the hearts and minds of many generations. On a more personal and less publicly noticed form of engagement, she has provided support and comfort for young people who, like herself, have had to cope with the death of a family member or friend.

GITTA: I was born in Vienna in 1932. In thirty-nine Hitler invaded Austria. Since my family was Jewish we had to flee from the Nazis. My father was in the most danger. To avoid capture, he and some other men left almost immediately. My mother, older sister and I stayed on for a while. Mother eventually heard of a children’s organization called the OSE that took Jewish children out of the country to try to save them. After a few preliminaries, my mother decided to have us go and put us on a train with other children to France, where my sister and I stayed throughout the remainder of the war. My mother answered a job announcement and got a job as a cook/dietitian in England. They sent her a ticket and she stayed there until the war ended.

In the meantime we learned that father had escaped to Belgium. Through the Red Cross in Switzerland, we were all able to keep in touch with occasional letters. When father discovered where we were he came to France and worked close by the school we attended, so he could visit. We saw him a few times before some French citizens denounced him. He was captured, put into a camp and shipped to Auschwitz. That is where my father died in 1942. I was seven when I left Vienna, so I must have been about nine and my sister twelve. My grandparents, on my mother’s side, also died there. They were not able to leave the country because of health reasons. There was also my father’s brother Moses and his wife and son, Martin, who were captured and listed among the dead in Auschwitz. My father’s parents died before I was born. Luckily, my mother’s younger brother and sister had left before the war and lived in America.

Other friends and some of our teachers were also killed. Each time the Germans infiltrated our school they’d rush us out. I was always in the younger group and my sister in the middle. We went from one children’s home to another until they hid us in a Catholic convent. When the convent also came under suspicion, they put us on individual farms.

I grieved especially hard for some of the teachers that were taken away. One was Boris and his wife. Another was Moses and his wife. As a child I didn’t know what was happening to me. After awhile you start to become numb when somebody dies. There was no place for grieving. You think that this is the way life is. It was a protective mechanism. I guess I established a personality which was just, I don’t know . . . not trusting . . . never knowing what was going to happen.

At one point when we were hidden in a farm cellar, and fighting was going on all around us, I just said, “OK, this is it. They’re going to bomb us anyway.” We said good-bye to each other and it was kind of peaceful to think it was going to end. I think that is partially how I lived my life. When I have done some work or process of trying to get rid of some of the deeper feelings, I’ve thought of how peaceful it would be to just follow them to the gas chamber. That is what I have been working on from this loss, this last loss. I thought I was doing pretty good, but I guess I’m not there yet because it comes up again and again, as now. All of the past deaths, all of the losses, come up each time. It’s harder and harder.

My father was gone, then my mother. I reunited with her when we came to America and she died when I was pregnant with my third child in August of 1965. She died of a heart attack in her sleep. It was her third such attack. She’d had two mild ones before. I believe she died from a broken heart, when she’d had to give us up during the war. I don’t know if I could have done that. She was a very courageous lady. After the war she always worked and kept busy. I don’t think she ever went too deep into herself because that was scary. Part of me wishes I were the same way. Instead, I delve into it and work with it because that is the only way I know how to live.

It makes a difference how you lose someone. When I lost my mother I was quite pregnant. There was a different type of grieving because of bringing someone to life just when another is leaving. I took it very hard. The initial reaction was, “Oh God no!” Her death triggered a lot of stuff, but I didn’t have the time to deal with it like I did when my husband died. I had three small children to take care of. I guess that is what they mean when they say being busy is good, though I don’t believe it. Maybe it helps other people but for me it just pushes things down and puts it away.

When my husband became ill, he was sick for eight months, I started grieving upon hearing the prognosis and kept hoping he was going to make it; hoping for some miracle even though the death sentence was three to six months. Up front I did not accept that he was going to die, even though in the back of my mind there was that stuff going on that realized it was indeed going to happen. This made his death the most traumatic. It brought up all the others I had not had time to deal with. For the first year and a half after his death I was numb. I had Hospice and saw Norma (a bereavement counselor) once a week and there was a wonderful social worker named Betty. She talked with my children. I told her when it was all over that then I could see her. She was very good. She came a month or so after his death and it was very helpful.

A month before Bob (husband) died, his ninety-one-year-old father died. So while I was taking care of Bob I also took care of his father. He was a very difficult man but through me being with him I learned a lot of compassion and he always said he loved me and appreciated that I was there for him. When he died Bob didn’t want to go see him but at the last minute said OK. I drove him to the funeral home, went up to his dad and touched him and gave him a kiss on the forehead. I cried. I think in some ways I was saying good-bye to my own dad. After the war we searched in vain for my father, until we found a listing that said he was shipped to Auschwitz. Taking care of my father-in-law and Bob gave me a way to do what I couldn’t do for my dad.

For the first few months after Bob died I didn’t accept the reality and being alone. It was the first time I’d ever slept alone in my entire life. There was always somebody around . . . children, parents, husband.

I always felt Bob was around though. I wasn’t afraid. I closed the door, went to bed and that was it. It’s been like that ever since. That is why the house is good for me. There are all kinds of beliefs about this. We each have to pick what fits for us. I put a bench out by the ocean, just a half block from this house, in his honor and I put some of his ashes close by so I can go there anytime. He used to love the sunlight, so he faces the lighthouse (South).

Growing up I knew a little about Judaism, but not that much. We didn’t have schooling or anything during the war and being in the Catholic Church for only six months, in a convent, I learned the rosary in French and listened to the chanting and stuff. I liked it. It made me feel safe, so as a child it was OK. I did a lot of work on myself but not too much on religion. I couldn’t give up my Jewishness, but I did survive for a reason, whatever that is, so I needed to keep it.

When my children got to the same age that I had been when we were separated from our parents, I started getting ulcers. I was physically sick and there was a lot of fear in me. Bob said, “You need to get some help.” My kids were six and seven-years-old. I went and talked to a counselor. At first I talked about things that bothered me everyday and then we got deeper and deeper, to the point where the guilt and not understanding why someone would want to kill me when I didn’t do anything wrong . . . all that stuff came out. That is when I say I started the work. When anniversaries of the war occurred, forty then fifty years, people started asking me more questions and I told them my story.

Before that I hadn’t talked to my children, only when they asked because of something at school. They just knew I was from Europe. I think each one of them was affected a little differently about it.

When the schools began to discuss the holocaust they became interested in what a live person who’d lived though it would say. It’s had a big impact on those I speak with. I’m OK about doing it when I’m asked, partially because we don’t want to forget about it. When I talk to kids I give them a little lecture and try to put across, “Yes, what happened was terrible.” and “Yes, I went through it and survived. I am who I am because I survived. It’s the yin and the yang, nothing is all bad. I could have gone another way. I could have become a killer, but for some reason I choose not to. I chose to be an OK individual, to be healthy and honest.”

The reason I chose good over evil came from my beginnings. I had a very loving mother and father. It was my sister and I and mother and father. We lived in a small apartment in Vienna and I remember a lot of love and compassion. I was very special, especially to my dad. So I have some real positive food that was given to me very early and I think that is why I talk to young people who have children about how important it is, that beginning. If I hadn’t had that I don’t know which way I would have gone. When the family was separated I didn’t understand, but as I became an adult the nurturing and caring stayed with me and helped me go the right way.

I remember a lot of hugging. There was always greetings, comings, goings, holding and explanations of things. My dad was quite religious and he would explain what he was doing. I vaguely remember going to temple as a little girl and having happy memories. My mother was a fabulous cook. She gave us wonderful food and was always there for us. I was never left alone. When I went to kindergarten, right before Hitler came to Vienna, my sister always went with me on the trolley. She would drop me off when she went to her class. We were a unit. We were a very strong unit, then just like that . . . it was all cut off.

Part 2 (Conclusion) Tomorrow.

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Norway’s “Cushy” Prison

Here is a very interesting article our son posted on Facebook today. I read it after returning from my weekly volunteering at a state penitentiary in Salinas, CA. A lot of it makes very good sense. Essentially, healthy respected people treat other people with respect and hurt people hurt people.

MailOnline
Norway’s controversial ‘cushy prison’ experiment – could it catch on in the UK? by Piers Hernu. 8th May 2011.

Can a prison possibly justify treating its inmates with saunas, sunbeds and deckchairs if that prison has the lowest reoffending rate in Europe? Live reports from Norway on the penal system that runs contrary to all our instincts – but achieves everything we could wish for

On a clear, bright morning in the tranquil, coastal town of Horten, just south of Oslo, a small ferry slides punctually into harbour. I am to take a short boat ride to the sunlit, green island of Bastoy shimmering on the horizon less than two miles away. It is a curious place. There are no secluded holiday homes or elegant hotels with moorings for passing yachts. The 120 people who live there never visit the mainland, but then why would they?

They spend their days happily winding around the network of paths that snake through the pine forests, or swimming and fishing along the five miles of pebble beaches, or playing on the tennis courts and football pitch; and recuperating later on sunbeds and in a sauna, a cinema room, a band rehearsal room and expansive library.

Their commune has handsomely furnished bungalows with cable TV. The residents eat together in an attractively spacious canteen thoughtfully decorated with Norwegian art. The centrepiece is a striking 10ft long model of a Norwegian merchant ship.

If it sounds like an oddball Scandinavian social experiment, you’d be right. Bastoy is home to Norway’s only island prison. I am here to scrutinize its hugely controversial approach to crime and punishment, and to do so with some knowledge; the last time I set foot in a prison was as a foolish 23-year-old man.

COMPLETE ARTICLE

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