The power and resillience of the human spirit.

15 08 2007

Katrina* was born in a small village in Holland in the early 1930’s. She and her sister lived with their parents in the rural setting that had been their family homestead for 8 generations. Their father was a violinist and part-time carpenter. Their idillic, happy world was shattered when the Nazi’s invaded Holland, turning their lives into a living Hell. Her father, being an educated man, was sent off to a consentration camp. Katrina* and her sister, after enduring unspeakable hardships, along with most of the children from the village, were sent to foster families on farms, away from build up areas. Before they left, the children had to be vaccinated against Diptheria. All the children lined up at the school, waiting their turn. One after the other, screaming and crying children ran from the building. Katrina* was terrified and decided this was not for her, and made off.

Not long after that, she contracted Diptheria and became very ill. So ill, in fact, that a priest was called to administer the Last Rights. But Katrina* pulled through.

She spent 4 lonely months on a dairy farm, working for her supper. She found solis and peace amongst the cows she had to milk twice a day. Nuzzled up-against their warm bodies, those gentle bovines took on the role of mother and friend as well as providing the added bonus of an endless supple of warm, creamy milk to suppliment her meagre diet.

At home, her mother tried to keep house and home together as best she could. One afternoon, after returning from the village, she was shocked and terrified to see a pair of mens shoes, placed neatly on the step at the front door. Summoning the support of a neighbour, they went to investigate a pall of smoke coming from the back yard. They found a man, emaciated, dirty and completely naked, standing over a small fire. They called out – the man turned – it was Katrina’s* father. He was burning all the clothing he had been wearing.

The sequence of events was never fully related to me but somehow he had escaped, got hold of a Nazi uniform and walked all the way home. His left arm had been badly broken and had healed askew resulting in his never being able to play his beloved violin ever again. In fact, he never even listened to ANY music ever again.

After the war was over, the family immigrated to South Africa in 1948.

Katrina* met and married her husband, Tom*, having 3 children, living happily until 1994 when Tom* died suddenly at the age of 62.

Tom* was a “take charge” kind of guy meaning that Katrina* had never paid a bill or balanced o cheque book in her life – till then. After Tom’s* death, Katrina* would have nightmares about whether she was handling her affairs the way Tom* would have done. After 2 years, she found herself again. Having drawn on lessons from her past, she steeled herself and did it “her way”. And it was good.

Slowly but surely, age takes it’s toll on all of us in one way or another. Katrina* started having difficulty in walking. Osteoperosis of the hip takes one on a slow and progressive downhill slide. 50 years ago, people in her position would have been crippled, wheel-chair bound or even bedridden. After 6 months of suffering, Katrina* decided to have the surgery. By that time she was at the point of alomst comlpete immobility.

After 4 hours of surgery, 2 days in ICU, she was discharged on day 5. It is now day 9 and she is up and about albeit, for now, with the aid of crutchers. I stand in awe of this woman. As a teenager, I didn’t want to be anything like Mom – I wanted to DO more, BE more – but now I’m glad to say that I am just like her and I’m proud of it.

*Not their real names.




5 responses

15 08 2007

Good post Nossie

How are you? Hope your mom is doing well.

15 08 2007
Dusty Muffin


What can I say?

Those ghosts … those stories …

I’m so glad you’ve discovered this one and shared it with us.

Thank you.

15 08 2007

Great post nossie, thanks for sharing.

16 08 2007

How cruel we human beings are, how afraid of music, art and literature… How resilient we are to rise against the odds, to dust off the dirt of our humiliation and destroy the symbols of oppression and exploitation and get on with our lives again.

17 08 2007

Semi…thanks for the mail – do so again at any time.
Dusty…There is so much more to tell…looking forward to the first installment of yours!!
Vapour..thanks for taking the time to read and comment. It means a lot.
David…ditto. Her story is not unique, nor is it nearly as tragic as most but it’s hers. That is MY heritage.

As for Mom, she’s doing well. Hit the skids a bit today – missing her dogs who are at the kennel till she recovers sufficiently.

Thanks so much for all you kind wishes. I’ll be back full-time in a week or so.

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