How Grande it was…

19 09 2007

The pool at the Grande - now.

The pool at the Grande - then

Grande Hotel - Beira - then

Grande hotel, Beira - now

These photos were taken in 2003. Once again,  neglect has taken it’s toll. One hopes that these places have seen some investment, in the mean time, providing employment for the people in the area….

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Park House, Mthatha.

17 09 2007

Park house.

My great uncle, who was Chief Magistrate of the Transkei in the 1950’s, lived there. Do you know it, Mj?





To reflect and… Act.

19 08 2007

I cannot take credit for the contents of this post but it is thought provoking…

“This can be shown by countries like India & Egypt, that are more than 2000 years old and are poor.

On the other hand, Canada, Australia & New Zealand, that 150 years ago were inexpressive, today are developed countries and are rich.

The difference between poor & rich countries does not reside in the available
natural resources.

Japan has a limited territory, 80% mountainous, inadequate for agriculture & cattle raising, but it is the second world economy. The country is like an immense floating factory, importing raw material from the whole world and exporting manufactured products.

Another example is Switzerland, which does not plant cocoa but has the best chocolate of the world.
In its little territory they raise animals and plant the soil during 4 months per year.
Not enough, they produce dairy products of the best quality.
It is a small country that transmits an image of security, order and labor, which made it the world’s strong safe.

Executives from rich countries who communicate with their counterparts in poor countries show that there is no significant intellectual difference.

Race or skin color are also not important: immigrants labeled lazy in their countries of origin are the productive power in rich European countries.

1. Ethics, as a basic principle.
2. Integrity.
3. Responsibility.
4. Respect to the law and order.
5. Respect to the rights of other citizens.
6. Work loving.
7. Strive for saving and investment.
8. Will of super action.
9. Punctuality.

In poor countries, only a minority follow these basic principles in their daily life.
We are not poor because we lack natural resources or because nature was cruel to us.
We are poor because we lack attitude.

We lack the will to comply with and teach these functional principles of rich and developed societies.
If you do not forward this message nothing will happen to you. Your pet will not die, you will not be fired, you will not have bad luck for seven years and also you will not get sick.

If you love your country, let this message circulate for a major quantity of people could reflect about this & CHANGE, ACT!!”





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.





In case someone comes searching.

28 07 2007

The life and death of a fallen ancestor.

Julius Wronsky was born on the 22 January 1889 at “Makouwrskop”, district Wolmaranstad, Tranvaal, Union of South Africa. His parents were Fritz and Maria (neé Libenberg), Fritz and his three brothers, Ludwig, Eric and Wilhelm emigrated from Prussia in the mid- to late 1800’s arriving in the port of Cape Town. They were “Russian Jews”.

Julius had 2 siblings, Alice Elizabeth and William Henry Wronsky. Julius and William attended St. Andrews college in Grahamstown in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s. After completing his schooling, Julius studied to be a teacher at the Normal College in Pretoria, South Africa. After teaching for a number of years, he enlisted and was drafted into “C” company, South African Irish regiment on the 5 October 1914. (No. 260). During his time with the SA Irish, he was involved in the German South West Africa Rebellion and the “S. A. H.” (Highlanders?) He was discharged from that Regiment on 23 July 1915. On the bottom of a pay-slip, Julius’s next of kin was given as “Miss A. Wronsky, Rhodes University, Grahamstown, Cape Colony”.

Not long after that, on the 7 September 1916, Julius enlisted again, being drafted into the 2nd Brigade of the South African Infantry, No 7646. On his “Certificate of Medical Examination” is stated the he was 5’8 ¼ “ tall, weighed 175lbs, “flush” complexion and “fair” hair. He was re-assigned on the 20th October 1916 at Robert’s Heights/Potchefstroom to the 2nd Regiment 1st SA Infantry Brigade (Overseas), No. 10348. At that time (11 month later), his complexion was “dark”, eyes “blue” and hair “dark brown” and his weight 165lbs. Strange transformation.

He embarked on the “Walmer Castle” on the 6th November 1916 in Cape Town arriving in Southhampton, England. He left for the front on the 25th February 1917 and joined his unit on 26th February 1917. Julius was killed in action at the battle of Arras, France on the 9th April 1917. He was buried at the “Brown Line British Cemetery, North of St. Laurent Blangy, 1 ¼ miles North East of Arras.

In a letter from the Office of the Staff Officer, War Records, Pretoria, dated 28th December 1920, his next of kin (then given as W. H. Llyod-Wronsley, 4 Mayfield Terrace, Newington, Edinburgh, Scotland) was informed that Julius’s remains were exhumed and re-interred at the Point-du-Jour Military Cemetery No. 1. 2 ½ miles East North East of Arras, France.

All SA troops who saw service in any of the theatres of the war – in Julius’ case – the Western Front – received at least 2 medals. The British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

The BWM was an automatic award you almost just had to report for duty for that one while the AVM was awarded only if you were in a theatre where fighting was taking place.

Julius would have been awarded the medals posthumously them going to his next of kin.

R. I. P.





Lest we forget…

10 07 2007

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Why the Poppy?
Poppy seed will lie in the ground for years if the soil is undisturbed. That churned up cemetery known as the Western Front provided the ideal medium for masses of poppies to blanket the graves. By the support programs like meals-on-wheels, drop-in centres, etc. Buy and wear a poppy. It is simple, painless way to recognize contributions and 1920s, Legion Branches were selling the paper flowers to: provide assistance to needy ex-servicemen and their families, to build housing for seniors, and sacrifices barely imaginable to us.





Forgotten WW1 hero’s.

6 07 2007

History – not one of my favourite subjects at school. But knowing now what I do, I regret not paying attantion in class! In my on-going “excavation” into my family history, a decorated WW1 hero family member came to light. His name, Julius Wronsky, had been all but overlooked on my (growing) family tree. He met his fate fighting on the Western front in France in 1917. Recent successes in other strawberry fields and/or rose gardens, spurred me on to find out more. My journey has just begun down this particular avenue and already, through the input from family members, historians and other interested parties, in the shape of photo’s, letters and anecdotes, lifts my spirits. I believe that everyone has a story to tell but some can no longer speak for themselves, hense their stories are lost. It always amazes me how willing strangers are to assist in a quest..hopefully I can do the same for those kind souls someday.