“During and after the second world war, my sister and I stayed both with our maternal grandmother because our parents were far away in Norway. In hindsight that was a good time for us both. With grandmother, you could come with everything to her, it stayed on with me in life. Grandmother lived there in the house on her own under the attic and she had a little bunker in the garden because of the airplanes; it was 50 km north of Hamburg and it was the war. Hamburg was bombarded, so we had a bunker in the garden with grass on top so you couldn’t see it. She had chooks and a garden where everything was growing as we had not much to eat; she was growing everything at home and we had a pig as well because we were on rations. You got a ration card for food to buy and so when I was sent to the Lebensmittelgeschaeft, grocery store, and got bread, on the way home—because fresh bread is always good—I made a tunnel in the bread, I started eating, and she wasn’t happy. She had to be creative to feed us children and made all sorts of things, potato starch, syrup lollies. We stayed maybe only a year but it was a really happy time. Then the parents came back, divorced, I came to my father and my sister, because she was younger, to the mother, so we were separated. I lived with the father for seven years in an old grain mill and one day, he knocked a hole in the wall and said he will put a stove there to warm the room but he never lit the fire. Next door was the grain mill and there was a filter; he put a hole into the filter and grain came out of the wall. The grain was given to the baker and the baker baked rye bread. From that day onwards we had not more to eat than this yellow maisbrot,  cornbread, which tasted terrible and I know that was stealing. That was in the forties, I was 8 years old, and he asked me as I was ten, ‘Do you immigrate with me to Australia?’ but we never went because of my sister. From fifteen I went from school to living and working in a household with a petrol station and a blacksmith. I went to Frankfurt when I was sixteen to live with my mother, her second husband and my sister, and went to commercial school for two years learning bookkeeping, typing, taxation and after that working at financial banks. In 1985 my marriage broke down and my mother died, so I booked for me and my thirteen-year-old son a trip to Australia to see where my father would have gone with me. On that trip, I met my second husband, immigrated and married in 1986. My son didn’t come to Australia with me, he said he has to speak English, he has to use a school uniform and all his friends are in Frankfurt so he stayed with his father. My second husband had a block of land on Kangaroo Island which was at D’Estrees Bay, we moved to in 1990 but he left after the fire. I developed a home-made cosmetic creme out of need because I got dry eyelids out in the bush and I sold it first at the distillery. I also went to markets but the people couldn’t really understand me with my accent; when they asked what ingredients there is, I would say it’s all natural and I had to explain it and they kept saying ‘pardon, can you say it again?’ I thought, no, so I came to the idea to make mail-order forms and included them with my creme. The people then ordered and I had not to talk. It was a hard time, but I got a lot of help here on the island. I now have lived in “Boronia” for fourteen years. The community is very good in here, we all live on our own but we communicate with each other, and once a month, we meet in the shed and talk. Basically, we leave each other alone but when you need something, oder if something seems wrong, you ask, ‘Are you ok?’ Kevin, for instance, he has a garden, and when he has too much, he shares. So, you might get some carrots or beans or beetroots on the hot water heater. People know me here and when something is not right and it gets me too much, then I write a submission or turn up at meetings and they always say, ‘Gisela, what are you up to?’ They know exactly that I speak the truth and I keep everything, all the old files, and I can look it up and say, ‘Don’t invent the wheel again and look what the older people did. Listen to them and then you can make new rules.’ This year, I’ve lived for 35 years in Australia and coming up 31 on the island in August. I don’t think I can get used to the differences between Germany and Australia. Here inside is Germany, outside is Australia. My thinking is German and I try to translate it and get them to agree or not. I still think in German; I was 49 when I came here, all of my upbringing was in Germany, all what I have learned. Sometimes I still write back to front, because in German it’s all the other way around, but I get it across. When I do a submission, is ja all in English, but I refer to paragraph so and so, so they know, I am very exact. You can’t get that out of me, I was brought up that way. At the moment, you know you can’t fly away and now I am having problems with my back. I am not sure if I would survive on a plane over 24 hours back to Germany and the children cannot come either. Yes, you can communicate with computer and everything, but that’s not the same. Then now you hear, 2024 is maybe that we can fly again. Mensch, am I still alive then?”

Published by sabrinadavis5223

I am a German living in South Australia. We lost our home and farm in the Kangaroo island summer bushfires. I love travelling, reading, beach walks, board games, watching movies and spending time with my family.

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