Sunday, January 24, 2010


Today I went back to my grandmother’s house – for the first time since she died on 11 November. I was a bit scared to walk into an empty house, but it didn’t feel like that at all. Somehow, without wanting to sound creepy, it felt like they were all still there : my grandparents, and my great-grandparents, who also used to live in the same house.

Going through clothes, books, jewellery, etc. I realised that they were so much more than “grandparents”. I found pictures of them as a very young couple during the war. Pictures of my grandfather in his “resistance”-uniform, pictures of my grandmother working in a factory, pictures of them and a bunch of other people, all dressed up in hats and funny clothes because the war had ended. Looking at all those pictures, I had so many questions. Same thing with the clothes. Grandma, when did you buy this coat in “Western Germany”? Granddad, who are all those people with you on stage? And what was the play you were in?
My mom answered some of the questions – and she knew most of the people in the pictures. I realised the irony of the situation: I have studied History with a capital H, but I didn’t know my grandmother was forced to work in a factory. I didn’t know my great-grandfather was sent to Germany to work there during the war. Sure, I had heard my grandfather tell a few war stories about blowing up train rails – but why the hell didn’t I know more?

Now I feel like I want to know each and every detail....but the main sources of all the stories are gone. My family history is gone. It’s just me and my mom and the memories we share. And the house. The house we want to keep so badly. The house that’s been in the family for 100 years – where my grandfather and my mother grew up, and where I spent every single afternoon after school. Mom says we have to sell it one day – and I know she’s right. But we’re far from ready to say goodbye.

1 comment:

Jill the Duchess said...

Family history is SO prescious! I was lucky enough to suddenly realize this about my Great Grandma who immigrated with her family to America when Germany invaded Poland. I asked as many questions as I could and got an amazing letter (and her old Polish passport) a few months before she unexpectedly and suddenly passed away the morning of my wedding.

Write down as much as you can from what you know and what your mom knows. You'll be so happy you did! And you'd be amazed what you can find out from old friends and relatives so if at all possible, maybe reach out to others for their stories.

Could be a very meaningful and great project?

Hope you're doing okay ;)