Thoughts on the 16th of May


On this day, seventy-eight years ago, I was born in Berlin. This was such a long, long time ago!

The apartment building I grew up in

The apartment building I grew up in

So much has happened during that time. That I’m still alive is a wonder. Before I was ten the biggest of wars dominated my life. I would say it has shaped me into the person I am today. I can’t run away from that legacy. Neither do I want to.

First the Poms, then the Yankees tried to bomb shit out of me. Many a times I was in an air raid shelter when the whole building was shaking. We heard the bombs whistling down on us and after a moments silence the mighty burst of an explosion nearby made us think there was an earthquake. But we survived the day and night bombing only to experience the roar of the artillery of the Red Army pounding the city of Berlin. Three times buildings in which I was at the time were hit by shells. I will never forget the sound of the Katyusha rocket launcher. Berlin’s destruction was the end of the devastation in Europe that also included Stalingrad and Warsaw.

American B 17 over our home

American B 17 over our home

Once, coming back from an errand to get some sugar, I was attacked by a Russian fighter plane. Later, on my 10th birthday, a couple of Red Army soldiers wanted to blow my brain out unless I drink a cup of vodka. I refused and was saved from my ordeal by an officer. I must have believed the Russian political commissar who told me, Russians would not make war against children. I have been a Russophile ever since.

Seventy years ago, in 1943, I knew nobody who was as old as I am today. Of my four grandparents only the mother of my dad was still alive. I had a couple of old grandaunts but they were still not older than seventy then. For an eight year old they were amazingly old. Now I’m even older! But I heard them telling stories of what happened nearly seventy years earlier. What a span of time I’m grappling with here: 140 years !

We have three great-grandchildren and that puts us in the middle of seven generations. This is purely amazing! I lost my maternal grandmother when I was just three and I remember her well.

When you live in Berlin you experience history as it happens. It is that kind of town; restless and searching for more life, even in the ruins of a “Thousand Year Empire” that lasted only twelve years. The part of Berlin where I grew up was in Kreuzberg. “It is one of the most interesting places on the face of this planet,” says my blogger friend NotMsParker http://kreuzberged.com/

After the war Berlin was occupied by the four big Allies. And they were not on friendly terms with each other. Especially the Soviet Union did not trust the Western powers and they wanted to dislodge them. Of course this feeling of mistrust was reciprocated. There was always a sense of political crisis in the air. Perhaps we, my wife and I, were looking for a more stable environment. Our gaze went to the end of the world: Australia. A nuclear holocaust for Europe was on the cards and what better idea than putting as many miles as possible between us and the old homeland.

On the way to Australia, on an ocean liner that was for us pure luxury, we stopped at exotic places like Aden and Colombo. I saw Colombo one day after my birthday on the 17th of May 1959, Pentecost Sunday. It impressed me with its mixture of its many religions.

SS Strathaird to boat we came on 1959

SS Strathaird the boat we came on in 1959

On board SS Strathaird May 1959

On board SS Strathaird May 1959

Australia gave us a good start. After two years tragedy struck us in the form of Poliomyelitis. All our three children were struck down with especially bad consequences for our eldest daughter. She was confined to an iron lung and a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Later in life I took up long distance running and even ran four Marathons. What a great time I had. I even ran many road races, of different length, in my home city Berlin on my various visits there. Everyone knows about the “Wall” in Berlin and when it fell in 1989 it was the happiest day of my life. I still feel the emotions of that tremendous event today.

As I steadily get older I feel like a ticking time-bomb. I feel alright now and still go for runs. They are not long runs like I used to do, but short runs every second day. It is good for my mental equilibrium and for my cardiovascular system. But at my age one can expect life threatening events. Elderly people fall and end up in hospital never to return to normal life; if at all. A sniffle in the morning could be the beginning of a terminal Pneumonia. “And so it goes,” Kurt Vonnegut, one of my favourite American writers, used to say.

But I made it to here and I have plans to stay around for at least another ten years. And if I keep running I may end up in “Runner’s Heaven”. Wherever this is.

In the mean time, I’ll keep in contact with my many internet friends I’m privileged to have found or they found me. This is one of the good things that happened during my life time, the PC and the Internet. The computer was invented by Kurt Zuse only a few hundred meters from where I grew up, in a house I passed on my way to school and a school friend resided in. “And so it goes.”

At this late point in my life I’m still interested in politics, but take it more with a grain of salt. Often I give the news a miss as I feel I heard it all before. I’m worried for the people on the Indian Subcontinent that they might be sucked into a great confrontation. I hope the teachings of the Koran, the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita and of the Dhammapada will help the people to overcome their differences. There is so much wisdom in these books.

My world of ideas comes among others from Goethe, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Henry George, Ralph Waldo Emerson and many others (like the great Russian writers). I love all the great painters and the classical music of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart and the folk music of so many countries, and Jazz, of course.

This is where we live now: The Illawarra, NSW, Australia

This is where we live now: The Illawarra, NSW, Australia

I could go on but my lovely wife brought me a cup of tea and everything must come to an end. But don’t worry I’ll be here for a while yet.

“AND SO IT GOES” 🙂

A cup of tea served with LOVE

A cup of tea served with LOVE !

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11 thoughts on “Thoughts on the 16th of May

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Berlioz. Have a lovely day! This summary of your life is very interesting and really spot on. It tells us who you are. I am proud that I’ve known you for the greatest part of your life. May you have many more birthdays to celebrate!
    Your loving wife, Uta.

    • Thank you Uta. It was a pleasure to share the life with you. You are my “Desiree” and I’m in the middle of writing a blog about it. Love, Peter

    • Thank you for visiting. Our personal history makes us into the complex individuals we are. We are all travellers and vagabonds on this earth, whether we move from country to country or from the living room to the fridge only. The latter gives me an idea for a blog. Thank you.

  2. I’m a bit late but here’s wishing you many happy healthy returns of the day. Enjoyed reading your stories and thoughts as usual.
    What you said about the Indian subcontinent and all its wisdoms reminded me of a 6 part documentary called ‘The Story of India’……it was a wonderful watch.
    Cheers to you and the internet! 🙂

    • It is never too late to say “Cheerio”. I like getting an acknowledgement from you and others, of course. ‘The Story of India’ might be shown here too, one day. We had ‘The Wild Life of India’.

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