The other day, I was sitting on the swing in the local playground and was swinging into the beautiful, sunny summer morning. Magpies were singing away in a nearby tree and a couple of Galahs, not very musical-minded, chased them away. All normal activities in the park.
Swinging is a relaxing pastime and on this day, during the time of Advent, the memories came flooding back to sixty-seven years ago in December 1948.
It was still a time of shortages and we knew Christmas would be a dull affair again. I was especially sad because my sister Ilse was away in West-Germany because of the blockade the Soviet Union had imposed on West-Berlin. There were shortages everywhere, only of the cold and hunger we had plenty of.
We had a swing hanging from the high ceiling in our hallway. I was mighty proud of it as I knew no other family with a swing. One morning in December, I was alone at home. My mother and my older sister Eva were both at work. I was sitting on the swing and was swinging to my heart’s content. Flying through the air, I felt like a bird. As it was the time of Advent I was also singing Christmas songs.
Nostalgia overpowered me and I was wishing for my sister to be back in Berlin for Christmas. I knew there was no way she could be back as all the borders to West-Germany were hermetically sealed off.
The thought of Christmas, without her, made me really sad and I stopped swinging and finally the swing came to a stop. As I was considering my dark mood I heard a knock on the door. I jumped off the swing and rushed to the door and when I opened the door my sister Ilse was standing there with a suitcase by her side. We hugged each other and probably screamed and shouted with sheer delight.
I swamped her with questions about her coming. She had taken a train to the border and joined some other people for a long walk through the forest. Near the border, they were joined by a guide who showed them the way. Today, people would call those helpful men, people smugglers. In those days they were heroes. They made it safely through the night to the nearest railway station in East-Germany and then by train to Berlin. And there she was.
At once we went to the police to report her return and registered her, and applied for the ration cards, with the department which issued the food vouchers. My mother was at work and had no idea what was happening at home. It made her real happy to find Ilse on her return home.
Later, just before Christmas, every person in Berlin received a free block of Sarotti chocolate. It had the familiar picture of the brown milk cows and the inscription that it was a gift from Sarotti for the suffering population of Berlin. It had especially been flown in by the planes of the Allied air forces. What a change that was: Within three years from bombing us they flew in chocolates for us!
The future looked just that little bit brighter for us.