“Russia House” and the “Dutch Cafe”


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Last Monday we,  my wife Uta (also known as Aunty Uta) and I,  went to Bulli Beach for a cup of coffee. We had to kill some time as we waited for the doctor to start work. We were early.

Uta wanted to relax with a book she brought along. She loves books written by Andrew M. Greeley and this one, “The Bishop in the West Wing” seemed especially of interest to her.  Greeley is called ‘author and priest’ but I can tell you, he is not your common garden variety priest. His novels are always political, as seems to be right for a man with an Irish background. While Uta was delving into her book I decided on a little stroll as I can’t sit for long. Movement is the best for my ageing and aching legs.

The above picture does not show Bulli Beach (on the Illawarra Coast of NSW) but the neighbouring Sandon Point Beach. Along the shoreline runs Blackall Street. New, modern houses have sprung up there over the years and replaced many of the old houses that I remember from more than fifty years ago; many have disappeared or were altered beyond recognition.

During the sixties, I worked with another German from Berlin beautifying the old houses there. This kind of work brought us in contact with so many people of different walks of life.  For instance, migrants who still had to come to grips with the cultural shock they had suffered after coming to Australia. Australian men did not like us “New-Australians” but the women did.  Meeting us those women found out, that men actually were able to talk and converse with women as that. We often had great conversations with them during our lunch breaks. They always supplied us with cups of tea and ‘bikkies’ as is the Australian way.

Here at Sandon Point’s Blackall Street, we struck migrants who had made Australia their home after World War Two and all the destruction and replacement that went with it. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean surely must have been a kind of paradise for them.

First, we worked on a cottage that belonged to a Dutch family. They were older than we were and could have been our parents. They were from a region in the Netherlands that was close to the border to Germany and they were able to talk in German to us. They preferred that to speaking English.

We were able to establish an instant rapport with them, even though, we were on opposite sites during the war.  They were so friendly that they provided coffee and cake every afternoon. We were sitting and talking about the war and Australia. We dubbed the place “The Dutch Cafe”. We learned, during our conversations with them,  that the husband of the Dutch couple used to be a truck driver during the war and was on tour to Berlin on many occasions. He also worked for the Dutch resistance and had to spy and report on what he saw in Germany. It was a dangerous mission.

They put us in contact with another lady who lived down the road from them. We were able to do the same work on her house as well. The lady was from Russia but was of German descent. She was much older than the Dutch people but they had taken an interest in her and her wellbeing.

While working on her house she was telling us about her life in Russia and the Soviet Union. She had experienced the Russian Revolution and had no good word about it. Her German family were decried as capitalists as they were in the habit of painting their fences. The old lady cried a little as she told us her family history. On a table, I saw a photo of her husband, as a young man, standing in the Red Square of Moscow. The view of the Kremlin was in stark contrast to the view from her tiny upstairs window towards the ocean. We nicknamed her home “Russia House”.

 

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This is the view from Russia House today

When we left her premises, she gave us a piece of advice, probably born out of her own bitter experience, never to trust a Russian. Some of my followers will know, from reading some of my previous posts, that I had to trust Russians to survive.

Walking along Blackall Street I could not help noticing the changes and gentrification of the street. Where would the families of the former Dutch and Russian families be today? We all have moved on, some of us have gone back to eternity and we ourselves are waiting to move there.

But, I’m not in a hurry yet, despite dreaming last night that on a visit to my doctor he informed me, that he had bad news for me; the government would like to let me know that I would depart to the hereafter soon.

I still want to write a few more posts for this blog.

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on ““Russia House” and the “Dutch Cafe”

  1. Those were the days . . . . A lot has changed. Looks to me that nowadays these mansions along the shoreline are all million Dollar ones!

    • In those days people had often built the houses themselves and they became their homes. Today those “million dollar mansions” are cold and only understood as an investment.

    • It is surprising how quickly time has passed. When I was young I thought life was a long stretch ahead of me and the end not yet visible. Now everything is the reverse. The end is visible but the past can be viewed as in a short film of myself.

  2. What a beautiful, peaceful place in that lovely photo!
    And the history and the memories you shared are important and precious.
    Time sure does fly, doesn’t it?
    I continue to pray for you and Uta…for good health and happy days!
    Hugs,
    Carolyn 🙂

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