“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.

 

 

 

 

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In Limbo

My friends, it has been a while since I published something. I actually work on a short story about a soldier of the Red Army at the end of WWII.

The story itself had a difficult gestation. It was originally written in English years ago. Then I rewrote it in German and published it on my German blog. After that I lost the English version. So, I decided to rewrite once again. I know, I’m no literary genius but my hope is, that my writing might be interesting enough for others to read, because it contains some of my own experiences.

I had already the second draft and thought, nearly ready to go. Just show it to my lovely, learned daughter Caroline and as we say in Australia, Bob’s your uncle”.

She had come to visit us in her break from Uni and she offered to have a look. O boy, did she use the red pencil. I was lucky she left a comma in the middle and a full stop at the end. Poor old Ivan has to do battle a bit longer.

I intended to have another look after Caroline had left. On the very next  day we went to a beautiful Indian lunch together.  When we came back home we found our home had been burgled.  And even some of Caroline’s stuff had been stolen. It has been nineteen years since our last break-in and we had become confidant that we would not have another burglary again, ever.What had been stolen can be replaced and will be.  What is more disturbing to our mind is the lost sense of security. In short we were out of our equilibrium. That was two weeks ago and slowly we are finding back to ourselves. Caroline stayed a few days longer and got in contact with the police and insurance for us.

Today we gave ourselves a two day break from reality; an escape from the everyday humdrum of existence. We drove the car about 30 km north and ended up at the same old spot we stayed three years ago. But we have the feeling we are hundred miles from care.

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It is the time before the big Christmas rush. It is quiet for now, just what we need. On Monday we are to see Caroline for her birthday in Sydney.

I hope when get home again our home has not been broken-into  again. Forget the thought, Peter. For now we are looking at the blue Pacific Ocean.

 

Two people walking at the edge of a mighty ocean

Two people walking at the edge of a mighty ocean