Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Happy Birthday! Palju õnne sünnipäevaks vanaema!

February 22nd is a very special day to me. It is my grandmother's birthday as well the birthday of a few other significant people in my life. My grandmother would have turned 103 today if she were still alive but sadly we lost her in 1989. Her memory lives on however, in the fascinating stories my father often shares with me and in the photos that surround my home. 

Hertha Lestal

My grandmother experienced a lot during her lifetime. She lost her father at a young age, then her mother passed away a few years after making the move from Tartu to Tallinn. In September 1939 she married her Baltic German husband and moved to the Warthegau region as part of the Baltic German Resettlement Program. She lived in Łódź, Poland for several years during WWII before fleeing to the West to escape the advancing Red Army. My grandmother had a deep-seated fear and hatred of Russian soldiers from that chapter in her life. The Soviets were known to commit horrendous atrocities, not just in the Warthegau region but across Europe. After the war my grandmother took refugee in the displaced persons camp in Hamburg known as 'Zoo Camp'. While there she divorced her cheating husband who had abandoned the family and slowly embarked upon a new life. She meet my grandfather Alexander during her time in Hamburg and joined him when he emigrated to Australia in 1948. They both wanted to start a new life together far away from the destruction of war. Australia gave my grandmother the fresh start she needed but she always said 'Europa die Best'.

I will remember my grandmother for many things but she was best known for her dolls clothes. She had a small business making dolls clothes and my father and uncle often acted as her sales agents. They delivered her dolls clothes all across Sydney. When I used to visit her as a child I loved gazing upon her sewing room that was full of colourful fabrics, ribbons and lace. She had cupboards full of dolls clothes all carefully marked denoting size.  It was heaven for me!

Of course I have preserved many of my grandmother's dolls clothes but I wish I had more.