Lost and Found

You know that feeling of frustration when you’re looking for something and you can’t find it? How about the frustration of not really being sure what you’re looking for . . . only that you’ll know it when you find it? 
 
Well, I’ve have that feeling for more than six months now. Only it wasn’t a thing, it was a title. My upcoming novel has had a working title, but like an unborn child, it’s now needing a real name. 

I’ve wracked my brain, traveled far and wide, let it rest, and continued the search again—sometimes losing sleep over it. And wouldn’t you know it . . . two days before Christmas, when my mind is overflowing with a myriad of details about gifts, meals, schedules, etc. . . . out pops the right title. 

Like a stone on a beach, it’s suddenly the perfect treasure and I’ve stuffed it safely in my pocket, to be revealed when the time is right. Such a good feeling to find something that was lost. A good feeling indeed. 

Now where did I leave the scotch tape?

Snowman Art

What fun we had with the EAL class where I volunteer once a week. My friend, Mel, led this spirited group of refugee women in a paint 'afternoon.'

They've been so eager to please, to follow all our Canadian rules. But this time around we wanted them to channel their inner child and have fun with it. Easier said than done, but the results were worth it, wouldn't you agree?

December Gratefulness

Aspen woods in Charleswood
This is my sixth December of not working for the post office and it definitely puts a different spin on the whole season. I mean, snow? Looks pretty from inside. Cold? Just have to warm the car up first. Parcels? Instead of dragging them up to third floor apartments, now I'm just clicking on the internet for my own gift-giving. Yeah, it's amazing how my Decembers have changed.

But I appreciate the cold, the subtle nuances of what cold really is. Minus thirty in the sunshine can be balmy compared to minus ten in on a grey, windy day. Fresh snow looks great but can really impact walking conditions. The timing of snowfall matters. A Friday night snow means homeowners have all weekend to clear their steps and sidewalks.

Physically, it was a tough job. Mentally, it was awesome. And now, six years into retirement I'm grateful to—so far at least—having some stamina in my aging body. I have a dog who keeps me walking in all kinds of weather and I've learned my lessons. Dress for the weather and keep moving.

The hardest part was convincing my mom that delivering mail in Winnipeg was not as bad as working in a Siberian gulag. I don't think she ever believed me.

Anyway, happy December to all. Try to resist the click on the online retailers. Shovel your walks and dress for the season. Enjoy.

Socializing

December—the month of socializing—makes me grateful for the gift of friendship. We’ve come a long way as women, haven’t we? I don’t recall my mom going out and having a social life of her own.  

High School friends, getting into festive mode
Social life? She was part of a couple—her life was enmeshed with my father’s, and his with hers. Their senior years were limited to and by each other’s. She crocheted, baked, watched the Young and the Restless, and cleaned. He grew tomatoes, golfed, watched sports, and puttered. That was how I saw them. But perhaps. . .after a rather tumultuous life, this was good enough. I wonder . . . how will my kids remember me?

Determined not to be house-bound like my mom, I’ve made an effort to maintain a social life outside of the house. Of course, being a writer shapes my days and has always been the motivator behind most of my interests. For a writer, even difficult relationships or situations are just food for the mind’s compost pit.

I’m grateful for friends, old and new, who continue to inspire me. I don’t want to ever take any of you for granted. Thanks for sharing in this adventure called life. 

Thinking of Berlin Today


I’m thinking of Berlin today—grateful that I was able to visit this dynamic, work-in-progress city. I spent four days getting lost, navigating hordes of tourists and all the while appreciating how much history sits in this place–especially as a consequence of Hitler's insane rule. Today it’s about celebrating thirty years since the Berlin Wall fell.

The apartment where I stayed was a five-minute walk to a memorial of the Berlin Wall. I appreciated learning about how it divided families, destroyed lives and insisted on using violent power to control. Thirty years isn’t all that long ago and walls still threaten to divide families, destroy lives and violently control people. Why?

I'm reading Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz in honour of Berlin’s reunification and to understand a bit more about the city's history. The novel's been compared to Joyce’s Ulysses and I’m sure struggling with it. But I’m more than halfway through and it’s getting a tad easier. The Babylon Berlin series on Netflix was a much more entertaining way for me to appreciate Berlin during the Weimar Republic years in the 1920s. 

Congratulations to a city that manages to keep history, art and people flourishing. 

I might post another time about the Nazi era historical spots I visited because . . . yes! I managed to retrieve my trip photos thanks to some patient computer geeks.  



Finding Slavskoye

While sorting through travel photos the other day, I lost at least half of them. Don't ask me how I did that. I'm visiting my local computer place this coming week and hope they'll be able to help this luddite.

Rather than risk losing more, I thought I should post my favourite photos right now. 

My cycling trip through parts of the former East Prussia (now Kaliningrad Oblast, Lithuania and Poland) retraced some of my mom’s life while living in Kreuzburg (now Slavskoye) between 1932 and 1945.
Cobblestone main road in former Kreuzburg

The village of Slavskoye is an almost thirty-kilometer road trip south of the city of Kaliningrad (called Königsberg until 1946 and renamed in honour of a Soviet politician who died that year). The traffic, exiting Kaliningrad (pop. about 450,000) on a Friday afternoon was horrendous. What should have taken half an hour, took more like two hours. Our minivan driver, Igor, seemed nonchalant about it all, but I felt bad for this detour he was taking on my behalf. 

Once we arrived is Slavskoye, however, it was all worth it. The village, in a state of ruin ever since it was caught between the advancing Soviets and the retreating Nazis back in the cold winter months of early 1945, has no main store or business, but some of the houses have been restored by their proud Russian owners. Yes, this is Russia and all the Germans are gone. Still, I hoped to find some traces of my family. 

It was a beautiful day in early September and flowers bloomed in colourful profusion over rickety fences and along the sides of bullet-scarred houses. Almost seventy years after the war, this part of Europe still sits derelict and mostly forgotten. 

Former Kreuzburg school 
The school my mom would have attended—albeit for a very short while because her coldhearted aunt thought the twelve-year-old girl should work, rather than become book-smart—stands pockmarked with bullet holes. I read somewhere that Wehrmacht soldiers had retreated to the school as a last defence. It looks like someone now lives in on the right end where new windows have been installed.

Former family home

And then I found the house her family built—still standing—at the end of a road with a well in front. Just like I’d been told.  It was one of the better maintained houses in the village. An older man, a Volga-German who’d once been exiled to Kazakhstan, was the proud owner. He invited us in for tea, but unfortunately, because of the traffic jam issues, we were short on time. I could only thank him for the outside tour. 

Then his elderly neighbour called out from over the fence, where she was mostly hidden by an apple tree thick with fruit, why weren’t we coming to visit her. Very friendly people who rely on their gardens to supplement their meager pensions. I left Slavskoye feeling that my family’s former home was in good hands. It’s too bad politicians can’t fight their wars on chess boards. My family, like these Russian settlers, were mere pawns in those horrible battles. 








Change

A reminder of how quickly things can change and how little control we have.
Living in Winnipeg . . . never a dull moment!

The Tuesday Garden
and the Friday Garden.



Travel Reflection #3—Going Solo

One thing I noticed while traveling . . . it’s a couples’ world out there, with many older folks (like me) fulfilling their bucket lists. Viewing all those hand-holding couples has only strengthened my enjoyment of the solo experience.

I engage more with my surroundings, rather than with a partner, when I travel alone and I make new friends. Traveling solo leaves me more vulnerable and thus more open to adventure. I’m forced beyond my comfort zone and it’s this discomfort that can bring insight and personal growth. 

That said, I know some wonderful couples, and my Berlin adventure involved me hanging out with a such a pair. 

As to the aging part, there are definitely times when I’m aware of my age but, aside from some aching bones, it’s not so bad—just a question of pacing. One thing aging has taught me—it’s all about the journey not the destination. 

Travel Reflection #2 A Tale of Two Places.



While in Germany, I focused on two places. Berlin (pop. 3.5 million) was crazy busy, brimming with people, bikes, public transit, cars, and, of course, history—a city under construction and thriving. How it all works, baffles me, but it does. 

Büsum, (pop. 5 thousand), on the other hand, invigorated in a windy, North Sea, sheep-ish sort of way. So peaceful, some might consider it boring. It's the kind of place a harried Berliner might go on vacation.


Germans have shouldered a large portion of the cost of refugee migration through high personal taxes and I heard their resentment about this over and over. Also, while I met some rude people . . . certain stressed out bus drivers and train employees come to mind . . . I met some extremely nice people—of all colours, creeds and nationalities. 

When you’re traveling and in a lot of public spaces—feeling a tad vulnerable— a little niceness goes a long way. 

Traveller's Dilemma

Random thoughts after returning from a month in Europe. 
 
I like porridge every morning in my favourite bowl. 
I like knowing where I’m going—and getting there in an efficient manner. 
I like speaking English and being understood.
I like figuring out what time it is—only here—and not somewhere else.
I like to sit back, put my feet up, and relax.

I like eating herring for breakfast.
I like finally arriving at my destination—and the misadventures along the way. 
I like trying out foreign words, messing up, and still being understood—sort of.
I like not knowing what time it is—unless there’s a train/plane to catch.
I like to get up, tie up my laces, and explore some more. 

Going Off-leash

It’s countdown to my big trip. I’ve saved, I’ve planned, I’ve trained, but mostly, I’ve imagined, this 2019 Baltic Bike Tour and North Sea Meander for a long time. 

Last time I went overseas for family research was in 2004.  That’s when I found my grandfather . . . well, he was dead, but I found out where he was shot, the ditch where his body was dumped, and when. No one in my family knew that story. 

original SVG file created by
Matthead (based on East_Prussia_1939.kpg
from English Wikipedia)
This time around, I’m not looking for windmills or perusing former KGB files. This time, I’m looking for amber and traces of love amongst the Nazi ruins of old East Prussia. Who knows what I’ll find? That’s part of the thrill of the hunt—and yes, I truly do feel like an explorer out to discover ghosts of the past. 

Of course, there will be some voyeuristic tourism along the way. Riga, Klaipeda, Kaliningrad, Gdansk—these are cities that will be complete unknowns to me. But I’m more interested in the little places in between. And, I’m a fool for trees, stones and wrinkled old faces. That’s why a bike trip is the perfect way for me to explore this part of Europe. 

The second half of my five week trip will take me to Schleswig-Holstein, with a three-day stopover in Berlin. Another unknown city that I feel will shock me because I’ve mostly seen only the war images of it.  

Ahttp://www.maps-for-free.com
Then it’s on to Hamburg and the North Sea where I’ll be staying in a beach town, population 5k. That’ll be my headquarters for checking out my dad’s side of the family. I have a bit of trepidation. What family skeletons are still hiding here? 

After some back and forth, I’ve decided to go without my laptop. I’ll travel with pen, paper and my smartphone camera. When I come back in October, I just might be bursting with photos and thoughts about my adventure. 

  

Biking

Preparing for this overseas bike trip has a big checklist and I’m adding to it regularly. However, the important things are done. First off, I booked the tour through a very friendly Lithuanian tour company called Baltic Bike Travel. 

That’s when I had to make my first decision.  What kind of bike did I want to rent? Yikes. I’m just riding my son’s cast-off around here and don’t know a lot about bikes. I settled on a 24 speed trekking hybrid. I just hope it has a comfortable seat.

Because this is a guided tour, I won’t have to worry about fixing flats or gears. . . both have been issues during my summer here while biking the Harte Trail. Luckily bike repairs are a lot cheaper than car repairs. I'll be needing all my spare change for this trip. 33 more sleeps!

Reading in the Park

Yesterday I headed out to Assiniboine Park with three students from the EAL class I volunteered with during the winter. First we wandered around in the Leo Mol sculpture garden where we had fun mimicking some of the postures of the various naked women statues. The colourful English Garden came next. There, we visited the ‘woman reading’ sculpture near the entranceway and someone offered to take our photo. We thought it appropriate since learning how to read is what has brought us all together in the first place.

These women refugees come from Burundi, Ethiopia and Eritrea and their English skills are still at the Foundation Level. But they enjoy the challenge of recognizing letters and sounds and we had fun trying to read the captions on the various bronze sculptures. 

All that expended mental energy required a recharging and so we found a shady, green spot for our picnic. The students preferred sitting on the ground, “African” style, they called it, to sitting at a picnic table and I quite agree that a blanket on the ground works as a perfect tablecloth. 

After eating, we tried reading some picture books. These women work hard at reading . . . a skill they never had the chance to acquire, even in their home countries. Later, we played some badminton and threw a Frisbee. We had a hilarious time. . . laughing at ourselves and with each other as we chased birdies and flying discs. . .  contorting our bodies into various poses. Leo Mol would be inspired. Life imitating art. 

We ended the afternoon with a walk across the footbridge for some coffee and ice cream and finally re-joined the confusion of Winnipeg’s summer construction traffic. Summer had felt less muggy in the park, just like our language barriers were less of an issue when we were admiring sculptures and flowers or chasing a badminton birdie. 

These women might have a safer life in Canada after living in war zones, but often it’s also lonelier. Language barriers can be quite intimidating—as any traveler knows. I’ll be reminded of that soon enough, when I go on my Baltic trip next month. 

Reading Local

I'm celebrating Canada this year with a monthly review of a Canadian book. It's part of Canadian Bookworm's 13th Annual Book Challenge. 

June, 2019 was the perfect time to read Harriet Zaidman’s new middle grade novel set here in Winnipeg. City on Strike takes place in May and June of 1919. Of course, it’s always a good time to read historical fiction . . . my favourite type of fiction.

What I most appreciated about this particular book was the setting and I know I’ll never walk some of Winnipeg’s downtown streets without being haunted by the characters of Zaidman’s novel. While many of the buildings might be gone, the street names remain. Main, Higgins, Andrews, Flora in the North End . . . and even the still elegant and ritzy Wellington Crescent belonging to the South End. This is Winnipeg, divided by railyards. 

I think Zaidman does a decent job of re-imagining the lives of 13-year-old Jack and his sister, 11-year-old Nellie. At times, I got frustrated with the history lesson that kept getting in the way of the characters, but there’s a lot of history to be learned and I came away with a deeper appreciation of this important time of labour unrest in our city. 

I love having history told in story form like this and I’m sure this book will appeal to educators and anyone interested in Canadian social and cultural studies. It’s sad to think that these very issues continue to haunt our capitalistic society. This novel can be used as a catalyst to important conversations about 2019 values and I can see it becoming a prairie classic.

Summer is here!

There's nothing like a few days at the lake to really know that it's summer here on the prairies. Too early for the swarms of fish flies, but not for the invasive zebra mussels. The west shore of Lake Winnipeg in the Gimli area is littered with them.

I spent some glorious time watching clouds above the water. Who needs mountains when you have this ever-changing cloudscape?

And then there's the ice cream. I can't do summer without this guilty pleasure. BYOB? Bananas don't travel well . . . so much for that deal!

Poppies for Father's Day

My dad painted this still life of poppies back in 1954, the year after arriving in Canada . . . the year I was born. I’m hoping to someday recreate this painting with a real-life photograph. I’ve got a couple of poppy plants growing in the garden . . . but haven’t been graced with seven beautiful blossoms—not yet. 

Every six years I get to share my birthday with Father’s Day and it’s a great way to remember my dad. He’d turn 101 this year if he was still around, but he died twenty-six years ago. I can easily remember how long he’s been gone, because my youngest was still a babe in arms. He was a great grandpa . . . but for too short a time. 

Instead, Dad was many other things. Short, humble, funny, tough. He could fix anything. Being my dad was only one of his many roles. Now as I get older I’m beginning to appreciate the complexities of the man I called Papi. 

He was eighteen when he joined the Luftwaffe. Twenty when he married his first wife. Two children soon followed, but neither the marriage or the two boys survived the war.  

There was a plane crash. There were five years in a Soviet prisoner of war camp outside of Moscow. There was the home-coming to a home that no longer existed.  There was the divorce. 

Then there was my mom . . . a new wife. Soon after that, a ship to a new country. New children. New job. He was a busy man. And yet . . . he had time to paint poppies, to read fat books (which I’m trying to read). He had time to grow tomatoes, to go fishing and boating. He had time to not just buy a cottage, but to build a cottage, and even, to decorate the mocha tortes he was famous for.  

This was my father. Happy Father’s Day. For you, I grow the poppies. 

Catching up to Spring

I’ve spent the last six weeks focused on edits for my upcoming new release, Finding Amber. There weren’t a lot of edits, but you know about the butterfly effect? Let me quote Wikipedia:  “. . . in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.” So I needed to be sure that a slight character adjustment stayed consistent with everything else in the novel. It was a deep dive back into Katya’s 1937 world. 

And now I’m back here, in June, 2019, and the hostas have leafed out, the forget-me-nots blaze with dainty profusion, the peony’s actually got buds (first year!) and the lilacs are magnificient. It’s great to have a perennial garden that insists on emerging, whether I’m paying attention or not. Then there’s my collection of stones and driftwood pieces, that don’t need any of my attention at all. I love it. 

Now I’m ready to dig in the garden, to weed, to bike, hike and to otherwise indulge in this amazing weather . . . until I reach the next step in this publishing journey. But first, I need to get out my box of summer clothes . . . it’s time to put away the mitts and the togues. Seriously, that’s how far behind I am. 

April 30th, 1945. It still matters..

Seventy-four years ago, today, Hitler killed himself in a Berlin bunker. And while he took the easy way out, for others, there was a huge mess to clean up. A bunch of crazy German men destroyed countless lives. 

What a sad, difficult time my family had. And it affects people to this very day. It affects me. After all, why am I going to Europe this summer if not because of Hitler? That’s where my parents spent the first thirty-five years of their lives . . . where they met and married. . . where they grieved and dreamed. That’s where my two half-brothers lived and died. 
 
So, while it happened long ago and far away, for me, when I look at the photo of my dad and his brothers—he’s eighteen and in his Luftwaffe uniform—I know that Hitler still affects my life. When I look at the photo of his young son’s grave in some conquered Polish city, I know that little Winnfried’s 1942 death impacted my life growing up here in the middle of Canada. Maybe Dad spoiled me . . . just a bit. . . because of Winnfried? 

We’re still cleaning up Hitler’s mess. I guess that’s why I still write about the old days. . . still trying to figure it all out. How did a whole nation get swallowed up by Hitler and his perverted ideas? What evil do we have to keep watching out for, today in 2019? 

Signed!



Contract signed! My book, Finding Amber, (tentative title) will be published by Ronsdale Press from Vancouver, BC.  I'm feeling honoured and excited!

The story's set during the late thirties in the former East Prussia. I'm doing things backwards with the travel happening after I've written the story. But I'm so thrilled with how things have worked out.

I promised them I'd be more active on social media...so I'm trying!

Thomas Mann and Nida

On my Baltic biking itinerary is an overnight stay in Nida, Lithuania—a small beach town on the Lithuanian half of the Curonian Spit. The Germans called it Nidden, and it was the summer retreat of Thomas Mann. His books were later banned by the Third Reich—in spite of being a recipient of the 1929 Nobel Award for Literature—and he left by 1933. Supposedly the Nazi government mailed him a charred copy of his novel, Buddenbrooks, and he quickly got the message. 

Wojsyl, 2005
In 1939, Herman Göring confiscated the house as a holiday place for injured Luftwaffe personnel. Nowadays, his restored cottage holds the Thomas Mann Cultural Centre and the community hosts an active writing colony. His grandson, Frido Mann, released My Nidden: On the Curonian Spit in 2012. Another book to read to help me appreciate the tortured history of this beautiful area. 

JonasS at Lithuanian Wikipedia
I studied Thomas Mann years ago when I majored in 20thcentury German Literature. It’s crazy how all these years later, I’m still reading his work. Thomas Mann loved the landscape on this Amber Coast…the sand dunes, the salty wind, the Baltic. 

In my WIP, my character—Katya—loves it, too. And I’m on pins and needles with anticipation to experience what I have until now only imagined. 

World War Two Still Relevant

I’ve been listening to the Canada Reads discussion on CBC this week…finding some mundane chore to keep my hands busy as my mind follows along. Usually, I spend my mornings word crunching my own WIP. I haven’t yet read any (!) of this year’s shortlist…but I have every intention to read them all because each one sounds compelling. The conversation, as the panelists defended their choices, kept me sweeping and washing the kitchen floor. I even made cookies one morning…something I never do…just to keep my ear glued to the radio. (Don’t ask about my other options…the CBC has always been relegated to the kitchen.)

I’m delighted, although surprised, that By Chance Alone (Max Eisen) won. After all, there’s been so much written about the Second World War. Haven’t we heard enough? No, apparently the topic still needs attention. Now, just because I’ve been obsessed with this topic since my own youth, I didn’t assume that others would still find it so relevant. The participants of that hellish time are fading fast. Now is the time to listen to those personal experiences. 

For my personal journey, the focus in not on the victims, but on the perpetrators. Both my parents were active in the war…as Germans. For me, to understand the enemy, is to understand my family…is to understand myself. That’s why I’m saving my pennies and my nickels for this summer’s adventure overseas. I need to understand how my father, at eighteen, joined the Luftwaffe. I need to understand how my mother walked through the East Prussian winter to escape the Soviets. I need to understand why they left that bombed out world to start again in this country…a country that has itself been ravished by the violent usurpers who now govern.

So I have to read By Chance Alone and I have to read the others books. They’re relevant to my life and to the lives of my children who can’t help but take for granted all this good stuff…this free thinking and free moving society. The Canada Reads book discussion gives me hope. We aren’t all just navigating traffic around shopping malls. We're trying to understand why any of this matters.

Baltic Writers

Günter_Grass_(1986)_by_Erling_Mandelmann
I finished reading Günther Grass’s 2002 novel, Crabwalk, this week.  It’s translated from the German, Im Krebsgang,by Krishna Winston. Now, I might have a masters’ in 20thcentury German lit, but must admit, I’d never read any of his work. I was probably too obsessed with Heinrich Böll, one of my all-time favourite writers. What drew me to Grass now is Ruta Sepetys’s 2016 YA novel, From Salt to Sea. She includes a wonderful list of resource material at the end of her novel. 

Both books concern the sinking of the ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Both books cover territory that my own WIP touches on. Because the German title has the word Krebs in it, which means cancer, I'd missed the war connection. But the title refers to the wobbly, unsteady way a crab walks. And so it is, with the plot. 




I recommend reading both novels, end to end.  What makes Grass’s book so compelling is his ability to connect the dots, and then transfer the issues that led to the 1945 tragedy into a modern and relevant internet-based story. While Sepetys’s book zooms in on the tragedy of specific victims, Grass focuses on the bigger picture. He seems especially drawn to the man for whom the German luxury ship—used for German vacationers through the Kraft durch Freude —(or Strength through Joy program) was named. The man, Wilhelm Gustloff, was a prominent Nazi, who was shot in Davos, Switzerland by David Frankfurter, a Jew in 1936. Gustloff’s birthday was January 30, (1895) —fifty years to the day that the ship went down (in 1945), the same day the main character, Paul, was born, and the same date (in 1933) that Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, twelve years earlier.

Grass received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1999. Another Baltic-based writer, Thomas Mann, received the same recognition back in 1929. Grass’s birth town was Danzig (now at #13 Lelewela in Gdansk) Poland while Thomas Mann had a summer home in Nida, Lithuania. More places to add to my Baltic itinerary.  Hope to share photos here on this blog.



Marinesko's Legacy

I’m re-reading Ruta Sepetys’s novel, Salt to the Sea, not only because it’s a really good book but also because it’s set near the Baltic—January, 1945. The story centers on the greatest maritime disaster, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, when more than nine thousand people (many women and children) drowned in the icy Baltic after three Soviet torpedo strikes.
Bundesarchiv_Bild_183-H27992,_Lazarettschiff_"Wilhelm_Gustloff"_in_Danzig.jpg ‎

I’ll be biking through most of the places Sepetys's that characters travel, but Gdynia, Poland (called Gotenhafen during the Nazi years)—the goal of Sepetys’s four main characters—is not on the itinerary. However, since Gdynia’s only about twenty kilometers further down the coast from Gdansk, perhaps I'll be able to fit in a day trip. Its maritime museums should be interesting.  

Originally part of Poland, Gdynia was once the busiest port on the Baltic. In September 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland, they renamed it Gotenhafen, (meaning harbor of the gods) and used it as a port for their Kriegsmarine. Crushing attacks in the final months of the war—by both the fleeing Nazis and the offensive Soviets—destroyed most of the city. 

There's a 1960 movie called Darkness fell on Gotenhafen. (Nacht fiel über Gotenhafen) which I will try and hunt down. 

When in Kaliningrad, I’ll be hunting down the bronze sculpture dedicated to the Soviet commander who fired the three fatal S13 torpedoes. Alex Marinesko later ended up in the gulag system because of bad behaviour due to his heavy drinking.  He died in 1963. Decades later, in 1990, he was proclaimed a Hero of the Soviet Union by Gorbachev.

Marinesko is an important character in Günter Grass’s 2002, award-winning novel Crabwalk and over in St. Petersburg, the Submarine Museum is named after him.

Baltic Dreaming

From the Baltic Bike Travel website: www.bbtravel.lt
So excited! Finally, this meanderer gets to do some more off-road meandering. By that, I mean digging around for ghosts still calling for me from overseas. I’ve put down my deposit for a September bike tour from Riga, Latvia, through Lithuania, the Kaliningrad Oblast to Gdansk in Poland. Maybe I’ll find some remnants of my family. An old linden tree, perhaps? Stones, for sure. Amber, maybe. I'll get to hear the rhythm of those Baltic waves pounding the sandy beaches and shiver in the Baltic's salt spray. Can't wait!

For years now, I’ve been immersed in history books, photographs, films and memoirs set in East Prussia of the 1930s and 40s.  I've been digging up my mom’s tumultuous, pre-Canadian, life. 

Biking seems to be the right way to appreciate this natural and historical landscape. Now, if only Manitoba's snow would go away so I could get my cycling muscles into shape. 

Good time for more research. I’ll share some of my reading material soon. Check out the images haunting my dreams here

Musing on a Quote

Here's a quote I want to remember.

"This is how novels are nourished—on their authors' passions and obsessions, all those things that cannot be exposed overtly to the outside world for fear of appearing insane...fragments of truth and fantasy." (page 207)

It's from Tatiana deRosnay's biography Manderley Forever about Daphne du Maurier—a book that had mixed reviews but leaves me wanting to read more about this fascinating author.  I've very much enjoyed deRosnay's other books and, of course, du Maurier's Rebecca—which I read in German since it was in my dad's collection.  A 1938 international best seller and still in print.


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