Ode to an unsung hero.Sep 19, 2006 (Updated Apr 4, 2008) Write an essay on this topic.
Popular Products in BooksThe Bottom Line In loving memory, I just begin to realize the gift to have known you, Oma. Farewell, and I miss you.
Most people think of the ultimate sacrifice when talking about heroes. Yet, true heroes happen on a daily basis and much less theatrical than a single heroic act. Such heroes live in many places -- often quiet and invisible. On September 16th 2006, I lost the one near and dear to me. With 93 years it was the end of a long life, yet way too sudden. While she had her wish granted of a quick and painless passing, my selfish side was hoping to have her around a little longer.
"Oma" (grandma) was born just before the First World War in Fliederthal (now Jany) in the German "Niederschlesien" though today it's part of Poland. It's easy to say that the Nazi Germany deserved what "they" got and a shrinking territory is simply the result of trying to conquer the world. It's just as easy to demonize the German people in the same breath and forget about the tragedies that struck common families. Though most families had nothing to do with the crazy ideology of the leadership, they still carried the main burden as they not only lost many of their brothers and sisters (children, parents etc.), but often also everything they had.
Married just before the Second World War, two children were born before her husband got drafted to the war front. Hope had been severely tested when he went missing shortly before the end. But that's only the beginning. She had to leave the family farm at the dawn of 1945 as part of the German retreat. The re-zoning by the Allies basically eliminated the German provinces East of the river "Oder" and grandma not only lost her husband (without ever being certain), but also her roots. It was cold in January and 4 weeks in a fugitive treck a dangerous journey into the unknown. Even her birth certificate and marriage license got lost in the process --irrecoverable due to changing borders.
It was her assumed duty and determination to rebuild their existence and it wasn't easy to start over with practically nothing. At the end of the war Germany was in complete disarray and starting over took super human strength. This applied to pretty much everything she had to do, and I find myself incapable to even imagine the required strength and character. Not only did she have to rebuild her existence from nothing, she also had to raise two children by herself. She had hope and faith in her husband's return and essentially never re-married. (The only thing worse than have a loved one killed in war is the uncertainty what happened. There is simply no closure.)
Her family of eight brothers and sisters should have been a big one, yet war and sickness had different plans and Oma's faith has been tested many times. Nevertheless, she was always kind and never bitter. Even her remaining family was separated for 40 years by an impenetrable wall. Her roots vanished in the aftermath of the Second World War and the family remained incomplete despite all the unbroken hope.
It took every bit of my 38 years to realize the true greatness of my Oma -- a woman that only once in her whole life went on vacation. All the years she has been a farmer, (grand-)mother, and patron. It's hard to grasp how this short woman "stood her man" more than I can even imagine for myself. In deep respect and loving memory I say goodbye to a great hero. A true hero with selfless determination and unparalleled kindness! Maybe, just maybe, she is now reunited with the loved ones she lost. I certainly hope so!
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