My stepfather was a military officer, and when I was 10 , we moved to live on a military compound in Eastern Germany. The base was outside of a small town, and it had a store, a post office, a cinema, a bookstore, a volleyball court and a playground - just like a small village. The only difference was in the people who populated this village. They were mostly men in uniform. The compound housed about 7000 men. There were soldiers dressed in a green uniform with a special triangular little hat called a‘pilotka”, and officers with stripes and stars on their uniforms, showing their rank.
The whole compound was surrounded by beautiful fields and a forest. We swam in the ice-cold crystal clear spring waters of the man-made lakes in the forest, that had been dug by Russian prisoners of war. There was an abundance of granite in that area, and Nazi Germany used prisoners to excavate it. The granite holes had over time filled with the spring waters, creating lakes almost 400 feet deep. I remember jumping into the lake and feeling the fear of the immense depth under me.
The German government had organized special get-togethers they called “Druzhba”. Druzhbas are translated as “friendship” in Russian, and involved Germans from the nearby towns and us Russians from the base having fun playing together, and exchanging gifts and smiles. But still the tension outside of these artificial gatherings was palpable. Going to town wasn’t always fun. Sometimes we, children, would be splashed with dirty water from a window on a high floor above us. Or we would be called “Svinya, sobaka”, meaning ‘pig’ and ‘dog’ in Russian, the worst insult that German kids could create as they tried to ease their feeling of confusion brought by Soviet military presence there.
I was wearing traditional Russian scarf on my shoulders, and was held by “Germans” in warmth and care. I held them in love that was radiating from each pore of my being. The love overflowed me and the whole constellation of people collapsed for a second in front of my own eyes into the pure light. Stories of separation, of what was perceived as bad and shameful, faded into light. The feeling of wellbeing sprang from within the human heart, and changed the field of consciousness forever.
|My mama on the lake in 1980|