Sunday, May 9, 2010

What Lies Beneath The Doll Collector Part 1

How could you help but be absolutely charmed by this pair?  Dorothea in a striking red cape by the sea and Manfred on vacation in Texas looking the perfect rancher.  Perhaps you'd come across them gardening in the yard of their modest brick home in a small English seaside village.   Their lives would appear quiet and idyllic and seem as if life has always been thus.  Dorothea is a doll collector and maker and Manfred builds fine cabinets, merry-go-rounds, bay windows and other settings for her dolls.  He has his own collection of 7000 seeds, but that is a story for another day.
Dorothea was born in Eastern Germany at the very end of the war.  Her early life was spent often in bomb shelters and they could see the burning of Dresden from 40 kilometers away.  "This time and this unpleasant start in my life had lots of effects to my life, my health and my soul."  The family had never been communists and life was hard. She attended school in Eastern Germany until the age of 16. "I loved going to school and learning was very easy for me and pure pleasure."    On the 10th of December 1960 she decided to escape to Western Germany and take her mother whose health was failing with her.  It was 8 months before the wall was built.
"We left home in the very early morning and had to catch a bus to the next village and from there we went with the train to Berlin. Outside Berlin there was a train (something between a train and a tram).. a special transportation system in Berlin: some of the lines crossed the City and one was going in a ring road around Berlin... so for sure you came into West Berlin... but you had to KNOW when West Berlin started. When we entered this special train we could see this police pulling people out of this train ... just this one and an other one.. and 2 of this police man (in black leather coats with NO writing on) have been standing on both ends watching everything was was going on in between... and my mother could not move a step forward from fear... so I cried to her... come on we HAVE to go in this train and she came and we went in and the train started... We have been still on the Eastern side. I think we had 3 or 4 stops before we have been in Western Berlin. After 4 stops my mother asked a middle aged women what the name of the next stop is... this woman did not answer my mothers question, she said: you are safe now... If she could see (or read on our forehead or otherwise in our faces!!!) everybody else could have guessed what we have got in mind. The next stop WAS West Berlin and we have been safe on the Western part of Berlin. We had to go up steps and then I throw our key from home away... We knew we could never go back... All what was HOME, the past and the life so far was behind us... "
"We had only the clothes on our body and a small bag and my DOLL!!!!! from childhood. Then we went to the place were all this people had to go first... and lived with 6 people in one room and had to go to several authorities and answer questions... why we came and if we would have relatives on the Western side (which we did not have) and were we would like to go.... we had NO idea.. Ohhh I could tell you lots of stories which happened there... But I remember - as it was shortly before Christmas - there was a choir from the US-Army and they sung "White Christmas" for us... I still get goosebumps when I only think about it... And we get vouchers... for fruits, for milk, for chocolate and and the end of this 10 days we have been in different camps in Western Berlin."
She needed to work to support herself and her mother and she attended school at night.  She marries and her mother re-marries. But Dorothea has done it more for convenience than love.  After 7 years she divorces and moves to Switzerland to work for a bank.  The bank invests in her education and she becomes a personal manager and life is good.  But about to get better. "In 1973 I get married again and this time it was like the biggest win in the lottery: when I write this, we are happy married for 37 years."  25 of those years are spent in Zurich, Switzerland and 12 more retired in the south of England.  This is where you find this couple today in their modest brick home surrounded by gardens, living their idyllic life.
The story behind the story, so much more compelling.  The road one takes to find their way home.

Tomorrow the dolls.

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