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Friday, April 14, 2017

The internet is for people who can't sleep

Back Row (left-to-right)
Volker Kluge / Wolfgang Ihlemann / Joachim Schumacher / Helmut Ullrich / Ulrich Schäfer / Andreas Morgenroth / Helmut Bolle / Volker Wisse / Hendrik Heinemann / Jürgen Kreul
Middle Row (left-to-right)
Klaus Kratzenstein / Herbert Becker / Dagmar Kroll / Jutta Veste / Heidi Werner / Christa Funke / Wenzel Tappe / moi / Joachim Stut
Front Row (left-to-right)
Gudrun Otto / Heidi Nabert / Petra Küster / Sigrid Röseling / Herr Sapper, teacher / Barbara Ziegert / Margret Brandenburg / Ingrid Behrens / Waltraud Häupler / Karin Käsehage
(No prize guessing where I am in the photo!!!)


And I was still wide awake when this email came in late last night: "Ich hoffe Du bist etwas überrascht eine E-Mail zu bekommen, aber wir sind in die selbe Klasse in der Heinrichschule gegangen, auf dem Klassenfoto bin ich unter dem Namen DAGMAR KROLL. Würde mich freuen etwas von Dir zu hören! "

Let me translate before you rush out and enrol in a Berlitz German Language Course: "I hope you're surprised to receive this email because we attended the same class at primary school. My name is Dagmar Kroll and I'm the third from the left in the middle row in this photo taken on the last day at school. Would love to hear from you!"

What a surprise indeed! Dagmar found the photos another schoolfriend had sent to me previously and which I had put up on my German blog - here and here - and she's busy scanning some more to send to me. This seems to be a case of "good things come to those who wait" - for over fifty years! - because we were refugees from East Germany and had little money, and none at all for such frivolities as school photos.

Of course, she also asked the obvious question, "Why did you leave Germany?" Well, no one ever emigrates because of the success they've enjoyed at home. No one ever says, "Well, I have a happy home life, I'm rich and I have many friends - so I'm off." The only reason anyone has for going to live in another country is because they've cocked everything up in their own.

Being just nineteen years old, my opportunities for cocking things up had been rather limited by the time I left; in fact, my only - and certainly biggest - cock-up until then had been that I allowed myself to be born to parents who were so dirt-poor that they packed me off to work as soon as I had reached the minimum school-leaving age of 14.

Being the youngest solo-migrant on board the migrant ship FLAVIA, a television crew had asked me the same question before it left Bremer-haven. I had no answer in front of the whirring newsreel camera and still have no answer today. I mean, how do I explain the sense of dissatisfaction and frustration that affected me at the time?

We can't choose our parents and are born into the prison of our race, religion and nationality. I had no problem with my race which, being blonde and blue-eyed, helped me to slip into Australia under its "White Australia" policy, but I'd already renounced my Lutheran upbringing and joined the German Freethinkers, and many years later also my nationality by becoming an Australian. Two out of three isn't bad, is it?

True to her word, Dagmar sent me three photos of a class reunion in 1983 which, come to think of it, I could've attended as I was at the time working in Jeddah and Athens. Another missed opportunity? Perhaps not, as my life had moved in a completely different direction from those stay-at-homes with whom I had little in common during my school days and would have had even less twenty-three years later.


Class Reunion 1983 - for names see last photo

Class reunion 1983 Get-together at Teacher's house after the reunion
from left to right: Joachim Stut - Dagmar Kroll - Franz Sapper (retired teacher) -
Barbara Zieger - Gudrun Otto - Volker Kluge

Class Reunion 1983
from left to right; back row: Volker Kluge - Herbert Becker - Wolfgang Ihlemann - Wenzel Tappe - Helmut Ullrich - Ulrich Schäfer; middle row: Heidi Werner - Ingrid Behrens - Jutta Veste - Dagmar Kroll - Christa Funke; front row: Gudrun Otto - Petra Küster - Sigrid Röseling - Franz Sapper (retired teacher) - Barbara Zieger - Waltraud Häuptler


However, I would've liked to have met "Herr Sapper" again before he passed away sometime in 1987. He was a great teacher who helped me overcome my lack of a tertiary education by giving me this personal letter which helped me into my first job after completing my articles.

My favourite author, Somerset W. Maugham, wrote a story entitled "The Verger" about a man without formal education who ended up more successful than he might've been with the right kind of schooling.

I count my blessings every time I watch the movie as I count my blessings to have had such a wonderful teacher, a real "Mr. Chips".
Rest in Peace, "Herr Sapper"!