Thursday, 27 January 2011
Met 'Creepy'. Laughed about 'Creepy' all the way back home.... sigh... creepy
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Please also take a look at the web site of a friend of mine, Hrafnhildur Arnadóttir, who was recently awarded the Nordic Award in Textiles and who has shown her work at New York MoMA, on the top floor at 7 World Trade Center and as a Macy's NYC window display. She has also created pieces for Björk, Lady Gaga and Nike.
She presents under the name Shoplifter (as the story goes, she was trying repeatedly to pronounce her name for someone at a loud party in New York and all that person could hear was "shoplifter"...the name stuck), and is as eclectic and colorful in person as the exciting works she creates.
Regarding politics (but why bother?) read about our latest fiasco here, and some background details on the hopes Iceland, and observers out in the real world, had placed on a generally-elected Constitutional Assembly. Those hopes are dashed, and somehow it feels as though some certain fate is sealed.
Sunday, 23 January 2011
Hilda Krause was born when the Kaiser was still on the throne, six months before the end of World War One. She was the eldest of four children and was born in West Prussia, a region that doesn’t exist anymore. Prussia only really lives on in the minds of historians (think Frederick the Great, Bismarck, Kant) – but it was a country which had as distinct a culture and identity as strong as Bavaria or Wales.
|1927 Family Picture: Omi centre left|
On 20 January 1920, in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, Kulingen and most of West Prussia became part of Poland – the famous “Polish Corridor”. Some areas were given plebiscites on their future: this part of West Prussia was not. It simply passed over by stroke of a pen. Around two million West Prussians were given the choice of becoming Poles, or leaving their homes for Germany. My family stayed on their farm. Omi, born German, accordingly became Polish overnight, and attended Polish school. She and her younger siblings were all fluent in both languages as a result. The Poles were however Catholic; they were Lutheran – and culturally they remained strongly German. Her siblings were as follows: Ella 1920, Frieda 1922, Heinrich 1925.
|Omi's Mother with her cow, Dola|
She did not want to be on a farm but was particularly proud of the fact that she had a special recipe for feeding her pigs. They were so good they were sold in London in the 1930s as bacon. For years she referred proudly to her “Bakkon Schweine” (as she pronounced it). They had no electricity at all in the village (it came in 1946 after they had left) so they used petroleum lamps - and they pumped all their water from a well in the farmyard.
|Frieda with Tyras|
|Omi with her Mother on the Farm|
|Omi's Wedding 1940|
Kurt and Hilda quickly fell in love and their engagement was short. Omi's mother said to her on her wedding day (28 November 1940) “Well you’ve got what you always wanted, you’re not going to be a farmer’s wife.” Omi even got a job for a short time teaching Polish children German and they moved to a little house a short walk away from the family farm house.
My mother, Christel Hilda, was born in 1941. On her birth certificate her original maiden name is struck through. The family had later applied to change their name to a more German sounding version. This was granted on my mother's first birthday. Omi thought the “ski” at the end made them sound Polish and did not want this.
|Mother's Christening 1 June 1941|
The photographs from this time are fascinating. To the right we see Omi dressed in a striped fur coat
|Snow Ball Fight|
|Max, one of the Trakehners|
There were six cows and three horses on the farm. The horses were called Max, Lisa and Prinz. They were Trakehners, a fine, handsome breed of East Prussian horses that has been immortalised in England through the Lloyds Bank "Black Horse". Omi's sister Ella took care of the horses.
In total 10,000 registered Trakehner stallions and 18,000 breeding mares were reduced to just 700 survivors after 1945. Max and Lisa almost certainly saved the family's life in during the flight that came in 1945. This beautiful breed of horse is being bred again in Germany, but far from its ancient home in the East.
This picture shows the farmyard with the well, which is covered up so that it could be accessed even when there was snow. There are steps across the muddy farmyard. Omi's brother, Heinrich, playing on the cart, has had his armband scratched out on the photo by someone, presumably after the War.
|Inside the Farmhouse 1943|
|Frieda, Youngest Sister|
|The Flight: Unimaginable Horror|
Early in the morning on 19 January 1945 Omi, 26 years old, set off with her mother Elisabeth (56), her sisters Ella and Frieda (24 and 22), my mother Christel (aged 3), my aunt Gitti (1) and her niece Karin (6 weeks old). The Polish farmhand, Josef (19) also accompanied them for 8 weeks of the flight. He was terrified of the Red Army too, regarded his employers as his family, and had no close relatives of his own.
It was -25 Celsius and there was thick snow. Refugees were not generally allowed on the roads – these were reserved for the Wehrmacht. Instead they had to use field tracks. They had hung carpets from the wagon to keep out the wind. The babies were wrapped in linen baskets. Thick feather beds kept them as warm as possible particularly at night. Apart from what they could fit on their cart, they literally left everything they had behind them. Max and Lisa, the horses pulled the wagon. Prinz (the other horse), their cows, the hens, Tyras their dog - their entire existence was left behind. Omi, who lived to experience 2011, never saw her home again.
|Panic, Fear and Terror|
|The Wilhelm Gustloff|
|Westpreußen (West Prussia) on Right|
The other half had to wait an entire day to cross over. It was sent North and did not make it to safety: Omi's family was among this half. In late March 1945, after over 2 months flight, the Soviets caught up with the family in Pomerania at the village of Althammer. The horses who have saved them were taken away by soldiers: the flight was over. Josef, the Pole, went back to Kulingen. My family all survived, but what happened there at the hands of the Russian soldiers is barely spoken about.
The family stayed on a farm in Pomerania throughout 1946 and helped bring the harvest in. They had very little to eat and the constant fear of Soviet troops to deal with. Omi's second daughter, Gitti (by now 2), almost died from bacillary dysentery. There were no medicines and she had to be treated with plants growing in the woods.
From 1946 onwards all of the Germans still left east of the Oder-Neisse line were systematically expelled westwards by the Soviets. Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin had agreed at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences to wipe Prussia off the map and to “peacefully resettle” the millions of Germans still in the East. Eight centuries of German civilisation and history were eradicated.
|The Schwarz Farm in Mecklenburg|
Omi and her family now headed together to the Schwarzes, this time in goods carriages on a train. The train stopped and they were systematically robbed by partisans at the Oder-Neisse border. A German pastor in their wagon literally had the shirt off his back taken away when he was stripped to his underpants. The family travelled through Berlin, where in the bombed out main railway station, Omi's youngest sister Frieda was selected from a crowd to do forced labour in Siberia by the Soviets. She was marched through the city with another woman, but they lied and said they had children. The Russians were famously "child friendly" and let them return. Had they checked their ID cards they would have discovered the truth.
|My Grandfather, Kurt|
Eventually my grandfather, released from a Soviet Prisoner of War camp, rejoined them in Mecklenburg through the help of the Red Cross. In 1947 the family escaped to the West, to the British Zone. My grandfather hid under a pile of logs to avoid detection. After their experiences, they had no desire to be in the Soviet Zone of Occupation, and went to the Dutch border, to a little town called Gronau in Westfalia. They settled here in October 1947.
There were by now around 12 million refugees from the East packed mainly into bombed out Western Germany. The strain on housing, resources, schools, hospitals was immense. The family lived in an attic with several other families for almost a year. Many West Germans called them “Polaks” and mocked their Prussian accents and dialects. These are my Mother's first clear memories.
|Omi, Widowed with her 3 Daughters|
On 8 June 1951, just as things were starting to look up, my Grandfather was tragically killed in a railway accident. Omi was left alone in post-war West Germany, with a small widow’s pension from Deutsche Bahn. She was 33 and had three daughters aged 10, 7 and 3. Initially she was told she was entitled to a death payment of 1000DM from his trade union; it later transpired that his service was 4 months short and the money was withheld.
Omi did everything she could to help her girls to learn. She saved from her pension to send them to the Realschule (a small fee was payable and the education was better) rather than the free Volksschule. After they had gone to bed she would read their schoolbooks because she had never had a German education and was determined to write proper, correct German, and to learn about German history.
|"Peterchen" (3) with Omi|
|Omi in her 70s|
Omi lived for 60 years as a widow. She was utterly devoted to her three girls and then to her grandchildren.
When I came out to my mother, she asked me not to tell Omi, as she would was very Lutheran and would not understand. I respected this, but eventually we decided she would have to know as otherwise she would find out and that would be worse. Her astonishing reaction? “There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not a choice, it’s genetic. I read about it in a magazine.” She just loved me, her Peterchen (little Peter), and that was the end of it.
|Visiting West Prussia 2004|
|Omi aged 88 with Oscar my Collie|
Omi died peacefully in her sleep yesterday, 21 January 2011, a few months short of 93. By historic irony, 21 January 1945 was the day the Soviets entered the village of Kulingen and the “blackest day in its history".
Ruhe in Frieden, liebe Omi
Saturday, 22 January 2011
Friday, 21 January 2011
Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Monday, 17 January 2011
I am at aw with the dress worn by Natalie Portman and Catherine Zeta Jones during the Golden Globes recently. Both were equally stunning! *Pics from people.com*
Sunday, 16 January 2011
GUEST PHOTOGRAPHER: Leifur Þór Þorvaldsson*
Leifur writes: In a secret location on the in the middle of nowhere, these shoes have been lying for decades undisturbed. One can only imagine how it came about that they ended up there.
Leifur, who describes himself as an Icelandic theater maker, graduated with a BA in Theory and Practice from the theatre department of the Iceland Academy of the Arts in 2009. His graduation work, Endurrómun, was staged at Borgaleikhúsið, The Reykjavík City Theatre, last January and was then nominated for a Gríman, the Icelandic answer to the Tony Award. He is now working in the development stages of a new project currently set for production next year. This photo is a sweet example of his obvious visual talents.
During research on the Icelandic theater scene years ago, I discovered that it is amazingly robust for such a small nation. Though there are always grumblings (and rightly so) about reduced funding for the arts, and though the large national and city theaters have a serious corner on the market (here is a statement on that fact by the Association of Independent Theatres in Iceland) theater, as a direct progeny of the storytelling and rímur culture that kept the Icelandic national identity intact during the very difficult middle ages, is alive and strong.
For a bit of extra reading about Icelandic theater, here is a piece on Icelandic theater I wrote for the Reykjavík Grapevine in 2004 (which was, unfortunately, poorly edited and titled before it went to print. Sigh.)
*the letter 'Þ' in Leifur's middle and last names is pronounced 'Th,' so the English spelling of his name is Leifur Thor Thorvaldsson.
The thought of CNY. The red packet will not be filled with money this time, but it will contain a piece of paper which is the ... EXAM RESULTS! Only happens when studying in UK! sigh...
Anyhow, its a beautiful day today. Found out stuff. Excited. Learnt from it. Loved it. Can't wait. 100% confirmed something. Thank you!
Friday, 14 January 2011
|Salt and ground peppercorns|
|Teeth Floss: This is what we get on on the floss after flossing|
|Needle and thread|
Thursday, 13 January 2011
Tuesday, 11 January 2011
"Over the past 24 hours..... enquiries....perceived inequity....We(lecturers) do not discriminate...Students showing initiative..."
Its just a very, very short summary :P
*Imagine a photograph here labelled 'Secret tutorial' for over a hundred ppl to view*
Coincidentally, my Daily Horoscope says:
"Discussions with those close to you could lead to the discovery of new concepts, perhaps from foreign cultures. You will want to learn more about them, Virgo, as will your friends."
We did, didn't we :)
Sunday, 9 January 2011
Ýrr writes: This picture is taken at a birthday party for 4 year old Hildur, who is also one of the dragons in the image. She and Egill (the other dragon) are good friends and both have great imagination, often resulting in fun games and role-playing! The two dragons were jumping around and screaming their lungs out!
Photography has been a hobby of mine since I got my first DSLR camera in 2006. I Love taking pictures of "real-life" - of people, of children. Action shots, parties, events and kids playing. Of course, city-scape and Icelandic landscape and nature are also great inspirations but mostly my photos are about capturing life as I see it. "Snapshots" if you will :)
Ýrr has a B.S. in Computer Science from Reykjavík University and currently works in software for a major bank. Her photos are vivid and charming views into local life, bursting with color and somehow making even life's more mundane moments vibrant and alive. Please be sure to check out her Flickr album for more of her work.
And of course Happy New Year to everyone! Let's remember what really, truly matters in life this year, and in each moment, and be sure to breathe deeply, give thanks and hug the ones we're with!
A nice weather, but unfortunately we can't go out and play because of the major, mind boggling stressful papers on that week!
Thursday, 6 January 2011
This morning, during our first teachers meeting of the semester, I found myself absorbed by the gorgeous sunrise glowing brighter and brighter over the ridge of mountains to the east. This photo was taken with my new little compact camera pressed just up against the window with my daughter's school, Austurbæjarskóli, in the immediate foreground and the white twin church spires of Háteigskirkja just visible in the distance. As the day progressed the weather got worse, and by now, eveningtime, we are settling in for an intense 13th Night of Christmas storm.
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
Monday, 3 January 2011
As of midnight tonight, VAT increases from 17.5% to 20%. Previously I was penny pinching. As of tomorrow, I'm gonna be Pound pinching extra hard!
Price increament for everything from phone bills, electrical goods, meals, train tickets etc....
Stinge.. stinge.. stinge.... aih...
Looks like the GREAT SALES will never be a good as previous ones ever again....
Whats worse is when retailers are allowed to do this:
"And until February 1, stores are being allowed by the Government to apply the 20 per cent rate by marking up the price paid at the till, rather than on shelf labels."
"It means shoppers will not know the true cost of items until they go through the checkout, raising the prospect of disputes and queues as they come to terms with being asked to pay more."
Need to stinge and...do the math when reading shelf labels.
Saturday, 1 January 2011
|Haggis - A Scottish Staple. A bag stuffed with minced heart, liver and lung boiled in lamb stomach.|
|Abroath Smokie - Scotland's version of salted fish|
|Scotch eggs - Hardboiled eggs wrapped in minced sausage and coated with breadcrumbs.|
This doesn't sound too hard to be eaten or made.
|Black pudding - Congealed blood wrapped in intestine, battered and deep fried.|