|Powdered Milk and Other
By Alfred Opp, Vancouver, British Columbia
Edited by Connie Dahlke, Walla Walla, Washington
these innovations spell an end to our ways of preparing
food and how we live? What will they think of next!
When Washington noticed a cloud formation, laced
with Hammer and Sickle, drifting from the East to
the West after WWII, the alarm bell went off. At that
point, the US was sorting out its options regarding
Germany. The US realized that Germany could be a walkover
for the Communists if no help was given them. For
the sake of world peace, Germany's plight could not
The Americans took immediate action with the Marshall
plan. Shipments of food and various forms of aid left
US ports bound for Europe and the divided city of
Berlin. Included in these shipments were foods of
the instant and non-perishable variety. When the shipments
reached Germany, these powdered foods were largely
distributed to school children. It was at that time
our people got their first look and taste of this
food of another sort.
Our people from out East had never heard or seen
of instant foods. Or if they did, they didn't give
such things much thought. The way we knew to prepare
food was to get up early, roll up our sleeves, work
over the dough, start the stove, boil the water, grab
the washboard and do the laundry. What else was there
to know? Food had been prepared in the traditional
way for centuries, and wasn't likely to change anytime
Even with the food shipments from America, food was
still in short supply. It helped to know a farmer
- it was even better to know someone who lived in
America. As soon as Germany was again connected to
the international postal service, people started to
write. One family did just that and mailed their letter
to distant relatives in America. It had been years
since they last wrote. After weeks of waiting, a parcel
arrived. The family jumped for joy and started to
unwrap it to see what was inside. They found cans
and packages of food well wrapped and labeled, except
for one container that had no label. Strangely, there
was no letter or note with the package.
A couple of days later, the family started to get
into the box of food. They started with the can that
had no label. Inside they found a powdery substance
of something. Mother took a taste of it, but it had
no taste. It must be one of those instant meals, she
thought. So she emptied it into a pan with water and
brought it to a boil. Still it had no taste. They
knew Uncle George and Aunt Frieda wouldn't send them
something that wasn't good. So Grandma took over -
surely she could make something of it. By adding more
ingredients to it, the taste improved. The family
sat down and ate every spoonful.
A few days later a letter arrived from Aunt Frieda
to let them know how happy she was to hear they were
alive and well. She went on to say that since the
letter would arrive before the parcel, she wanted
to explain what was in the box and to also let them
know that Uncle George had passed away. Uncle George,
she wrote, left a wish that his ashes be sent back
to his beloved Germany. In the unmarked can she was
sending his ashes so that they could be spread out
somewhere in the forest. Folks, this story is no joke.
In desperate times, strange things happen.
Our people may have heard about cremation, but never
talked about it. To honor our dead, we laid them to
rest in a well-kept graveyard. A visit to the graveyard
meant a lot to us. To share a few moments at the graveside
thinking of our loved one, even to have a good cry,
made us feel better.
Going to the inferno voluntarily is not what our
ancestors lived for. If one of us winds up going there,
it will be soon enough. I may go up in smoke, but
when it happens I hope there is some incense to help
me be remembered.
Heinrich was a business man from Teplitz with a wife
and four children. While living in Bessarabia, he
made a good living. When they were resettled in Poland,
they were assigned to a farm. The problem was that
Heinrich was no farmer. He told the authorities he
was not a farmer, and asked to be given something
else to make a living. The officer in charge told
him, "If you weren't a farmer, you are one now.
I don't want to see you again." Heinrich went
back to the farm. Under their reduced circumstances,
things did not go well between Heinrich and his wife.
Three years later, the Soviets closed in, and Heinrich's
fortunes changed forever. Along with other Germans,
he and his family packed their horse-drawn wagon and
left the farm, fleeing toward East Germany. But on
the way, Heinrich went missing. Once in East Germany,
the wife reported him as a war casualty. Heinrich's
family did not understand this - why would he be a
war casualty when he wasn't in the army?
Years later, after Germany was re-unified, Heinrich's
sister went to visit her neice. Heinrich's wife by
this time had also died. During the visit, Heinrich's
sister and the daughter began talking about what had
happened to Heinrich. The daughter said that when
they fled Poland, she was very young, so she knew
only what her mother had told her. Her mother had
recounted that after they left the farm, she had discovered
that her jewelry box was missing and she had asked
Heinrich to go back to the farm to find it. Already
late in leaving, Heinrich told his wife to continue
westward with the horse and wagon, and he would peddle
the bicycle back to the farm and see what he could
find. He never came back. Years later, the daughter
went back to the area in Poland where they had lived,
to see if anyone might know what had happened to her
dad. The new people living on the farm knew nothing.
An old lady from next door said she remembered seeing
Heinrich walk back onto the property, but did not
see him leave. Another neighbor told the daughter
that he saw Heinrich's dead body on the farm.
Heinrich's sister then asked her niece if she thought
her father's life was worth the jewelry: Your mom
sent him back, and you lost a father and she lost
both a husband and the jewelry.
Then the niece revealed that she had the jewelry
box - it was never lost.
Alfred Opp is the author of "Pawns
on the World Stage" - the memoirs of his
childhood in Teplitz, Bessarabia and the experiences
of his family in war-torn Europe (Poland during 1941-1945
before they fled to East Germany in 1945, then the
reconstruction of West Germany 1945-1955).