How the East Was Won
By Alfred Opp
Glueckstal Colonies Research Association, Redondo Beach, California, 2008, 232 pages, softcover.
In the Preface, Alfred Opp writes: "In this book you will find a collection of stories and memories that represent many aspects of my life. Most are eye-witness accounts - experiences through which I have passed. A few are stories that have been passed down to me from my ancestors, or things that happened to close relatives. I am very thankful for the life I have lived. From my birthplace in a small ethnic German village in Bessarabia near the Black Sea to a new life in western Canada, I have crossed many time zones and have experienced a full life. In my youth, I was fortunate to have parents and grandparents who gave me the necessary walking stick to find my way through life.These stories and memories I have kept in my heart, and now I have them with you. Through the many challenges of life, I have found that my ancestors carved my walking stick well".
The Table of Contents shares these sections for the book: 1) How the East Was Won; 2) Land and Estates; 3) In the Shadow of Time; 4) Spiritual Life; 5) Holidays; 6) Special Childhood Memories; 7) War Costs More than Money; 8) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; 9) The Aftermath of the War; 10) A New Life. Alfred Opp's stories in memories include: summer kitchens, Mischt for fuel, Schwabian burial customs, Easter, Christmas food, tailor-made clothes, and many other stories.
About the Author
Remembering a way of life that was snatched away from his family, surviving the horrors of World War II as a child among strangers, pulling through to achieve a life won by hard work and perseverance - these are the stories Alfred Opp serves up in his second book.
Born west of the Black Sea to descendants of German pioneers, Mr. Opp lovingly recalls the life and culture he enjoyed as a child. Cookstoves were fired by corn stalks, Mischt and wood scraps. Wagon axles were hammered out by blacksmiths who knew how to work an anvil. All work was done without the benefit of labor-saving devices, yet the people lived their lives with dignity and community spirit.
But when the Iron Curtain descended in 1940, the villagers of Teplitz, Bessarabia packed up their household goods and began the Trek back to the Fatherland. They had no idea what awaited them! Housed in a former mental institution, they were indoctrinated in the philosophy of the Reich. Transported to occupied Poland, they were deposited among wary neighbors ready to rise up against the occupiers.
What do civilians do when the front lines of a war push through the center of their town? How does one survive when all community infrastructure disappears? What do children do when their parents are arrested in the middle of post-war turmoil?
Long after the battles had ended, the effects of the war continued to impact the lives of the people. Little by little they had to rebuild their lives and move on. Scars remained that had to be lived with.
This is an epic story of a journey that began halfway around the world from its conclusion. Travel along with storyteller Alfred Opp, and expect some surprises along the way!
The front cover painting of the book is by Sammie Ramsay, a granddaughter of Mr. Opp.
c. 1938. Simon Zacher, Mayor of Teplitz, center, with village officials. The Evangelical Lutheran Church (Evangelische Kirche) and Community Hall (Kanzlei) are in the background.
|Alt-Haus - German long-house - was still standing in Teplitz, Bessarabia in 1940.