Poetic Tribute: 75 Years After WWII

May 8, 2020: It’s been 75 years since World War II has ended.

Those who remember what took place from their own eyes and memories slowly fade away.

Let us remember for them.

Below is a poem written by my late Große Tante Leni. It is a tribute to her home of Lonke, West Prussia (now Poland), where she grew up before having to flee West into what became solely Germany. She and my Oma fled together, without their parents, siblings, friends, or possessions. I have a brief introduction into what that was like for her, however, here, on this day, I share with you her memory of her lost home with kindness (English follows).

2006: my first trip to Germany (and real memory of Tante Leni)


Heute Nacht hatte ich einen Traum
mir träumte, ich war zu Haus, 
Vergebens suchte ich nach dem alten Wallnußbaum
doch sehr bald fand ich dieses heraus.

Ich hörte im Wind, wie der Baum sich beklagte
Darauf, ich ihn mit leiser Stimme fragte,
Was mit Ihm geschah, mit dem großen Baum aus Holz?
Der seit vielen Jahren war mein ganzer Stolz!

Voller Trauer mir der Baum verriet,
Mich fällten sie um, sowie auch den Bauern hier
Ihn holte man ab, der Partisanenmann
Ich wurde brüchig, und die Axt zu spüren bekam.

Eine kurze Weile blieb ich noch stehen
Kuckte hinauf zum Wipfel, doch konnte ich keinen sehn.
Der Baum war weg und ich wurde wach,
Den ganzen Tag ging mir der Wallnußbaum nach.

Da ich oft an meine liebe Heimat Lonke denke,
Und im Traum, die Schritte zu den Kirschbäumen lenke,
Dieser raum in der Nacht,
Hat mich beunruhigt und fast um meine Sinne gebracht.

Wie damals in meinen Kinderjahren, woller Entzücken
wollte ich mir ein paar Kirschen pflücken,
Doch wie ich mitten im Garten stehe,
Ich in diesem keinen einzigen Kirschbaum sehe.

Wo einst die Kirschbäume blühten in weißer Pracht,
War der Garten leer und kahl in dieser Nacht.
Auch die anderen Obstbäume starben aus,
War das mal meine Heimat war das mein Zuhaus?

Unruhig wachte ich auf am frühen Morgen
Meine Unruhe blieb den ganzen Tag nicht verborgen,
Denn das was ich träumte, ist Wirklichkeit,
Obstbäume gibt es dort nicht mehr seit langer Zeit!


Home sweet home!

Tonight I had a dream
I dreamt I was at home,
I searched in vain for the old walnut tree
But very soon I found out about it.

I heard in the wind how the tree complained
So I asked in a low voice,
What happened with the big tree made of wood?
It has been my pride and joy for many years!

In sorrow the tree told me
They fell me, and the farmer here
He was picked up by the partisan man
I became fragile and the axe was felt.

I stopped for a short while.
Looking up to the top, but I couldn’t see anyone.
The tree was gone and I woke up,
The walnut tree followed me all day.

Since I often think of my dear home Lonke,
And in the dreams, take direct steps to the cherry trees,
This room at night,
Disturbed me and almost took my senses away.

Like when I was a child, I wanted to be enchanted
I wanted to pick some cherries,
But as I stand in the middle of the garden,
I no longer see a single cherry tree.

Where once the cherry trees bloomed in white splendor,
Was the garden empty and bare that night.
The other fruit trees were dying out, too,
Was this once my home was I at my home?

I woke up restless in the early morning
All day my restlessness was not concealed,
Because what I dreamed is real,
Fruit trees have not been there for a long time!

Born October 18, 1926, Magdalene (Leni) Depta (born Zielke) lived with her family on a farm in Lonke. She greatly loved school and was good at it.  Against her father’s wishes she continued school in a nearby area – that had more resources. Once the war began, she stopped going to school to help at home and began working. On January 19, 1945 Leni and Gertrud fled with a family friend headed towards Germany.  They did not see or hear from any of their family until after February 7, 1946, when they were reunited with their mother and a different family friend.

2009: the next trip to Germany

The incredible strength and determination of these two women in my family gives me such pride and gratitude.  Also, remembering the other family members who survived this time.

Let us remember everyone who lost so much over 75 years ago.  Let us also take this time to take a moment and breathe.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath in – hold it for a second – and slowly let it out. Life is a beautiful gift!


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