From Nanaimo Magazine – August, 2020
Author Giselle Roeder – “In Her Own Words”
Giselle Roeder has had one hell of a life, and we are fortunate enough to have her share it with us in a series of autobiographies. From escaping the atrocities of World War II to abuse and then answering an advertisement to come to Canada, she has done it all. Here is a snippet of her life in her own words:
“Gila – me, had an idyllic childhood on a small farm up to the beginning of WWII. I lived my first ten years under the Nazis; nothing much happened in our little world. When my aunt from Berlin came to ask for cow manure to grow tomatoes on her balcony after the bombing, I got an inkling that ‘war’ was real. After the first escapees arrived from East Prussia, talking about the Russians following them, burning, plundering and raping, and evacuees from Berlin told how the flames from phosphor bombs burned people to death, we all had nightmares. When the Russian army arrived (February 1945), I watched those atrocities myself. The war was over on May 8th, when the Russians left, the Polish army came and evicted us. We had 10 minutes to get out of our house. With thousands of people, we walked weeks towards the Oder river, the new border of Germany-Poland. No idea where to go, sleeping under the stars, even surviving diphtheria, and a few months later, typhoid fever.
For the next ten years, I grew up a teenager in the Russian occupied Zone, later known as East Germany. Joining the canoe club, I became a kayak champion. I had to fight for my education but succeeded in becoming a Physical Education teacher. Avoiding to join the Communist Party, my principal wanted to ‘sleep’ with me or report me. My dad advised: “Hau ab,” meaning get lost, escape to West Germany. My east education meant nothing in the west; I started from zero. An unwanted affair with a person in power almost drove me to suicide, but I found a way to survive. Courses in aesthetics, podiatry, nutrition and finally, Kneipp-Hydrotherapy followed. I worked as a Health Educator, giving lectures about an alternative lifestyle across Germany. I longed to get away, get out of Germany. Away from a stalker. I wrote about my first thirty years in my memoir, ‘We Don’t Talk About That.’
Answering an advert, I started corresponding with a German-Canadian man with a child in Vancouver. His well-to-do German parents smartly manipulated me to marry him before I knew him. Just weeks after arriving in Vancouver, I had a rude awakening. With limited English and all my earthly belongings in a container on the high seas, I had no chance to leave when my new husband used my money to pay his debts. I raised his two daughters, and we had a son. During the next twenty years, I developed roots in Canada. After many trials and tribulations, I was successful in the health and skincare business, was an employer and became an international speaker. I had my own television show and was a welcome guest on radio stations across North America.
After more than fifty years working in Canada, having lived in Vancouver and Winnipeg, I retired to Vancouver Island. Gardening became my hobby for ten years in Nanoose Bay, and for the last seven years, Nanaimo is my ‘home.’ After I spoke to many Probus and Rotary Clubs about my life, I was encouraged to write my first memoir. I used the COVID lockdown to write the second, my Canadian book, ‘Flight Into The Unknown.’ I’m busy writing the finale to my adventurous life, ‘Set Sail for Life After 50.’