Once upon a time I lived in a green flower filled city alongside the sometimes peaceful, sometimes wild Pacific Ocean, deep blue with white crested, crowned waves. I was a woman living and drinking in this beauty wishing to have talent to paint until the day my mate tells me about an exciting opportunity for him to move to a city in the Canadian Prairie. He talked about Winnipeg, a city known as the Canadian Siberia with nine months of winter and the coldest corner in the whole wide world, Portage and Main and three months of hot summers with lots of mosquitos. But, – Winnipeg was also known for its “dry” cold and always blue sunny skies. Supposedly this climate was much healthier than the “wet” rainy coast and the propensity for getting rheumatism and arthritis. You can dress for the “dry” cold but the “wet” cold gets right under your skin.
We were told Winnipeg is a good place to bring up your family within the beautiful residential areas; it had large lakes for summer fun only about ninety miles away. Winnipeg was the birth place of “Winnie-the-Pooh”, the real little bear who became a mascot for the Canadian Army stationed in England before and during WWI, living out his life in the London Zoo. Millions of children still love A.A. Milne’s story about Pooh and name their teddy bears after him. Now his statue greets you at the entrance to the Winnipeg Zoo. This Prairie city of about 270.000 at that time offered lots of cultural and social life, clubs, theatre, concerts and the world renowned Winnipeg Ballet, on a par with the Moscow and the French Ballet troupes. One-hundred-and-four different ethnic groups were living peacefully together with lots of their typical eating places, loved and visited by all. Eat in a different part of the world every day! But the best: Winnipeg was well known for its friendly people! Every vehicle licence plate tells you: “Friendly Manitoba”, the Canadian province where it is located.
Life has a way of interrupting your life; channel it into a different direction. I lived there for twenty years, became a corporate citizen, an employer, a Community Television Producer before the winds of change blew me back to my green country at the Pacific Ocean. No, I could not paint paintings but I could paint pictures with words. So I became a writer.
My recently published book “We Don’t Talk About That” is a memoir about my first thirty years of life. I tell the story of my first ten years during the Nazi period, the next ten years under Communist rule, and the next ten years, after my escape before the infamous Berlin Wall, trying to re-configure my life and hurt from being considered a second class citizen in the “Golden West” which was not so golden after all.
This book brought me back to Winnipeg recently for a week long book promotion in March with a book launch and book signings in three big book stores: McNally Robinson, the largest bookstore I have ever seen, Chapters St. Vital with surely the friendliest staff and Chapters Polo Park in probably one of the most beautiful book store buildings. Winnipeggers still read and love the real thing: Books, physical books. Many mentioned that they don’t like eBooks. My book reading at a Rotary Club was well received and a CJOB radio interview with Greg Mackling reminded the listeners about my history within their fair city and many old friends, former customers and even former employees came to see me, say Hi and buy my book. And the Shaw TV’s Community Channel taped an hour long interview about my book and my history in Winnipeg when my first name was a household word.
Let me tell you what startled me most after arrival and the drive from the airport to the midtown hotel: Winnipeggers were driving only grey cars. All the busses were grey as well. One cornflower blue VW Beetle stood out as the only color spot as far as I could see down the road trying to avoid one pothole after another. You could not read any licence plates as they were covered with a thick grey coating. It dawned on me that nobody washed their car during the winter to avoid having their door locks frozen. I remembered! It was thirty-four years since I was living here! I learned that the winters are not Siberian anymore and climate change is taking its toll. That the previous week they still had 24 below Celsius but now for several days double digit degrees up to 18 above Celsius, the snow gone but the sand, used to sprinkle over the ice was coloring everything: Cars and buildings and roads and if you didn’t wear glasses, it got into your eyes, it covered your hair and it was impossible to keep your shoes clean longer than from the house door to your car.
My grandson Jack, born and raised in Winterpeg as the Winnipeggers lovingly call it, told me: At the entrance highway from the west used to have a sign:
Welcome to Winnipeg. I live here – what’s your excuse?
For my stories from those first 30 years in Germany please read my book “We Don’t Talk About That” available from all major bookstores as well as on-line.