Well, I finished chapter 26 for my final book of the trilogy “The Nine Lives of Gila” yesterday. Boy-oh-boy! Did I ever enjoy writing about the last few months of 1999 once I was into it, the awesome New Year’s party at the prestigious Terminal City Club in Vancouver, dancing into the Centennial Year 2000! I never expected living long enough to see the change from putting the year 19… on my cheques and learning to write ‘2000.’ Next, on to writing about all the happenings in the world and how they affected Gila during what felt like a new age. I am at the point to enter my ninth life – and I look forward to ending the book. Not my life, hahaha!
Giselle’s Memoir developed into a trilogy. Nanaimo Magazine stated, “Giselle had one hell of a life.” It did not fit into an ordinary book or become one with a thousand pages. The series title could be “The Nine Lives of Gila.”
1: “We Don’t Talk About That” is the story of surviving WWII and its aftermath. Starting after WWI, it outlines the changes in many European countries’ social makeup. Unemployment and staggering inflation when a loaf of bread cost billions and two beers a mere one-hundred billion led to the rise of Adolf Hitler. He promised work and bread and kept his promises. The following years brought an upswing in life but also carried Germany into WWII. The invasion of eastern Germany by the Russian army brought horror with unspeakable atrocities to ordinary people. Most survivors’ attitude is we don’t talk about that.
Gila’s life turned tragic when the fighting approached her neighbourhood with rape, murder and hunger. The Russians took her father and every 16 to 60-year-old able person to Siberia. The rest of the population, including Gila’s mother and her siblings, were evicted. They joined the trek of thousands ‘on the road to nowhere.’ Gila witnessed gruesome acts of violence. She barely survived diphtheria. Later, recovering from typhoid fever, she took responsibility for her three siblings while her mother worked. Despite her interrupted schooling through circumstances beyond her control, Gila’s determination empowered her to become a Physical Education teacher. She lived the first ten years of her life under the Nazis and her teenage years under communist rule. Germany’s division into East and West with its political ramifications caused her to escape to West Germany. Gila’s story is one of courage, pain, love, and longing for liberation.
# 2: “Flight Into The Unknown” deals with Gila’s life in the West. She saw an ad placed by a former German living in Canada. He was looking for a new mommy for his four-year-old daughter. Intrigued, she answered. An envelope with ‘Beautiful British Columbia’ magazines, a letter, and photographs arrived. A lawyer, the Canadian man’s father, called: “My son is not a fly-by-night,” inviting her to visit. Three months later, she got engaged by telephone. With Gila on holiday, the future in-laws organized the wedding without asking her.
Seven months after she had answered the ad, she immigrated to Vancouver, Canada. She soon realized it was the biggest mistake of her life. Her husband used her money to pay his debts. Gila had been blinded by his well-to-do parents, thinking, ‘the apple does not fall far from the tree.’ After a move to Winnipeg, Gila welcomed a second stepdaughter and gave birth to a son. Trials and tribulations were constant companions. After twenty years of marriage, raising the kids, and finally succeeding in her own business, the husband had an affair leading to a nasty divorce. Gila lost everything and moved back to Vancouver
# 3: “Set Sail for Life After 50” is about new beginnings. Gila starts another business. Radio and television interviews give it a boost. A love affair keeps her happy with travels to attend and speak at health conventions across Canada, the USA, and even Australia. After years of struggling with emotional problems and trying counselling, she accepts her fate. Serious health problems cause her to sell her business. To find a cure, Gila flies to Germany, invited by the Kneipp Association. She returns energized, and her customers want to experience the same treatments. A new business is born: “Health Travel.” She takes nearly 200 Canadians to the health resort over the next few years. Several eligible men cross her path. At 70, she meets a Vancouver Island man; they decide to buy a house together and enjoy the companionship for the rest of their lives.
Hard to believe a frustrating and, for many people, the most challenging 2020 comes to an end. At the beginning of the lockdown in spring, I experienced renewed energy for having more time and finished writing the sequel to “We Don’t Talk About That.” The new book, “Flight Into the Unknown,” dealing with my immigration to Canada, was published in May. Many people have written emails with their immigration stories. One man mentioned, “I am not a reader, never finished a book without skipping pages. Yours? I read every single word. I can hardly wait for your finale in your trilogy.” But instead of writing # 3, I updated the first part of my trilogy, “We Don’t Talk About That.” The 2nd Edition is now available, even contains a few photographs.
Christmas came faster than anticipated. People read more than ever, and mainly e-books. I want to help and decided to give my readers a special gift! You can download both books on Kindle, Kobo, i-books and from Smashwords for the super price of only 99 US cents each from December 20th to 31st. Happy reading!
Merry Christmas and a Happy and hopefully healthy New Year!
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.’
Reading your long epistle, I feel similar feelings. You, being a pastor, should be ‘above it all,’ be serene and relaxed, rely on your faith, be a rock, the shepherd for your flock. But you are human, just like the rest of us struggling souls. I tell myself, ‘no need to feel anxious,’ but I do. I am a bit of a loner, but this – not being able to see, talk or laugh with someone living close by, drives me crazy. My muscles are tight, my breathing flat when I don’t think of it. I can’t sleep. My legs hurt from sitting too much. I started to go on little walks with my Nordic Poles, without those I couldn’t. My heart hurts; I breathe deeply to give it more oxygen.
I talk to myself; I talk to God because I feel embarrassed to talk to anyone else about what rattles or worries me; everyone has and deals with their problems. Neighbours become strangers. People were walking their dogs: I used to stop and talk to them, touch and stroke the doggies – now the people step off the sidewalk when they see me coming and walk on the road.
The dogs strain on their leashes, they remember me, want to come to me, they are not allowed. Do you find it weird that I miss the happiness those dogs used to show me more than exchanging a few words with their owners? I can still fill the hummingbird feeder, and those little critters don’t care about COVID, they still come. I see them, I love them, but they are the only sign of life as I knew it.
Yes, Brenda, it’s a weird time in all of our lives. Does it, will it ever change again? It will change alright, but it will not be the old ‘normal’ as we knew it. The young ones will adjust to the new ‘normal’ and deal with it the way my generation dealt with the war, the starvation, the diseases, the fallout, the re-building of bombed and destroyed cities.
This new war, the master of which we can not see, attacking friend and foe alike, reducing the number of the billions of people on our planet, is a phenomenon we can not conquer, try as we might. Will it stop when some kind of balance is achieved? For us, there is only HOPE left, as we struggle to retain our FAITH and LOVE.
Are you curious about an adventure into the Great Unknown? On another continent? Experience a different life with its ups and downs? Step into the shoes of an immigrant with limited knowledge of English! You will struggle to get to know the penfriend you married and deal with a lovable little stepdaughter. You will realize it wasn’t all gold that glitters, and what you innocently believed was the truth was not. Was to fulfill yourself a dream the biggest mistake of your life? Sorry, sweety, you can’t change anything; all your earthly goods are in a big container on a ship sailing the high seas to arrive in three months. You make the best of your situation, face many challenges, move from the beautiful first landing to another city – you cry more than ever in your life but grow stronger in mind and soul. You learn to pray from all your heart – and hope that one day, you get your reward.
The above is just the beginning of my story in “Flight Into The Unknown.” You’ll laugh, and you’ll cry with me; you’ll be at my side when I’m thinking of suicide. You’ll be amazed by how I build a successful business. You will be afraid of my wellbeing after an experience at a New Years’ party. Yes, it changed everything once more – but I’ll let you read about that yourself.
I finally finished the sequel to my WWII memoir, “We Don’t Talk About That.” Many of you have waited patiently, sent me occasional reminders. Thank you! The first appearance of my new ‘baby’ is in the form of an e-book since a printed version will still take some time.
I just finished reading this book. All along, I was wondering how the author, Margaret Skea, would have been able to find so much material during her limited time in Wittenberg. I asked myself repeatedly, “Is this fiction, based on truth? Is this a biography of Katharina von Bora?” Or is it “intelligent fiction?” When I read the author’s comments at the end of the book and learned that IT IS fiction, I couldn’t believe it. Written in the first person, it was so real, I was Katharina, or I was next to her, holding my breath, prayed with her, felt her despair… What an exceptional writer! If I had the time, I would want to read every one of Ms. Skea’s books. Notably, the prequel “Katharina: Deliverance,” telling of her childhood in a convent, her vows as a nun, her escape, her meeting with Dr. Martin Luther, the former monk.
Like ghosts, the people in the book are occupying my head every hour of the day. How did Ms. Skea, the English-Scottish writer, ever come up with the idea to write about this German woman, the nun who became Mrs. Martin Luther? How did she get to ‘know’ her and the people around her so intimately? Are there history museums in Wittenberge with lots of details about the 16th Century and Dr. Martin Luther, the reformer standing up to the mighty Catholic church and the Pope? Did she find a book that she translated? This idea ran through my head because it is absolutely incredible how anyone could write this story and transport the reader back into THAT time, feel close to the characters, the setting, the history… I am in awe. King Henry was also starting his ‘reform’ in England because the Pope would not allow him to divorce his Catholic wife. My honest opinion? The beginning is a bit slow, some German words don’t make much sense, ‘Wirtschaft’ for one – that word has many meanings, but Weddings are not one of them.
When I questioned the author, here is what she writes:
“To give you a bit more background to the fact/fiction division – I didn’t want to write screeds at the end – it is fiction, but all the key events actually happened – I just had to flesh them out and try to bring them alive.
We know Frau Jessner was fined for abusing the Luthers publicly, we know they had a pet dog named Tolpel, we know the land Katharina persuaded Martin to buy, we know a lot of the discussions that were had at Dr. Luther’s ‘Table Talk’ and some of Katharina’s contributions to them etc, etc.
We know a lot of what she did, but not why, nor do we have documented evidence of what she thought. I worked backwards, trying to imagine what sort of a character she must have been to do this or that. I loved the experience of trying to see it all through her eyes. Obviously, the interactions with her women friends were the most fictional bits – but again we know a lot about who was in the Lutherhaus and roughly when, and rough dates for miscarriages for her and for her friends and rough dates for the deaths of friends and of children. Ditto for family deaths, the visit of her brother Hans and so on. I did have a fairly tight framework to work to – which (mostly) helped!
I guess you could say it is a complex blend of fact and fiction. Great news for me if, when reading, you couldn’t see the seams between them!!”
No, I couldn’t see the seams between them. I didn’t know very much of Katharina, Martin Luther’s wife. Just that she was a former nun and bore him seven children, of which four lived. Now, learning of her extra-ordinary life with this controversial man, I want to know more about him, the Reformer of the Catholic Religion, Dr. Martin Luther, one of the most important and unforgettable men in church history.
Do I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly, even if partially fiction, it provides an intimate look into the lives of women and the history of the early sixteenth century. Margaret Skea, the author, is known for ‘knowing her history’ – she has written several other historical novels.
I just finished reading the book with this title by Josephine Butler. She was one of the ‘chosen’ people for a ‘Secret Circle’ of Winston Churchill, her being the only woman. She never met or knew the other members, but had many meetings with the Prime Minister himself, always in secret. She had no idea why what and how dangerous the work was going to be that she was asked to do. Since she grew up, went to school, and even studied in France, she spoke the language like a native. Therefore, she was frequently sent to France after it had capitulated to the Nazis. She was dropped off or had to jump out of a Lysander two-seater plane in remote areas. She still had friends in Paris and other cities of the country, and these helped her to build up resistance cells under life-threatening circumstances.
Occasionally, while reading of her ‘adventures,’ my hair stood on edge, other times, I realized I had stopped breathing. What this woman’s life during the years between 1938 and 1945 was like, deprives every description. Furthermore, what the French people had to endure under the Nazi occupation makes you realize the danger of a repeat if you follow present-day politics. Winston Churchill referred to her as ‘Jay Bee’ during those years, and once commented to someone who had asked why a woman: “95% brain, 5% sex.” When she learnt of it and had a chance, she told the Prime Minister: “I have just as much sex as any woman, given the right place and time.” To which he replied with a twinkle in his eyes, “Let me know about it” – or something to that extent.
When WW II was over, Churchill asked her to take an assignment in Germany, but she declined. She wanted to stay in the country and see things grow. She asked him to allow her to write a book about her experiences someday. “Wait at least twenty years,” he told her. “Do not write fiction, or nonfiction or near fiction, write only the truth. Be careful not to mention names of buildings, or people, unless it is to their benefit.” She waited even longer. She had written a manuscript “Churchill’s Secret Agent” in 1983, on which she based her book “Cyanide In My Shoe.” It was first published in 1991.
I had written the book “We Don’t Talk About That” about my family’s experiences during WW II, how ordinary German people reacted to the Nazis, and then, finally going through the ordeal with the Russian invasion. Probably very similar to the atrocities committed by the Nazis in France or later, in Poland and Russia. I knew a lot of the history surrounding the Allied powers, eventually joining the war to defeat Germany. Winston Churchill had a hard time to hold them back until they could be sure to end the war with victory. He did not want to grant Germany a “conditional surrender” but was only satisfied with an “unconditional surrender.” I must admit, I learnt more from reading Josephine Butler’s book.
I like to say ‘thank you’ to the friend, who loaned it to me. A real treasure. Yes, the book – and the friend.
Mamma Mia, how can I get the music of this famous musical with all the ABBA songs out of my mind? Sitting in the Chemainus Theatre, I had ear plugs in my purse. We knew, all their musical performances were simply too loud, and, at our advanced age, we don’t want to lose more of those precious hearing cells. Every seat was taken. Extra excitement was added by an elegant group of the ‘Red Hat Society’ ladies coming over from the Mainland. Their heads, crowned with red hats or big red flowers were first dotting the dining room, then the theatre. What a happy group of women!
Back to the music – Oh, ABBA! Who didn’t like the infectious sounds of this pop group about fifty years ago? I had always been wondering how the name ABBA had come about. Now I know; the background story was in the program: Benny Anderson & Bjoern Ulvaeus with their fiance̍es, Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad enjoyed success in Sweden with their first single “People Need Love” in the sixties. Listing all their names was awkward. They randomly put their initials together to ABBA and, a First Prize won in 1974 at an European Song Contest put this group an the map. Only a year after they started recording in English, the whole world listened to their infectious songs. They sold 350 million recordings.
Twenty-five years after they had won the European Song Contest a musical had been written and performed for the first time in London UK. The audience went wild and were dancing and singing in the isles…
That couldn’t happen in Chemainus. Seats are tight, isles are narrow and steep – but, people were singing along with the actors, swinging their arms in unison, tapping their feet, and made themselves part of the performance.
“I Have a Dream,” – “Money-Money-Money,” – “Thank You for the Music,” – “Mamma Mia,” – “Dancing Queen,” – “Super Trouper,” – “Gimme-Gimme-Gimme,” – “The Name of the Game,” – “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” – “Take a Chance on Me,” – “I do, I do, I do,” – and many other hit songs held the audience captive. “Mamma Mia” has been performed all over the world and is to date the longest playing musical in sold-out theatres anywhere.
Tell you a little secret: Many years ago, I was invited to a wedding. The bride asked me not to bring my friend Omar Sharif. Whaaat? Where did that come from?
“Can I bring the ABBA Singers instead?”
“Maybe, because my husband-to-be likes the group. But I’ll have to ask my dad…”
You know what I did? I bought and took along the newest ABBA Album as a gift.