A STORY OF SURVIVAL AND SUCCESS:

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.’

Letter to an unknown friend

Hi, Brenda:

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.

Giselle

“Flight Into The Unknown” – now published

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.

The ebook is now available from Smashwords (Kobo, Kindle Nook and PDF), Kobo (Kobo only) and Kindle (Kindle only). Hard copies are available from Amazon.

“Katharina: Fortitude”

 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.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07VQK6XHZ?pf_rd_p=2d1ab404-3b11-4c97-b3db-48081e145e35&pf_rd_r=5QTATFCQ1KP6HSTN677F

Book Review – Cyanide In My Shoe

Scary, eh?

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.

­

Super Sale at Smashwords –

Wow, I almost forgot: Smashwords has their BIG Summer/Winter Sale on e-books. Since EVERY person I meet, who read my book “We Don’t Talk About That” says: “I couldn’t put it down…” – I think YOU might enjoy it too. An English History writer posted: “The last puzzle of WW II… should be placed next to ‘Anne Frank’s Diaries.” All my books are listed at 50% off – half price! If you haven’t read them, now is the time to get them! Click here: My Smashwords profile: https://lnkd.in/g_GdPgi This 11th annual Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale has begun, running now through July 31. The sale already features nearly 55,000 ebooks with deep discounts of 25%-, 50%-, and 75%-off, as well as FREE. If you put a book in your cart, the discount will automatically be taken off.

“Mamma Mia!”

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.

Green, greener…

Actually, it’s funny the way “You Young” people see the world today! All those things in the following write up were done by my grandmother, mother and me until I grew up.

We did not know anything about disposable diapers, Kleenex, Tampax or pantie- liners.  The women had to buy washable pads with two button holes on either end or make protecting pads out of old panties, and soak and wash them during menstruation. Washing machines or dryers were dream years away. You’d see everything on a clothesline across the yard for drying. Families with more grown-up females had rows of those pads pecked on the line. Even as a ten-year-old kid, I thought it was embarrassing to see them. All the men and boys would know when the women and girls in the village had their period.

Clean white toilet paper? Indoor toilets? It might have been a pail in the kitchen for the younger children. They got their bum washed. For us, it was the ripped-up newspaper that was hanging on a rusty nail in the outhouse. If someone spent a lot of time in there, we knew they were reading the old “news.” During 1945/46 when there were no newspapers, we used grass… and our poor mother had to scrub panties and men’s underpants to get rid of what we called the “schiss.” Yes, we did get our hands dirty and washed them under the pump with the ice-cold water.

We did not have running water in the house. We had to bring it in from the pump outside and also bring the dirty water out. Wash day was a big all-day undertaking.

My mother’s hands were raw from scrubbing on the washboard. I still feel sorry for my mom. I love laundry day – because I don’t even get my hands wet… easy-peasy.

Heating and cooking? Hah! We had to scrape the ash out of the oven and the stove, bring it out and bring in wood and coal and kindling. Sometimes, when the wind came from the wrong direction and got into the chimney, we could not get the fire going. The smoke came back into our faces when we blew on the kindling. Life was simple. We did not know any better – so did not think about all of this being a hardship. We had a potty under the bed for the small job, for the big one we had to go to the outhouse next to the barn. God, I remember how cold that seat was in the winter! A smooth wooden plank with a hole in it, covered with a lid. A big box was underneath which my dad emptied when it was full. There was a small door where he could pull it out. He dumped it onto the manure pile and used a fork to cover it with the dirty straw that came out of the animal stalls, which we had to clean out every day. Mostly my mother did… And in spring or fall, the manure was carted to the fields and plowed under.

Going shopping, Mom took home-made little cotton bags with her. She had stitched “Sugar,” “Flour,” “Salt” and what have you on them. If you didn’t bring your own bags, you could not be served. She had a basket on her bike, and a big bag made out of an old carpet to carry her treasures home. No plastic for anything. I guess it wasn’t even invented yet. We made our own jam, had our own honey bees, but if you wanted to buy those items, even pickles, people had to bring glass containers. Butchers just put any meat on a double newspaper – unless you brought your own packing paper.

Yaaah, we were not “green,” but without knowing anything about any of the present day concerns, we lived a healthy life and ate homegrown food, we had no idea about it being “organic.” We saved our environment. If you would have asked someone about “environment,” they would look at you saying: “Environment? What’s that…?”

Actually, we were “GREENER than GREEN” back then.

A look at “Truth” and “Lie:”

When I read this old legend, it made me think. I shook my wise old head and thought, “How true! Who wants to know the naked truth nowadays? People are falling for lies. It is so much easier to believe the lies. And the louder and more often they are told, they more people believe them.”

And that’s why I want to share this little story with you:

Once upon a time, way back in the nineteenth century, Truth and Lie meet on a beautiful sunny day. After a smiling ‘hello’ Lie says to Truth,

“What a gorgeous day it is today! Come on, let’s enjoy a good long walk and get to know each other. We can talk.”

Since Truth never trusted Lie she looks up to the heavens, and yes, it was true, it was a gorgeous day. Ignoring her gut-feeling, she agrees, and off they went. Both felt warm, and sweaty when they arrived at a small pond next to a well. The clear, sparkling water was inviting. Again, the more outspoken Lie took the initiative:

“Aaah, a bath would feel so good. Don’t you think? Come on, let’s have fun, join me for a bath! There is nobody around so we can bathe in the nude. ”

Truth tested the water with her hand, and yes, Lie was right, the water felt good. She didn’t want to hurt Lie’s feelings or ruin a companionable day, so she agreed. They undressed, went into the water, and splashed each other, laughing. All of a sudden Lie left the water,  grabbed their clothing, ran away, discarding her own and dressing in Truth’s clothing.

For a few moments Truth was shocked, then she got angry at herself. How could she have ever trusted Lie? She went after the bitch, tried to catch her and get her clothing back.

When the world saw the naked Truth, they did not want to embarrass her, so they turned away. Some people were spiteful and called her names. Poor Truth was so ashamed and upset that she tried to hide and go back to the pond and the well protected by nature.

Lie, dressed in Truth’s clothing, paraded around and pretended to be Truth, and incredibly, more people than not believe her.

By now, Lie is travelling the world, dubbing the societies, and the world has no need and even lost the desire to see the “Naked Truth.”

Superstition or something More?

What is it – superstition, ESP or simply coincidence? Couldn’t be. Do you believe in Guardian Angels? During my whole life (just read my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”) it seems that I knew before something happened what was coming. Or, if I were desperate for or needed something, I would go to a place I usually wasn’t going to and found it. Or, I think of someone for no good reason, and the person turns up, writes or phones me. Last week I couldn’t get my first boyfriend out of my mind and wondered if he and his wife were still alive. I called my kayak friend Christa in Germany, and during our conversation, I asked her.

“I never see him, I have no contact with them. But it’s weird you should ask. There is an announcement in today’s newspaper that his wife has died. I meant to send it to you.”

A few days ago I wondered where I could go for a pedicure. With my severe back problems, I cannot do it myself anymore. I meant to ask my lady friends. I had something at Tim Hortons, sat down at one of the small tables, ate right there and, instead of turning left after I was finished I wandered around the corner to the right. Why? I don’t know. There is nothing but the rear exit door of the Woodgrove Shopping Center. And what do I see? A modern, colorful, busy manicure and pedicure setup.

I picked up a business card. A few days later, I made an appointment. Nobody spoke much understandable English. The manicure section was full. I was the first-afternoon customer for a pedicure. They placed me in one of what, six? large leather chairs, lined the attached footbath in front of me and added warm water and some salts. A young man treated me, he did not understand me, and I did not understand him. Maybe he was Korean, perhaps from China or Thailand, it didn’t matter. He knew what he was doing, I did not have to tell him what I wanted to be done. He did a superb job. While he was working on my feet, the big chair massaged my back, up and down, pulling, kneading, knocking, stroking, all the way from the head to my bottom. No, I did not want my toenails coloured, it was the only thing I had to convey to him using sign language.

I was thinking back of my own skin care shops in the eighties. My pedicure chairs cost about $1.500.00 each even then, but these modern ones? I guess much more than double. I watched the manicures and picked up a price list. I had no idea you could offer two pages of services, just for nails. All in all, I am impressed, and I will surely go back there and also recommend the place called “Cali Nails” in Nanaimo, Woodgrove Shopping Center.

I must have a guardian angel who knows what I need when I need it, and he guides me there.