Tuesday, July 28, 2009

1945 rapings

The other day CBC radio had a documentary on the rapes of about 2 million women (and children) at the end of the war in 1945. As German women they were considered the Red Army's reward for defeating the Nazis. This topic is not mentioned a lot, for obvious reasons. But rape has continued to be a war 'tool' and so now for the purposes of research, these old women have been interviewed. How does sexual brutality affect a woman throughout the rest of her life?

My mom was already in her 20s when the Russian troops descended on the German civilians in East Prussia. Because she'd been raised in the Soviet Union, she knew their language and was protected by an officer who used her as a translator. Her two sisters weren't so lucky. One never had her own children. The other told me of how they would hide in the outhouse in the evenings when the booze flowed.

My mother also told me that venereal disease spread like crazy and that by the time she was shipped via freight car to work in the Ural coalmines, the Soviet soldiers had had enough of raping. 

Which then brought her to another topic ... food. What did she eat in the Soviet prison camp? I'll save that for another post. 

Thursday, July 23, 2009

presentationzen

Finally finished reading one of my Mother's Day gifts.  Presentationzen by Garr Reynolds  is a book about using Powerpoint. If you click the link you'll go to his blog which is full of more presentation wisdom. It's helped me understand the creative potential in doing a presentation. (Afterall, I'd love to share my research from writing my book.) 

Reading this book has shown me that simple is way stronger than complicated and while it's not directed at presenting to children, I'm sure children would be even more appreciative of simple. There's this mistaken belief that simple is ... well ... simple.  But let me borrow a quote from the book that's by Leonardo da Vinci.  "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

So I'm going to go back over the powerpoint I've prepared and will focus on keeping it simple.  

Friday, July 17, 2009

Marilyn French

I'm a bit behind - maybe it's because I love history -  always stuck in the past. By the time I catch up on my newspaper reading the events are no longer current - but history, too.

So it is that I just learned of the passing of one of my all time favorite writers - Marilyn French. She died May 2nd of this year.  I'd never read anything like her back in my twenties. She was so daring! My close friends and I shared "The Women's Room" - underlining and exclamation-marking certain passages. She was so astute - in our naive, young opinions - about relationships between men and women. I'll have to reread that book from my now more 'mature' perch.

It was much more recently that I found a copy of "Her Mother's Daughter" in a second hand store. I loved that book and again realized the power of writing. She just has so much depth and insight and even though I sometimes don't agree with what she says - I still love the way she says it.

Marilyn French - thank you - and rest in peace. Your words will live on in my life.

p.s. And .... she has a novel coming out this fall!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Folk Fest

No folk fest for me this year. 

For the last twenty years I've gone to the Winnipeg Folk Festival every year. It was like Christmas in July for my family. Wonderful memories. But twenty years is a long time. The toddlers that once swung their cute little butts to the music are now working weekends, or into heavy metal, or traveling to Europe, or ...  

And I've decided - with mixed feelings - to stop volunteering. I must focus on my writing goals.

Now my teenager is carrying on the folk festival tradition in our house. I just saw her and her friends off. She's volunteering at BackStage hospitality this afternoon and I'm happy for her. Me? I'm just looking forward to having the house to myself and will indulge in seeing leaves flutter peacefully in the summer breeze as I continue revising that 1931 transition from the USSR to East Prussia.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Book Cover

My book's cover is now posted on Amazon, so I guess that makes it official. It's not much different than my 'temporary' cover. 

For you, kulak children. I hope I did okay. 

I wish I could feel good about this whole project. Instead, there's a heaviness in me - a dread that it's all been a dreadful waste of time. Must keep busy!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

My parents chose Canada as their home back in 1953. They taught me to never take this place for granted. Sure, the winters can be long and cold. But, hey, we have central heating, cars and enough money to buy warm clothes. It's the kind of country where you can show up with nothing and still be considered equal. 

It was important for my mom to get her Canadian citizenship. For years she'd been a 'nobody.' In the Soviet Union she had to hide her 'Germanness.' Later in Germany, she was considered second class because she was a 'refugee' from the east. Now in Canada she is a proud Canadian and she's taught me to be proud of my German Russian heritage and at the same time, of my country, Canada. In Canada, you can be who you are and a Canadian - and that's what makes this country such a positive place.  

So HAPPY CANADA DAY to all of us misfits, we have arrived!