Friday, November 25, 2016

Virtual Meanderings

Here I am with a blog called, "Gabe's Meanderings" and I barely meander anywhere except in my mind. I do have a bucket list of travel destinations. Federofka (now Kaliniwka)—about two hours northwest of Kyiv—was supposed to be only a starting point for my travel adventures. Such is life.

I continue to research the places of my mom’s life. It’s confusing. The Soviets played with names and many Russian and Ukrainian places have been renamed. For example, Donetsk, an east Ukrainian city which is often in the news because of the current fighting, has been known as Stalino, Yuzovka and Aleksandrovka.  Back in 1869, it was even called Hughesovka, after its Welsh steel plant founder John Hughes. Then there’s Saint Petersburg, known as Leningrad during the Soviet era and Stalingrad, now known as Volgograd after the Volga River along which its built.

Here in Canada, names get changed, too. Winnipeg streets are renamed in honor of local politicians and sports figures. It’s a good thing our lakes and rivers have stayed muddy, otherwise the city’s name, Winnipeg, might be in for a name change, as well.

As women, we’re well aware of the power of names. Some of us give up birth names at the time of marriage. We change our identity.  I was only too eager too shed my German-sounding last name. If we don’t keep track, history can get swallowed up by the power of renaming. Towns, countries and individuals disappear—literally, if not literally.  

And names do have power. Give a child a confusing or unique name and it will impact their life.
Weren’t Adam and Eve, back in the Garden of Eden, assigned the job of naming? It’s a serious responsibility.


Back to my travel bucket list. 

In Russia I’d like to see Königsberg (now Kaliningrad) and the surrounding towns and villages of the Kaliningrad Oblast. I want to visit the Curonian Spit (a nature reserve along the Baltic with huge sand dunes), Kreuzburg (today Slavskoye) bordering on Poland, the mining area of the Ural Mountains (where my mom was a prisoner of war) and Yaya, Siberia where my grandmother died. Traveling by train, like my mom did, would be perfect and so I’ve been reading up on the TransSiberian Railway. What an adventure that would be! Thankfully, freight rail for tourists is not an option.

Yes, I’m itching to do some more meandering, but for now I’ll have to be patient and content with virtual traveling. I’ve got the internet, books, people and my imagination, so it shouldn’t be too hard or expensive.



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

At the Pool

File:UofMinnesotaNatatorium.jpg








I swim at a local pool during the week and have come to recognize the regulars. We give each other space...swimming is not a talkative sport. But the other day, out in the parking lot, I couldn't help but comment to an older man, on the beautiful weather we've been having. When he replied, I noticed a slight accent and asked, "Sprechen sie deutsch?" He did!

Long story short, he explained how he was a German from Poland and showed me scars from bayonet wounds. It was February, 1945. The Soviet Army had started their push towards Berlin and this man was twelve years old. Not only that...this local swimmer came over on the same ship, the Beaverbrae, that my parents came over on—and in the same year!  "The rat-ship" he called it, with a chuckle.

I'm heading back to the pool today.  Swimming....another way to do explore history!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Dreaming

Like many, I was drawn to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. We all have disappointments, dreams that don’t work out. That is a bitter pill that we must all swallow. We work hard towards something, we give it our best, we surround ourselves with people who believe in us and yet things don’t always go our way. Does that mean we failed?

Of course not. In working towards our dreams we develop muscle and that strength stays with us. No matter what our dreams, our aspirations…it is the journey that satisfies, that nourishes, that inspires and even comforts us.

I’ve never dreamed of being a political leader. My dreams are much humbler. Sometimes I feel like I’ve failed, like I should just give up. And yet I draw inspiration from Clinton’s own loss. We who go after dreams know that achievement is not always measured by reaching the goal. Achievement is about effort and it’s about accepting defeat and continuing on with more dreams.  Let’s all keep dreaming.