Two summers ago, I visited the Okanagan where a cousin of mine lives. Born back in the Soviet Union, she’s the last survivor of the original group of nine family members who came to Canada back in 1953.
My cousin showed me a postcard from my uncle. . . my mom’s little brother. I call him Albert in my stories, but his real name was August. August Ristau.
When I returned to Winnipeg after my trip out west, I regretted not making a digital copy of that flimsy, faded postcard. Yesterday, I received a hard copy in the mail.
August sent this card on January (or is that February?) 17th, 1945. It says:
Many greetings from my prison camp. So far, things are going well for me and I wish the same for you. I hope we can see each other again soon, in our homeland.
Greetings from your brother, August.
The date must be January, because by February, Kreuzburg, East Prussia would be empty. All the Germans were fleeing for the Baltic port of Pillau, trying to avoid the approaching Soviet Army.
No one heard from August again. But this postcard does give me an address to search for when I visit the former East Prussia next year.
Today’s my mom’s birthday. She’d be 99. On her 26th birthday, back in March, 1945, the Red Army captured her and dragged her back into the Soviet Union. Sometimes I feel discouraged about the publication challenges I’ve encountered after writing these stories. But then I look at these faces and I become determined —all over again.