I was born eight days after the unconditional surrender of the German Reich to the Allied Forces. My mother had walked a long distance – for nine days – to escape the advancing Russians and to get to her parents’ village, which had been captured by the Americans. My mother was terrified of the Russians because the solders took revenge on German women for the Russians killed during the war.
What my mother and all other Germans did not know was that at the conference in Yalta, the Allies had laid down the borders of their future occupation zones. So, a few days after I was born the Americans withdrew from my mother’s village and the Russians began arriving. My mother took my sisters and fled further to the west. I was left with my grandmother for the next two years until my mother’s half brother smuggled me across the border in a backpack at night. Eventually I ended up in Kiel, Germany, reunited with the family.
I remember sitting in a high chair. My mother had just finished feeding me. I said to her, ”Thank you, Grandma.”
Both my sisters began to laugh and said I was stupid. “He doesn’t know that you are Mom and not Grandma.”
I had no idea why I was stupid, because for all I knew, any woman who feeds you is called Grandma.