Can We Talk?

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Can We Talk?


Sept. 1, 2008 Monday

Had breakfast at the other Gasthaus with the other guests – most of them from Germany. Found out one couple had skipped out on their hotel bill and Hansi paid. That is so mean. We then drove around to Branko’s to say hello to his wife. His lawn was immaculately groomed except for a large square area. “I wonder why he didn’t cut there,” asked Charlie. We soon found out. Branko has a couple of pet goats. He lets the grass grow for them to eat.

Next stop to Andre’s apartment building and then his bistro where I had a scoop of ice cream. We then said our goodbyes to everyone. Hansi and I took off to Maribor to see about land registry and my birth documentation. Turns out, we were at the wrong office for the registry and the priest who had the documentation was out. Hansi brought me back to Charlie because he had to say Mass at 6PM. He is more or less free all day unless there is a wedding, a christening, a funeral and such but he has to be back by 6PM to say mass.

Charlie and I had a huge dinner at the hotel. The dinner was one of the best I had on this trip. Just wonderful. Then we went to bed.

September 2, 2008 Tuesday

Hansi picked us up and drove us to Mureck. We had breakfast at a place called Erika’s. Hansi talked to some women inside the café who knew all about Sternthal. They were real nice and quite excited about the story of Hansi and I having not seen each other in sixty-three years. Also, there was a woman in a small Tabak store that I might also be related to. She very much wanted to get together with me to see if that is so. She is also a Zacharias on her mother’s side.

I tried to buy a SIM card but it would work on my phone. Apparently, it is not an open phone. Very disappointed. We then began to drive back. Took picture of the famous bridge that was destroyed during war. All rebuilt now. There are no guards of any kind at the border. We drove back to Locavek and up to the house. We spoke to the man across the street from my family’s house. He told us several years back, Albert and his three sisters were there in his house talking about their property and asking him questions. One of the sisters lived in Canada and one in Australia, so I knew they were Hani, Mother and Aunt Frieda. Apparently, they said they weren’t interested in the land – just the money. He was very surprised when I told him that all but my mother were dead.

Back down the hill to Golob. Hansi had split his pants and asked for a needle and thread so he could sew them up. Meanwhile Charlie and I walked to the school where Mom, Hansi and her siblings went. I took pictures from the outside from every angle. Then a woman walked out – out of curiosity, I guess. I told her that my mother had been a student there many years ago. She walked over to me. She was very nice and invited us in the school to have a look around. She gave us a tour. There were 33 children and 4 teachers. The children ranged from the age of 6 to 17. What a place. They had a computer lab with one teacher. Those kids were learning the computer at the age of 6. Another teacher taught German to a small class – I think three. Since this was just the second day of the school year, they were getting to know each other. We took a couple of pictures and were given some items the students had made. This year they were celebrating 120 years that the school had been built. Talk about an exclusive school. 33 students – 4 teachers.

When we got back to Golob, I told Hansi where we’d been. He said he wants to go too since he also went to school there. I went with him and he went inside to talk to some people but we didn’t stay long. I guess one disruption per day is quite enough. He seemed very happy. Later, as we drove towards Lenart, we saw some children walking home from school, a couple of them with cell phones stuck to their ears.

We then drove to Lenart to see government office re land inquiry. The man in charge, although very nice, said this was the wrong office and to go to this other office in the yellow building across the street but today is too late. We took Hansi to dinner (BTW, the split in his pants opened again but he bravely walked into the restaurant with Charlie close behind.) It was time to head home. Hansi had to say Mass. Well, I guess he was in a bit of a hurry and, wouldn’t you know it, he was caught speeding. That took a while for forms to be filled out, etc. I learned the next day that his congregation waited for him. He is so well loved.

September 30th, 2008 Posted by | Family, Zacharias - The Story of a Family | no comments

Full Circle

It all started here.  My protector, Hansi.  My “older brother”, Hansi.  He had a gentle nature and lived with my family from 1941 until 1945.  He was my grand-parents’ foster child.

His father had died in a work-related accident. His mother had nobody to look after the young boy while she worked. The German government wanted to place him with a German-speaking family and that’s how he came to live with us.  I’ve been told those were very happy years for him.

This picture was taken some time in 1944, one year before the world we knew ended.

The country was called Yugoslavia at that time.  Before WW I, it had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and is still referred to as Lower Styria by the Austrians, of course.  The hamlet was called Lugatz.  That same country is now called Slovenia and the hamlet is now called Lokavec.

Our family had owned and lived on the farm at # 7 Lugatz for many generations.  But all that was of no import for what was to come.  In times of war home, country, assets, ownership, family – nothing matters.  It is all razed as though it had never existed.  The looters take what they want, happily tossing the rightful owners aside.  Well, if you’re on the losing side, that is.

And so it was that Spring of 1945, my family and I were rounded up and thrown into a concentration camp in Sternthal, our home and land seized, our family and the life we knew, in tatters.  And so it was that Hansi was separated from us.  But life goes on.

One evening, while watching television with my husband, the phone rang.  I answered.  I heard a voice asking if this were Erika.  I said “Yes”.  He said “This is Hansi”. I knew immediately who it was for there was only one person called Hansi that I ever knew in my life.  Of course, I remembered him only through stories my mother told me and through family pictures.  We corresponded from that moment on.  When he asked if I would come to his 50th Jubilee as priest, I answered “Yes”.  Sixty-four years had passed since we had last seen each other. Read more…

September 23rd, 2008 Posted by | Zacharias - The Story of a Family | no comments