2009, after two trips from Melbourne, Australia to Europe and back has firmly convinced me that I am no longer the lively gazelle with unlimited energy to scamper up Geislingen’s hillsides. Nevertheless I relished the opportunity to disprove my fantasy.
In September I was privileged to participate in the International conference about Children as the Invisible Victims of War. I had always believed that the journey through a war zone looked different through the eyes of a child compared with what the adult saw. My time at that conference validated that notion for me.
At the conference was a diversity of presenters, all with a wealth of experience behind them: Among them a contingent of those who were children during World War II. I was quite unaware how extensive the evacuee program was: presenters at the conference included Finnish and UK evacuees, a speaker from the kinder transport to UK and one from the Shoa. I guess I represented the DP kids. The children of the Norwegian Qvisling fathers were also represented via a researcher in that field and we heard with much sadness the tale of the children of German heroes turned villains as they returned home disgraced.
Despite our differing national origins the entire cohort seemed to bond instinctively. We all seemed to be feeling something similar: how much of what we remembered was really valid?
The feelings were not too different to those of that my cohort felt when we met in Geislingen last year.
Compiling “When the Noise Had Ended” for me was a surreal experience. It was an opportunity for many of us to touch the past, an opportunity to finally recognize that we as children too had been carved into our present identities by those winds of fate: That we too were part of that journey.
Many of my Australian colleagues and friends when they look at our book still remark that our people did not endure nearly as much as the newer refugee cohorts to come to Australia. I find it hard to tolerate the notion of point scoring when comparing vastly differing journeys: I find it even harder to tolerate these people diminishing the courage and incredible fortitude of our parents.
It is definitely time to set the facts right: Our parents deserve that recognition.
I was too small to remember in detail the journey through wartime Estonia to Geislingen. I was old enough to remember at the age of just three my disbelief at mother’s words when we arrived in Geislingen. I could not believe in her promise of “there will be no more terror’. There are many déjà vus to validate that notion when I read adults’ accounts of that time. Many of you, who left Estonia as children, will have far more coherent accounts than the ‘jomms’.
My hope is to compile a book of what you as children remember of that journey.
Also during the Geislingen project I became aware of the notion that the first five years in the new lands seemed to cast the die for what lay ahead.
That is the subject for another book. One to which perhaps those who were toddlers in Geislingen and other camps might like to contribute, too: I am sure that many of you will remember the travails of our parents in those years.
Neither book has an age constraint: only that during some part of either journey you were a child or adolescent. The story length will of course vary: clearly, the older you were the more acute your memories and the more of them. And of course very short stories are also important: they tell of the more truncated snippets of memories of the younger of us.
If you would be interested in contributing to either or both books could you please contact me for more details at
Thank you for your help with those projects.
Hats off to our parents