Note- I told this story without any extra input from my mother… I’m sure that she will add to the story some day.
This isn’t really my story to tell, but, I’ve cobbled together a few bits and pieces from stories my mom told. I remember the old picture from photo albums… it was just always there. The newer photo hung on the refrigerator for a while; Mom’s memory of a trip home with her sister.
The House in Schreckendorf in the 1930s
My Great-grandfather built this house and store in Schreckendorf, Silesia back in the late 1800s. This big stone home fronted a road, and behind it ran a creek where the kids played. Mama was born there in 1941. My Opa Pangratz came from a family who ran a Pangratz Glasshutte, they were glass carvers. This is where they lived during the war. Opa made shoes, Oma ran the store, and her older sister went to school.
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In the 1940s the trees were gone.
In 1945, at the end of the Second World War, Operation Swallow was put into effect, all of the German Nationals were expelled from the countries in Eastern Europe. Over 12 million people were affected by this… families who had lived outside Germany for generations. People were loaded onto trains and transported either West to Germany or East to Siberia. Their land, businesses and homes were turned over to the State.
The Russians cleared all Germans out of Schreckendorf. Everyone in town could take one suitcase, and then friends and family were sent to the West. Lives were turned upside down. Although she was young, the home left a strong memory. The things they had to leave behind… toys (a dollhouse with real lights), dishes, linens; the everyday stuff that our lives are made of, and their home.
Schrekendorf, the oldest town in the Glazer Land, was turned over to Poland, and renamed Strachocin. The Glasschleiferei was destroyed. The borders of Poland were shifted to the west, then homes and property were all turned over to Polish settlers, who the Russians installed as a buffer.
My mother, her sister and parents were moved from place to place. They were lucky, because the family could stay together. For a while they lived with other families in a Barn. Eventually they were settled in Nord-Rhein Westfalen. Life returned to normal… or as normal as possible in post-war Germany. People cleaned up, rebuilt, started over, and moved on.
For many years, the home in Schreckendorf was just a memory. As German citizens, my parents were not allowed to cross the border into the Ostzone. There was no way to go home to that house by the creek.
Visiting their home in Schreckendorf in the 1990s. So much stayed the same.
And then the wall came down. Families who hadn’t seen each other in 40 years were able to re-unite. And families who had been displaced could go back and see where they came from.
Mom and her sister went home to Schreckendorf. They found the house, and they met the couple living there. With mixed emotions, they lied a bit about who they were, just saying that they had come from the area and remembered the place. The couple invited them in. Inside the home, time had stood still… the same furniture, the same wallpaper, even the same Kaffee dishes. They thanked the kind couple for the coffee, and left.
I’ve heard similar stories from other Fluchtlinge who went back. Farms and houses taken over, and everything just as it had been when they packed to go.
Today, Schreckendorf / Stachocin has undergone change. The world is modernizing, and taking this little part of the world along with it. Schreckendorf, once the oldest Dorf (town) in the Glazer land, is Polish, and the Germans who lived there have long moved away.
And I’m sure that by now, even the wallpaper has changed.
Read More About the Post WWII German Relocation Here–>
Click here to read my review of Orderly and Humane
More books on the subject-
Orderly and Humane: The Expulsion of the Germans after the Second World WarThreaten to Undo UsLast Waltz on the Danube: The Ethnic German Genocide in History and Memory 1944-1948German Boy: A Child in War