(April is A to Z Historical Treasure featuring posts related to the memoir “Survive Little Buddy: Iron Curtain Memoirs” by Irene Kucholick.)
Do you remember your first instrument? My lil’ guys were so excited recently because they and all their classmates got recorders to learn to play. My nine-year old even tries to practice instead of doing other homework, so he’s on a time limit till that’s done.
Irene’s instrument was the accordion, and her lessons didn’t stop because she lost interest but rather because the music teacher’s space was bombed. She certainly had a World War 2 Childhood. She continued to practice and play not knowing that music would help her survive the post-war Iron Curtain when she spent three years hidden as a boy.
One cold winter morning Krista and I walked into Chemnitz. I carried my accordion but my fingers were too cold to play. Most of the activity was, as usual, at the railroad station, so we went there to see what was happening. People were sitting on bundles of luggage waiting for trains….A few soldiers were playing cards. The only sound seemed to be the shuffle and snap of cards as they played….A melancholy mood was everywhere.
“Let’s sing and I’ll play, Krista.”
We started. heads turned and people smiled. This was the encouragement we needed. We sand some of the old German folk songs: “A Penny and a Dollar,” and “When All Fountains Are Running” and others.
Coins were tossed toward us….a young man picked up the coins and put them in his hat, gathering more as they were tossed….
“Krista, we could us this money to ride the trains out to places where food is more plentiful.”
An idea was born and we decided to try it…with permission from our mothers who gave it only reluctantly….When night came we slept in waiting rooms of railroad stations, hunched against the wall, or on a bench if one was empty.
….Police occasionally disturbed us when they came to check our IDs and tickets. Some German police overlooked our playing and singing, since it was clearly evident people seemed happier when they heard us. More often though, they forbade us to play in no uncertain terms, whether we had a ticket to travel or not. Anyone without a ticket had to leave the station and might even be arrested.
We were told, “You better watch out for the Russian patrol. They won’t allow any singing and playing in railroad stations,” and they warned us that we could get arrested for that.
The accordion has always fascinated me. I love to watch how the player makes it breathe and sing its husky chords. Irene still plays, though I’ve only cajoled her into it a couple times, once using my children and their lack of ever having seen one played as the impetus. Unfortunately I don’t have video of her playing. We set her accordion next to her on the couch in some of her videos, though, so you can see what her current instrument, a Hohner accordion, looks like.
I want to say a quick “Thank You!” to everyone who has stopped by, left a comment, and watched our videos.
Next we’re jumping ahead into Book 3 of Irene’s memoirs where she is a young adult working behind the Iron Curtain. “N is for Nurse Comrades” in communist East Germany.
Kristin King is an author and publisher who inquired about taking accordion lessons in middle school from the church organist. Lessons never panned out, yet Kristin still appreciates listening to players and is more likely to stop for a street performer with said instrument. She is now wondering if Irene knows whatever happened to singing friend Krista.