Tag Archives: German folk songs

O is for On Vacation Soviet Style

Gral Muritz resort today

Gral Mueritz resort today

Summer is on its way, and a couple hours ago I confirmed with my husband which weeks this summer from which I could choose to take our family to Spain for the first time. We work within limits, mainly schedules, and go where we please, for the most part.

You will see vacations behind the Iron Curtain were a bit different. We continue to follow the A to Z adventures of Irene Kucholick with excerpts from her Iron Curtain Memoirs. (All rights reserved.)

My first vacation provided by the State was not to a place where I really wanted to go, but I had to go where I was told. I was sent to Gral Mueritz, a beach resort on the northern shore of East Germany.

….My new vacation clothes, which were hard to come by, consisted of a bathrobe suitable for beach wear and a two piece beige dress trimmed with brown that felt suspiciously like paper.

….Our trip should not have taken more than six hours but instead it took us one entire day and one entire night. We knew that many times the whole train was delayed on dead railroad tracks to let more important trains pass. At the end of our journey, with our luggage in hand, we stood in line for lodging in hotels or boarding houses, now all owned by the State. In a vacation house I was assigned to a room with four beds in it. After I plunked down on one of the beds two more girls that I did not know arrived.

….I wanted to see the Baltic Sea as soon as possible, so I left the house and ran down to the dunes….The air was invigorating and rushed through my hair as I ran…into the cold water that flushed around my ankles.

“This is life! This is freedom!”

….Our food was the same as what I ate at home, except eel was served more frequently. Ever since I knew that eel feed on dead humans, I did not care much for it. But in a time when food was rationed, I ate it…

….The important thing for me was the sea. Once I walked along the beach the whole day, forgetting both lunch and dinner. I walked where there were no people–just myself and the sea. It seemed so free and it breathed in rhythmic swells and continually roared a song of freedom. I sang back to it as I walked along its shore.

Irene's World War 2 Childhood, (teen)Years Hidden As a Boy, and Escape to Freedom (East to West Berlin)

Irene’s World War 2 Childhood, (teen)Years Hidden As a Boy, and Escape to Freedom (East to West Berlin)

[First verse of song, finished in German and English in book]….My thoughts they are free, no one can ever guess them. They flee away, like shadows in the night. No human can know, no hunter can shoot, I declare to the sea, my thoughts are free!

….Out of nowhere stepped an armed guard. suddenly I was back in the real world of an armed police state.

“Where are you going, Fraulein? Turn around! Turn around! What are you doing out here? Waiting for a boat that will take you to Denmark, eh?”

“Don’t get excited, I am going.” Everything is guarded, I thought….It was so depressing…I lengthened my stride to put distance between myself and the guard.

[Next an old German folk song, Nun Adieu Du Mein Lieb’ Heimatland]

….One day we returned from an outing only to find that the…dining room was closed…the few things [in town] were on ration cards. So that day was without provision….

Suddenly a voice over the loudspeaker filled the air. “All persons not employed by Wismut A.G. must leave the resort.” We learned some vacationers had secretly rented some boats in the hope of getting to Denmark. Silently I prayed that those people with children in their boat would reach the safe shores of Denmark and freedom.

….I washed my new dress. It turned out to be paper–more disappointment. I had paid half a month’s salary for this paper dress.

[Excerpts from Book 3 of Iron Curtain Memoirs, in Survive Little Buddy]

The mention of eel, called “paling” here in Holland, doesn’t make my stomach turn as much as it used to. When Irene references their carrion eating ways, though, I can’t help picturing the dead soldiers in the tide in those first 20 minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan. I think I’ll steer clear of eel on our vacation to Spain.

Next up, P is for Publishing Unexpectedly.


Kristin King is an author, NGO co-founder, and currently living as an expat in The Netherlands, where smoked eel is very popular. Bought whole from the fish monger across the street from her grocery, you twist the head and pull down to skin the eel from end to end. A couple of her sons really like it. Luckily, they don’t read her blog.

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Posted by on April 18, 2016 in Memoirs & History


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M is for Music to Survive #AtoZChallenge Historical Treasure @AprilA2Z

Same brand Irene now owns, Hohner accordion from the Latin Collection

Same brand Irene now owns, Hohner accordion from the Latin Collection

(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.”

Working on 2nd edition cover of My Years Hidden As a Boy

Working on 2nd edition cover of My Years Hidden As a Boy

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.

Some young kids around the stations kept watch for us.[Excerpt from My Years Hidden As a Boy, Book 2 of Survive Little Buddy. All rights reserved.]

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.



Posted by on April 15, 2016 in Memoirs & History


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