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It will be a good, a blessed #newyear

In a great book you will discover more on a re-read. Today I began reading a book given to my great-great grandmother by my great-aunt passed down to my grandmother and given to my mother the month before I was born. Before Christmas 2017 my mom gave the book to me.

Streams in the Desert offers a drink to your thirsty soul for each day of the year. It has done so for generations of women in my family as noted by the inscriptions on the opening pages. My copy is a direct link to my heritage of faith; the year 1958 noted on January 1, the underlined passages, the side-note of a day selected to be read aloud at a ladies’ group.

Will I read and re-read? Probably. Already on day one, Streams presents me with a Bible verse I’ve never noted before.

1 But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven, 12 a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the [h]beginning even to the end of the year. (Bible book Deuteronomy, Chapter 11 verses 11 & 12).

The author of Streams, Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, writes:

“Today, dear friends, we stand upon the verge of the unknown. There lies before us the new year and we are going forth to possess it. Who can tell what we shall find? What new experiences, what changes shall come, what new needs shall arise? But here is the cheering, comforting, gladdening message from our Heavenly Father, ‘The Lord thy God careth for it.’ ‘His eyes are upon it…from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.'”

Whatever path your year takes you on, wherever our feet walk, the God of Abraham is caring for the way of those who follow Him be it on the hills or valleys. As Cowman says, “Trust only. The Father comes near to take our hand and lead us on our way today. It shall be a good, a blessed new year!”

Amen.
-Kristin
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“Streams in the Desert” is still in print in the original language from 1925 and a modern language edition updated by James Reimann, known for updating Oswald Chamber’s classic devotion, “My Utmost For His Highest.”

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2018 in Inspiration, Poetry & Prose

 

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Return to Refugees in Holland #Expat

Photo from Wittenborg-Online.com with "Faces of Change" Professor Saskia Harkema

Photo from Wittenborg-Online.com with “Faces of Change” Professor Saskia Harkema

When I wrote about The Refugees in My Town, I hoped to give you some insight about how things are in The Netherlands. My friend I mentioned continues her volunteer work collecting items for these folks to use as they settle into new housing around our area of the country. She posted on Facebook, and I asked if I might share her up close and personal experience with you. It’s the news behind the news that you’ll never hear otherwise.  Thanks, Friend. –Kristin

(Anonymous Post)

Just wanted to share a quick refugee update since I haven’t done so in a while. Today I spent this glorious sunshine filled day with some wonderful people. I volunteered at the refugee clothing center in the am and was greeted by smiles, hugs, and kisses. Some of these folks I have now known for 6 months. I got to hear people share their stories and both good and bad news of their lives.

A young Syrian man, who a friend donated new soccer cleats last year, shared great news about finally being accepted by a Dutch competitive club. This is wonderful for him because 3 weeks ago he was sharing that his current local team was not being kind or helpful to him and he didn’t feel like “part” of the team and was thinking of quitting. At that time I encouraged him not to let this bad experience stop him for doing what he loved. Today he was beaming to finally have teammates who encouraged him and he is hoping to continue to play with them even when he gets status and has to move out of the camp.

Photo credit dutchnews.nl

Photo credit dutchnews.nl

I met and assisted another man find a stroller and clothes for his newborn son and the pride in his eyes and excitement for the future was so moving. Finally I spent the afternoon with a mother and her 14-year-old son who recently got status and gave them a ride to their new home to check it out before moving in next week and brought them donations of household items. Their home is 45 km from camp and it is very expensive by train and bus for them to go. Our language in common was basic HS French which was so fun to muddle through with her. We picked up her brother and wife, who have lived in NL for three years, and they shared with us they think they may be expecting a baby and can’t wait to find out if is true. The brother speaks great English and we had an enlightened discussion about tolerance, finding commonalities, diversity, and the funny, and sometimes aggravating, aspects of living in a country that is not your birth country.

How lucky am I? It humbles me to be able to assist in some small way. I thank our amazing expat group for the donations. You make so many people feel at home in their new country. These are some of the bravest, sincere, and hopeful people I have ever met. Makes me want to be a better person. Now I have to go make dinner for the family I am lucky enough to spend time with. There are so many of these refugees missing people at their dinner table each and every night…Much love…

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Posted by on September 13, 2016 in In The News, Living in Holland

 

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#Writing Retreat Success

IMG_9043How successful was the writing retreat? There are lots of ways to measure. For instance, over 8 days in Mallorca I…

-relaxed by the pool for 40 minutes

-spent 2 hours eating out

-took 3 hours to shop (including grocery trips)

What I didn’t do was walk in the sand, write blogs, take care of my children who were home with dad (Thank You, Darling!), visit social media, or cook (Thank You, Writing Buddy!).

You can see why I’m not sure how to answer people who ask me about my “vacation” since that’s not really what it was. The better measures include:

-friend and I both finished first rough drafts of novels

-26,870 words

– encouraged each other to keep after it

Now we’re ready for the re-writes to begin.

–Kristin

 
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Posted by on July 6, 2016 in On Writing

 

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French Tongue Twister, Scottish Poetry and Scat

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 9.03.33 PMPerhaps elementary school performances have changed drastically where I lived as a child, and you might hear French tongue twisters, Scottish poetry and Scat at the entertainments in an American public school. I’ve never seen the like except in the International School our sons attend here in Holland.

The event was the 3rd and 4th Grade Art Show & Concert. One piece of art by each child was displayed on black felt walls or tables organized by medium and classroom. You were welcome to enjoy a hot beverage and little sweet dainties as you pondered the various works of small hands such as aluminum reliefs, color dial experiments, “my life” tile works (so appropriate to The Netherlands, land of Delft tiles), and birds both in chalk as well as 3D versions which my children now think is what doctors do with their casting supplies when not setting a broken bone.

After the art show, you made your way to the theater for a multinational musical concert. Set to music were a traditional Indian poem, a Robert Louis Stevenson poem, a Japanese text by Rofu Miki, and the French tongue twister “Ton Thé.” The children sang from memory not only in the aforementioned languages but also Nigerian, Swahili, Spanish, Tamil, and an entire number in scat. They closed with their school theme song; another item missing from my childhood. (Do you have any interest in the song list? Comment.)

When did you first travel abroad? I was in my twenties. My children, however, go to a school where over 80 countries are represented. I am so grateful. If the school were the only benefit of our short years as expats in The Netherlands, it would all be worth it. As we enter the home stretch and continue to post about Living in Holland, you can expect more mentions about the International School experience.

Meanwhile we continue to work on a project in east Congo where the children have so few educational advantages. Do you have fond memories of summer camp or vacation Bible school? The friends you made, the activities, and memories of a lifetime? You can give a Congolese child that sort of experience this summer. For a limited time your gift is doubled! Visit our crowdfunding project today.

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Kristin King is an insecure writer who wishes she could harness the robust energy of her childhood, of singing loud without a care in the world, of dancing with abandon, and apply that to her next novel.

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2016 in Living in Holland

 

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Muhammad Ali Philanthropy and Me #MuhammadAli #GOAT #ALI

Ali quote Make the days countThe moment I saw the news, I knew I would have to write about Ali, about our connections however tenuous. At first it was impossible to put my thoughts together. All week long news feeds, photos, quotes, and videos about him drew me away from whatever else I was working on. My last post about the connections I keep seeing between world events and my life was in my mind (Inside the UCLA Shooting).

When as a child I heard Muhammad Ali say he was “The Greatest” I believed him. Why wouldn’t I? My Mom and Dad, two of the greatest people I knew, were both born and raised in Louisville. My grandmothers both lived there where I spent numerous holidays and weeks of summer vacations. My brother watched Ali’s fights, rooting for the most famous of Louisville’s favored sons. Great people came from Louisville. Why not the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time)?

Born January 17, 1942, Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was 13 months older than my father. I grew up thinking they attended the same school, or that perhaps my grandmother, a local teacher, taught young Cassius who didn’t change his name till 1964. As it turns out, I was wrong on both counts. My youthful imagination already made stories. Until hearing about Ali, it had never occurred to me that you could change your name to anything you wanted. To me that was pretty darn cool. Despite my youthful error, there are a couple of connections.

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 10.49.18 AMAngry about a stolen bike, Cassius ran into a local gym where cops worked out. Telling Sergeant Joe Martin how he wanted to whip the thief, Martin told the 86 pound 12-year-old that he should learn how to fight first, and Martin became his first trainer taking him up to his Golden Gloves days when my father first hear of him. Since my grandfather was the superintendent of the traffic division, he was Officer Martin’s supervisor at some point earlier in his law enforcement career.

Hearing this story I had to wonder, was this the kind of encounter a black youth in 1954 expected to have in a gym full of cops? Kentucky is a mid-southern state, and Louisville was its largest city. Experience in Europe has shown me that some Europeans think the movie “Selma” represents what all of America was like in 1965. Obviously that’s not so, even if Americans of subsequent generations think pretty much the same thing. Consider Louisville in 1957 as my father described it:

Certainly, I remember the news coverage, and the brutality of the Alabama police, but south Alabama is so far removed from Kentucky, and I don’t mean just in road distance: I mean culturally as well….In Louisville…the schools were desegregated in 1957 without incident (to my knowledge).  I was in the seventh grade at Shawnee Junior High, and the integration of black kids into our classes, lunchrooms, and gym were a non event.

15-year-old Cassius must have had a slightly different experience of racism from those raised in the deep south. Certainly whites-only restaurants persisted, like the one Ali was turned away from not long after returning home with his 1960 Olympic gold medal. (He said the medal was lost and not thrown into the Ohio River in anger, debunking an oft-repeated urban legend).

Outside the ring, Ali’s refusal to submit to the Vietnam draft was one of the biggest news stories of his young career. My father remembers, “He and I both had to appear for our draft physical on the same day. The only difference was that I was standing in line with fifty or sixty other guys in our underwear waiting to see the doctor, when he came down the hall with his attorney, and went right in. He was already famous by then.” Gee, I hope they didn’t interrupts anybody…coughing.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 11.13.04 PMThe coverage of Ali’s boxing career and rise to fame was everywhere on the web this last week. What strikes me, though, is what he did with that fame and admiration. Certainly he used it in the civil rights movement. Some speculate that it was his first trip to Africa that opened his eyes to his larger world-wide influence. His “Rumble in the Jungle” against George Foreman in Kinshasa (where we adopted our younger sons) is humorously titled in my opinion when I think of how large the city was even at that time. He road through the streets sitting behind the sunroof of a slow-moving vehicle, hands stretching out to meet the thousands reaching for him. That I cannot relate to.

However, I know what it’s like for Africa to open your heart, take a piece, and never return it. Co-founding Future Hope Africa in the DR Congo and sponsoring two Ethiopian children’s education and welfare through Compassion International are two of the ways I answered the call to make a difference.

Ali answered a call as well, and I wish there was more information on Muhammad Ali’s philanthropy work being tagged and shared. That is perhaps where his greatest legacy remains. In his retirement, Ali devoted much of his time to philanthropy. Over the years he supported the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, among other organizations. He traveled to numerous countries, including Mexico and Morocco, to help those in need.Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 11.14.56 PM

Mr. Ali first came to the UN in 1978 to address the UN Special Committee against Apartheid with a message of peace and spirituality. He brings people from all races together by preaching “healing” to everyone irrespective of race, religion or age. Over the years Mr. Ali has been a relentless advocate for people in need and a significant humanitarian actor in the developing world, supporting relief and development initiatives and hand-delivering food and medical supplies to hospitals, street children and orphanages in Africa and Asia. (From Ali’s “United Nations Messenger of Peace” page)

Muhammad Ali became an ambassador for peace beginning in 1985, when he flew to Lebanon to secure the release of four hostages. Ali also has made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea; delivered over $1 million in medical aid to Cuba; traveled to Iraq to secure the release of 15 United States hostages during the first Gulf War; and journeyed to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison.(Look To the Stars)

Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox

Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox

When Ali announced in 1984 that he had Parkinson’s disease, he entered another fight. You may remember that Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed in 1991, did a series of commercials with Ali that juxtaposed the big man and the small both working toward a cure. That’s the video I’d like to share with you. Living in Arizona, Ali also raised funds for Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix. Fox called Ali “a peaceful warrior.”

In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. He also opened the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, that same year. “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given,” he said. “Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.”

About a week and half ago I was browsing the sports section of our international school library in The Netherlands picking out books for my children to read this summer. A few days later we woke to the news that Muhammad Ali had died. “I just brought a biography home for the kids to read about him,” I said. My husband responded to my angst with, “You didn’t kill him by checking out that book.” What a coincidence though.

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 11.22.50 PMMany of my cousins still live in Louisville, and they took their children to stand along the funeral route Friday and then posted photos of the historical procession to Facebook. Muhammad Ali is buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill National Cemetery, a last crossroads for us.

In college I remember navigating the 296-acre cemetery, taking lefts at most forks in the narrow road till I reached a right-hand turn near the brick, back wall. From that winding bit of pavement, I spotted my grandmother’s stone, stopped the car, and laid flowers before wandering to look for nearby relatives.

Perhaps the next time I visit I’ll wander a bit farther, see the grotto, take my children to feed the ducks at the pond, and pay my respects at the grave of Muhammad Ali. I will tell them how he was much more than a boxer, how he fought for the rights of himself and others, how he used his fame to help poor and oppressed people around the world, and how The Greatest defined being great.

During his boxing days Ali said, “I float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” It’s one of his most famous quotes. I like this other one better myself.  Hana Ali repeated these oft spoken words of her father.

“Nothing makes us greater than the next person but the heart. If you want to be greater than someone than you have to have a great heart.” –Muhammad Ali

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Kristin King is a native of Kentucky, an author, and co-founder of Future Hope Africa. She is working on her third novel and closely monitoring the crowdfundraiser her nonprofit is running for Vacation Bible School in the Congo where for a limited time your gift will be doubled! She encourages others to “answer your call” whatever it may be.

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2016 in In The News, Moments

 

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An Arab, a Dutchman, a Chinaman and My Error

You can help 3x as many children go to VBS in Congo this summer just by a SHARE!

You can help 3x as many children go to VBS in Congo this summer just by a SHARE!

No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke. It is a key insight into the life we’re living as expats in the multinational area surrounding The Hague.

At dinner this week, the Arab gentleman to my left discovered his Chinese colleague across the table has only one child, a son, as does the Dutch couple across from me. The Arab has five daughters. All were variously surprised by the fact that my husband and I have four sons.

“All boys!”

“Such a large family for America!”

“Isn’t one or two more the case?”

I commented that larger families were not uncommon in the military.

“Why is that?”

Although I’m not really sure, I speculated for them that the job security, housing, and health care probably played into it. Later, though, I realized my error.

Certainly these benefits have a role in the decision to have more children, but I think a deeper more fundamental aspect of the human condition is at play. My eldest Ethiopian son has at least 8 brothers and sisters somewhere, and families with 8-12 siblings were not uncommon in his country of birth. If you’ve ever toured the great home of a common family from a by gone century (especially in the US), you were probably amazed when told the number of children the woman of the house gave birth to; somewhere I remember being shocked by a number as high as 21.

How many of those babies lived to become adults?

Of the adults, how many died before the age of 40?

Our proximity to death, the frequency with which we experience it both first hand and through our neighbors, the fact of mortality which cannot be ignored day-to-day drives family growth, I think. Perhaps I am in error again. Perhaps too many variables are at play in these life decisions to consider in a simple blog post.

The other day my husband was wondering about friends nearing retirement who choose career and lifestyle over having children. “Do you think they regret it now?” he mused. We’ve known several couples with no children of their own who nonetheless take on vital roles in the lives of children through service organizations, churches, and nieces and nephews as well. Engaging the next generation in these ways can be very fulfilling and part of our nonprofit work in Africa.

Still, an old proverb says “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Quivers of the time reportedly held five arrows as a rule, yet we only have four. Hmm. Yes, only God knows what all influences our decisions.

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Kristin King is an author and nonprofit co-founder currently living in Holland. She is currently promoting her first crowdfunded project. Please stop by Congo VBS 2016 and join the crowd.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2016 in Living in Holland, Moments

 

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This is a post with no pictures… #lol

Do you have kids? Ever babysit? Have grandkids? Honestly, you simply must read this book to them. As funny as it is from the author, the children you know will enjoy it so much more coming from you!

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Beyond the Book

 

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At the King’s Ball

King Willem-Alexander & Queen Maxima of The Netherlands

King Willem-Alexander & Queen Maxima of The Netherlands

An invite to the King’s Ball means something even to an American like me who never lived under a king till moving to Europe. As an expat in The Netherlands, though, my invitation finally arrived.

Cinderella gets made over for each generation from Disney’s animated classic to Drew Barrymore’s Ever After, to Ella Enchanted. A girl in less than enviable circumstances receives an invite to the King’s Ball, dances with Prince Charming and arrives, after various adventures, at happily ever after. Don’t most girls dream of this?

I was not dismayed to discover that various organizations in Holland host a number balls in honor of King Willem-Allexander’s birthday. Some are massive street parties, but mine was a formal event in keeping with the childhood fantasy.

“Don’t expect too much,” one past attendee warned. Held in a utilitarian headquarters building rather than a castle (though castles are available here), this location made perfect sense in a frugal Dutch way. Why pay for extravagance? Have a space? Will wine, dine, dance and toast the King. My husband and I did just that. The balloon archway might recall prom, but I enjoyed sipping my beverage from a champagne flute, mixing with good company, and dancing till I disliked my shoes.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 4.30.31 PM

What the movies and books tend to skip right over was one of the best parts of the evening—the food. A DJ took requests till the buffet dinner was served, and oh, my, what food. I will gladly give up the linens at a 10-person round top at any formal for the marvelous herbed shrimp, green beans with Hollandaise, white fish in sauce, tender barbeque pork, scalloped potatoes, grilled chicken with sliced watermelon, crab salad, Italian pasta salad, beef and broccoli with goulash type spices. Wonderful flavors not hurt at all by the stand-to-eat tables.

After deserts (mostly various whipped or creamed items), champagne came ’round, because it was time to toast the King. The toast to which we raised our glasses was in Dutch which I do not speak. Even so, it was hard not to moved by the robust singing that followed. Was that the national anthem? The two grand piano players with their mics, electric keyboards, and drum-set accompaniment got everyone back out on the dance floor.

The invite to the King’s Ball did not change the course of my life. After dancing much of the night away, my Prince Charming escorted me home where we checked on our four sleeping sons. A mundane end? Maybe. Perhaps your happily ever after comes again and again like ours does…in those moments when we remember to take note of the upside, see the silver lining, count our blessings and are filled with joy as we kiss a loved one goodnight.

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Kristin King is an author currently living the expat life in Holland. Behind a partition beyond the toilets at the King’s Ball she found a Foosball table and had to take advantage of the opportunity to play while in formal attire.

 

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Living in Holland

 

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Z is for Zee End #AtoZchat

For a limited time - only 99 cents! Irene's World War 2 Childhood, (teen)Years Hidden As a Boy, and Escape to Freedom (East to West Berlin) Books 1, 2, and 3 in one volume.

For a limited time – only 99 cents!
Irene’s World War 2 Childhood, (teen)Years Hidden As a Boy, and Escape to Freedom (East to West Berlin) Books 1, 2, and 3 in one volume.

Zee end only of the A to Z Challenge for this year. The Historical Treasure of Irene’s memoirs will continue. Audio versions will be released. New covers will be completed. We’ll eventually make it onto promotion lists with wider readership.

Irene herself will continue to swim at the gym, make music with her choir and struggle to hold on to this life and live it to the fullest. Today that means she’s probably throwing the ball for her lab, Rusty, and visiting with friends at church. Tomorrow she might be on a seniors tour bus to a new destination, or sharing with folks at the German-American Club.

As I look over all the work to write 26 blogs in one month, I can’t help checking the results. 200 new followers, 60 comments, 3 times the number of average views, 8 books sold. Gains big and small.

What’s more important in this A to Z Challenge though is the message. The encouragement of one soul. The inspiration of a small kindness. The resolve to one act of bravery.

Irene’s memoirs continue to receive mostly 5 star reviews which is blessing and a problem, since we’ve been told books with almost all 5 stars are “suspicious” to buyers. A new review during the A to Z Challenge says:

Something new April 16, 2016
With all of the books (both fiction and nonfiction) about World War II, I thought that this memoir might say what already has been said. I was completely wrong — it is a new and fresh account of life in eastern Germany, during the war and after, that comes alive and moves at a fast pace. Irene describes her life in a matter of fact way — the reader takes in all of the facts and stories and comes away with new knowledge and new understanding, and the feeling of meeting face to face with a living heroine. To rise to your very best self in the midst of the worst of humanity is a story worth reading. I would recommend this book to both adults and teenagers.

Thanks to each one of you for reading, for liking, for sharing, for each review. Please continue to help us share by joining Irene’s Survive Little Buddy News list. Meanwhile, we pray all of you who joined her journey here or elsewhere find a nugget to hold to in rough days.

A to Z Historical Treasure – Nuggets

A is for Anne (Frank) and Irene in World War 2 http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Xb
B is for Bolsheviks http://wp.me/p8Fvh-X0
C is for Crazy Kids in World War 2 http://wp.me/p8Fvh-YF
D is for Dreams – What inspired ur career? http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Yz
E is for Eating, Cold War Style http://wp.me/p8Fvh-YS
F is for Fear of Rape, Post War Years http://wp.me/p8Fvh-YN
G is for Gestapo http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Z1
H is for Hidden As a Boy http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Z5
I is for Interview Videos – Morgue Normal, Nurse and War Bride – Beyond the Book http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zd
J is for Jews in Hiding http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zi
K is for Kindnesses http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zs
L is for Louis Armstrong http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zn
M is for Music to Survive http://wp.me/p8Fvh-Zx

N is for Nursing with Comrades http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZG
O is for ON Vacation Soviet Style http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZD
P is for Publishing Unexpectedly http://wp.me/p8Fvh-YU
Q is for Questions from Readers http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZK
R is for Russian Accordion http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZQ
S is for Spy http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZT
T is for Temptation http://wp.me/p8Fvh-ZY
U is for Uranium Mine Punishment http://wp.me/p8Fvh-104
V is for Video “I was a spy?” http://wp.me/p8Fvh-10d
W is for West Berlin Refugee Camp http://wp.me/p8Fvh-10a
X is for Border Crossing http://wp.me/p8Fvh-10g
Y is for YELL ABOUT IT http://wp.me/p8Fvh-10q
Z is for Zee End

What’s next? Back to Living in Holland with a special event we attended last week…The King’s Ball.

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Kristin King is Irene Kucholick’s publisher and friend. She hopes you find the strength to, as the reviewer said, “rise to your very best self.”

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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X is for Border Crossing

If you’ve been following A to Z, you know X is coming to you one day late. My apologies as I let a spring cold hold me back. Moving forward…

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

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

You also know that Irene crossed the East German border more than once in her years hidden as a boy. The first time, though, was one of the more harrowing at least until she was a young adult and fleeing spy accusations. This excerpt is much condensed, so, as always, I encourage you to get the rest of Irene’s memoirs.

Early in March of 1947 I set out to find my way across the border from East into West Germany [to look for my father]….Snow still covered the ground and an icy wind was blowing. From my hometown Chemnitz I was able to catch a train to…Glauchau….[next train to] Zwickau.

….I must have looked like…the homeless pitiful children who had come from [Poland]….They had pity on me and….gave me a cup of hot water that smelled like bouillon to which I added my two raw carrots Mama had given me for my trip….

“This little boy sure looks like he has come along way.”

“Poland?” suggested another?

I thanked them with a smile and stayed quiet.

….The next train took me to Plauen….Two men in western clothing were waiting on the platform, and I suspected by their speech that they were Czechoslavakians and that they must have been on the other side of the border before. A trail of ragged people, men and women, followed the two men.

….After all that zigzag riding we came back to Plauen and here we regrouped…..We finally reached the last train station, and beyond it was no man’s land, several miles of land between borders where nobody except for patrols were allowed to be. So we had to start walking. The leaders counted 22 people. Among us there were German soldiers who ran away from the Russians and wanted to be a POW with the Americans rather than with the Bolsheviks….Some women were among us but no children.

“Quiet!” whispered one of the Czechoslovakians sharply. “No talking or else.”

…in Lobenstein we came to an iron gate….I was pushed in the ribs….I saw some people arguing. Some woman had talked to a stranger….

As we got in a single-file line our silhouettes were like black shadow in the snow. It was then that I heard a sound that reminded me of someone chopping wood. No one said so, but I knew that the woman who had not obeyed orders was not with us anymore.

….Silently and swiftly we moved along…I began to doubt my strength to keep up. We were told that anyone dropping out would give the others away. I knew they had knives under their jackets and might kill anyone that got in their way.

….The soldier with a small bundle over his shoulder looked back and saw me struggling. Without a word, he grabbed my hand and pulled me a few meters uphill.

Our leaders whispered, “Don’t talk. Sound travels. Don’t step on any wood. It will snap and give us away.”

Irene's World War 2 Childhood, (teen)Years Hidden As a Boy, and Escape to Freedom (East to West Berlin) Books 1, 2, and 3 in one volume.

Irene’s World War 2 Childhood, (teen)Years Hidden As a Boy, and Escape to Freedom (East to West Berlin) Books 1, 2, and 3 in one volume.

….My heart was pounding so loud that I felt everyone around me could hear….The snow was deeper here….The stream was a good eight feet wide and too far to jump to the other side.

“Take off your boots. Shoulder them and cross!” was the whispered command….The soldier and i were just behind the Czechoslovakians. They saw how frail and tired I was.

“Look,” one of them whispered in my ear. “Over this mountain in front of us, there is freedom. Let’s go and don’t stay behind.”

….I cried silently, knowing not to show weakness. I prayed silently. As I prayed, I felt my energy return. The icy water was not the worst of it. It was all the sharp stones on the bottom that made it hard to walk through. I knew if I didn’t make it, they would kill me here at the border. It happened every day and Mama and my brothers would wait in vain for my return. (Excerpt from Survive Little Buddy: Iron Curtain Memoirs by Irene Kucholick Copyright 1996. All rights reserved.)

They did not make it across without further mishap, and I laugh to read once more the invention of the Czech leaders. Even so, shots were fired. “Then I heard a bang,” Irene writes. “One of the bullets had hit something in my knapsack. Whatever it was, it saved my life.”

Once again I am struck by a small kindnesses, a a worn soldier lending a hand. A moment of encouragement, a little help, can shine brightly in a dark place. Most of us live so much better today, but we never know who around us might be in a dark place or dark moment of their lives. Our hand, our thoughtful word can be a light today as well (K is for Kindnesses).

Irene does not often reference her faith in her memoirs; this moment stood out to me. This is because in my own dark times, it was clinging to faith and prayer that brought me strength as well.

_________________________

Kristin King is an author as well as the publisher of Irene Kucholick’s historical memoirs. Kristin lives as an expat in The Netherlands where the past few days have included 3 to 5 hailings amidst spring rain and occasional sunshine. Today she sat in the floor writing whilst her dog stretched out on the couch.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Memoirs & History

 

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