Austro-Hungarian Web Site
I HAD A DREAM ….
..... that one day a big American car would pull up in front of my house in a North Bavarian town where I lived– that a man would emerge from this car, sweep me up in his arms and take me away with him to America. Despite the fact that the kids in the neighborhood laughed at me when I stubbornly insisted “one day my father will come to fetch me”, I never gave up my dream and I fought for my belief.
One day, alone in the house, when I was about 8 years old, I searched through my mother’s dresser drawer and discovered a cigar box with letters and pictures from my father, and letters from my mother to him. All of a sudden the “dream” had a face. I learned that my father was an American, a soldier who had been stationed at the army post in my home town in 1946. My mother who had worked as a waitress in the NCO club at the army base had met him there. He was called back to America in September 1946 and shortly after his ship had sailed, my mother found out she was pregnant. My father had left his name and address with her and in the beginning it seemed easy to trace him down. But in the post war confusion my mother’s letters remained unanswered.
I grew up in a society of prejudice and stigmatism – I was the proof of my mother's fraternization with the enemy – I was one of “them” and not one of “us” and I was a bastard. As the years went by my desire to escape this society grew stronger and I was more determined than ever to find my father. I wrote to the American Consulate which referred me to the Department of the Army, which gave me the run-around , I even wrote a letter to President Kennedy. I often went to the America House in Nuremberg and searched the telephone books for my father´s name in cities along the Aamerican East Coast where I suspected him to be living. And I wrote many letters to the addresses I found in these phone books. Some were answered with a negative reply, but most of them remained without response.
In 1965, just when I turned 18, I had saved up enough money to fly to America. What an adventure for a girl of my age at that time. I went to the address my father had written down for my mother in 1946, but no one knew him there. All of a sudden I was tired of looking. I decided to bury my dream and accept the fact that nobody wanted me. All of a sudden I was very angry at my father who had not reacted to my mother´s letters – in other words denied me – angry at my mother who in her carelessness had loaded all these problems on my shoulder, I was mad at the Germans who had treated me like an enemy and I had come to hate the Americans because they did not want to help me .
It was a feeling of “who am I anyway” and I skidded into an identity crisis which would follow me around for the years to come.
The same year I married an American (who was a soldier then) and later ( in 1966-67 ) we went to live in Ft. Eustis, Virginia . There I found that America was not the land of milk and honey. I experienced the fears of the Vietnam war with my husband being a soldier. I couldn't get along with the Army mentality and I despised the prejudice against the Blacks and Minorities and couldn´t understand why people knew little or nothing about Europe. The day we had to go to the Red Cross to borrow 60 dollars to survive ( the army paid us 350 dollar a months on an E4 rank) I threw in the towel and upon discharge from the military, my husband and I went back to Germany.
It may sound strange that I did not try to find my father while I lived in the States, and until today I cannot really answer this question myself, except that maybe I had come to the conclusion that if I did find him, I may not be welcome. Surely he would have a family of his own, a wife, kids etc.
Within the next 37 years I traveled a winding road, I went through a divorce and lost my oldest son in a tragic accident. There were years when I never thought about my father, but there were times when I suffered because I felt incomplete. I never made very close friends because I was afraid to answer questions. There was always this fear of exposing myself and being embarrassed .
My professional career took me to America many times and each time I was on the East Coast I went through the phone books of this particular city, called up people with his name and came away disappointed.
Often I discussed with my second husband about my feelings, my fears, my dreams, my anger and my moods. My moods were actually a problem for all of us because despite the fact that I stood with both feet on the ground in business, I lacked a certain self-confidence. I couldn’t take criticism and worst of all if somebody insulted me personally, he had me as an enemy for life. The problem was actually that my husband had to choose his words very carefully because he often experienced me flying off the handle over nothing, or I would be depressed for days.
One day – in May 2002 – after a little temper tantrum, my husband said to me “Why don´t you try to find your father – it would be so important for you. Use the Internet – there are so many possibilities”. He had a point and I promised to give it a last try!
So every now and then I sat at the computer and entered names and places and looked for possible ideas, and one day when I had entered my father's former unit, the 53rd Constabulary, I found a link to a web site by an Austrian named Felix Game who talked about the “Illegitimate children of World War II American Soldiers”. With great fascination I read that there are thousands like me and I immediately felt better. Further on there was an e-mail address of a genealogist named Susan Sparks-LeDuc and on the spur of the moment I decided to send this person an e-mail describing in a few words what I wanted. I received a very nice answer back, which convinced me that this could be the person to help me. Susan went to work in the fall 2002 after she had received details, letters and photos. I went through a year of excitement and hope, each e-mail Susan sent was a great adventure for me. I was exited and a little afraid of the outcome. Susan had prepared me well – to consider all possibilities. My father, who would be 77 by now, he may be deceased, may be in ill shape, may not remember, may reject me…. and, and, and. I thought I was prepared for everything, until July 31st 2003 Susan sent me an e-mail confirming that she had found my father.
I sat frozen in front of the PC, I was afraid to move… maybe the e-mail would disappear (!)…. I had goose bumps all over and it was the first time that fear of rejection overtook me because I couldn't believe my luck. 56 years of waiting and hoping and seeing my dream come true? I will be forever grateful to Susan who took on the job of contacting my father first to find out the situation. After they had made contact I sent him a long letter, introducing myself, as his daughter, and shortly after he had received my letter he phoned me one Saturday afternoon. What can I say, we talked like we had known each other all our lives and on October 8th, 2003 I boarded a plane to America where I walked into the arms of this wonderful man who is my father. I HAD A DREAM… and it came true … with one exception: Dad picked me up in a Honda!
Meantime a year has gone by. I went to America again at Christmas time with my young son and we met more family, my two brothers, my uncles and aunts, and my son met his grandfather. My father came to visit us this spring here in Greece (where I now live). We went on a trip to Germany where I experienced this great re-union and very touching moments when my father and my mother saw each other again after 57 years.
I have decided to write my story for all of you, who are sharing my fate, who have suffered and hoped and maybe given up or doubted that you could succeed. Give yourselves a chance and even though not everyone will be as lucky as I [and find his/her father alive and well], there is family out there who will welcome you and help find your identity. Because this is what it is all about. You need to know who you are and find your other HALF.
<Note from the Webmaster: Respecting her father's desire for privacy, the author wishes to remain anonymous.>
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