The adventure is over, and it was fantastic. I can honestly say that throughout the trip, I was relaxed, having fun, and in awe of the beauty around me.
Berlin was nice, quite an impressive city. It was cold, there was snow, but I was prepared. I had thermals and snow boots, so up and at them I was. We walked, we did tours, and despite my knee giving up after a full day, we spent the next doing the tours on the bus, hopping on, then hopping off in order to see the fantastic sites.
I developed a bit of a new love.. I am besotted now with photography. Travelling with a photographer helps, and throughout, I watched enviously as he waved his super camera around, whilst I composed shots on my phone. I am very happy with the results though, but it made me wonder what I could achieve with a proper camera! As it happens, he had updated to a different make, and was selling his, so I bought it. I treated myself, and decided that a new hobby, something to exercise my brain could never be a bad thing. It may even be a good distraction. It’s got zooms and lenses, filters and gadgets, controls and flashes and flash filters, the works. My expertise is currently in composing a photograph, and using it on the automatic setting. I have a lot to learn, but will share my progress. It can also be seen on Instagram, to which I have so far uploaded a total of about 7 pictures. I know what I’m trying to achieve, and it may take me 40 minutes and 180 shots, but eventually, I will get the one I want. It feels good to want something.
The second part of the Journey was to Krakow in Poland. Poland is a big part of my past, My Grandfather was born there; my Grandmother was from the Ukraine. My Grandmother was taken prisoner during the war, and taken to one of their many concentration camps. She is no longer with us, and when she was, she didn’t like to talk about it. If someone were to mention that ‘Sophie’s Choice’ was on, she would declare her disinterest, stating that she had lived it, so didn’t need to watch it. I never understood her reluctance until this trip.
We spent a day visiting the concentration camps of Auschwitz, and Auschwitz, Birkenau. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend it. It’s certainly not Disney Land, it isn’t happy, there are no birds singing, but it reminds you of the cruelty that humans are capable of. It is said that should we ever forget the atrocities, we are doomed to repeat the horror. After seeing it, it is impossible to forget. Take your children to ensure they understand the enormity of the cruelty that they may be eternally grateful for the lives that they lead. I feel grateful.
For sure, things have been tough, and I am working on recovery, but when I see the lives lead by my grandparents, and seeing the difficulties, the horrors of their past, and the pain that they surely endured, I feel a little ashamed that I haven’t been able to cope better. I have to remind myself that I have also endured hardships and pain and maintained my mental health throughout. I have suffered loss, grief and pain; I have still managed to function. Other times, I have been through nothing but good times, been effectively in the midst of a perfect life, and yet my mental health has deteriorated rapidly and severely. What I have learned, is that no-matter what other people say, no matter how little their understanding of mental health, I am not totally crazy, it will pass, and no, it isn’t ‘you’ that has had the power to hurt me so much, that was all me, and you just happened to be there.
You were brave Nan, braver than anyone I know. I shed many tears for you during my visit to Poland, but it felt cathartic, and I felt closer to understanding you whilst there than I ever have before. I will share what I can of your story another day.
Cheers Nan xxx
Information on Auschwitz and Birkenau – The Memorial at Awchwitz