18 June 2015, Thursday – Yellowed photos

It´s been quiet after the turmoil and stress of the last few weeks, which we´re not used to. We´re alone and don´t know what to do with ourselves as there is very little left to organise. I make an attempt to change the situation and take out my new smartphone to try to unlock its secrets. I touch the screen, try out the apps, look for new ones or read the user manual. Despite my hopes I can´t find distraction. I´m feeling down and my concentration is shot.
The only thing that works for us is to go outside in the fresh air and walk silently side by side, but it takes all our strength to make the effort.
In the afternoon I sit listlessly on the balcony. I want to keep myself busy somehow, so I fetch the photographs from my parents´ estate. Some of them are yellowed and the oldest ones date back to the 1920s.
A much-too-thin boy wearing round glasses grins cheekily at me. I recognise my father. The picture with the jagged white edges shows a girl wearing a blue, loose-fitting dress and light-coloured knee socks. A braided flower wreath adorns her hair. It´s my mother.
I am so glad they did not have to experience the death of their beloved grandchild. It would have been too much for them.
Apart from my elderly aunt, the entire generation has died out. It´s a bygone era. The grass of oblivion grows over it. In time, no one alive will remember them. This is how it will be for Jens, for all of us.
Most of the men I see in the photos had to suffer terribly. My grandfather, for example. Two wars left scars on his soul. He survived but never spoke of his awful experiences. He developed heart disease and died too young.
In the second world war my father was imprisoned in Siberia and was fortunate enough to survive. He spoke and wrote about it. I read his war diary which he wrote from memory shortly after his return home. The Russians took his original. He described the inhuman deprivation as well as the brutality and futility of war. He survived violence. Or son, unfortunately, did not.
Violence has been part of life since the beginning of time; it´s tightly interwoven with it and is now rearing its ugly head. Why? Why do people kill people?
At least my grandmother got to witness how first her husband and then a few years later her son stood at the door unexpectedly. Her loved ones returned. Her joy must have been immeasureable!
Spontaneously I imagine: The bell rings, I open the door, and Jens … This will never happen. His DNA was identified and thus any chance of his survival has been destroyed. What is better? Certainty or hope?
Jens was murdered!!!
My husband interrupts me from my gloomy thoughts. He´s agitated and waves some papers in front of my nose. “It says your maiden name everywhere. The documents are wrong!“
An uproar ensues. What consequences will this have? Can the funeral still take place? Our nerves are shot anyway, and now this.
We decide not to point this out to anyone. If there are problems with the certificates we can prove that we´re married. That would be enough.
As a result of the events of the last few days we overlooked the email informing us that under French law some documents were not issued with the family names on record under German law. The Consulate General in Marseille would have contacted the national authorities concerned in order to provide administrative assistance in case of difficulties.
Always these complications!

© Brigitte Voß / Translation: Ellen Rosenbaum


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