May 1945 in Leitmeritz

"At 4 in the morning, Russian tanks stop outside the house. He hides us women in the factory grounds, and stays in the house with just the cook. All day the Russians come and go. At first they just want water for their vehicles. In the evening a large lorry drives into the yard. Russian occupation! They stay in the main house. The two oldest women have to go and cook. The night is wild. No piece of furniture is spared. Doors are battered. Fräulein Grigar and I flee up to the attic."

10th July
We spend the first part of the morning in the local information office, trying to see if we can get help to find out where and what the factory was where she was. No luck. We have a family name, but nothing else, so very little to go on.

[she describes a terrifying night, which I won't share here for now]

"As the grey dawn approaches […] [W]e climb out of the window with the children, and run up to cook up in the main house. Old Frau Grigar brings me Gerlinde, whose bed is surrounded by seven sleeping Russians. The child and the old women are unharmed, as is Fräulein Grigar. [...] In a few hours everything will start again. […] "
"I finally have an idea. I let Fräulein Grigar bring her mother [...] we three woman venture out past the Russians and onto the road. […]

The heat is terrible as we wander alongside hoards of people [...] though they mainly leave us in peace, until we reach Leitmeritz. It’s almost worse here. […] Of course they won’t admit me at the hospital. I still feel strong enough, and so we walk back out of the town. […] On the country roads, we keep passing Russian convoys."
"In the evening, we stay with a farmer who is not under Russian occupation. In the good times, Grigars used to buy their fruit from him. […] We stay for several days. […] Fräulein Grigar has once again gone in to Leitmeritz. She returns, exhausted, late in the evening [...] She brings with her […] the message that all Germans must leave the country immediately (to begin with just German refugees). […]"
"We wander back into Leitmeritz. […] Things are now calmer in the town. We turn to the Czech police. I am given the advice to take the train to Teplitz, and then to try and get to Eger, so I can give birth in American-occupied territory, and so I can get to Hamburg later on. He is a very kind officer. […]"
"There are no trains for Hamburg. Night falls, and again a helplessness and restlessness descends. Then I remember Inge Bockl. […] Fräulein Grigar takes me to Inge’s landlady. […] I am taken in immediately. Fräulein Grigar and I say goodbye with tears in our eyes. […]We both own nothing now, absolutely nothing I am left only with my wedding ring, and I will not give that up under any circumstances. […]""

We saw many factories, old and new, on the train in yesterday. With a vague idea of wanting to explore near where the factories are, just to get a feeling for them, we set off. The route takes us below the town, which sits on a hill, and along the edge of the river. It runs along the train tracks.

We find an information board on the way that tells us about some of the factories that used to be in this part of town. We realise that factories here were well placed with the close by river and rail.
As yesterday, everywhere we go feels still, and quiet. We are amazed at the continued beauty of the houses. This was a rich, opulent town, which is now crumbling in many parts. But the occupants care amazingly for their gardens – everything is bursting with life.
We try to imagine what kind of factory she was in, based on her descriptions. It was perhaps built quite low, on a lot of land? There was a large road passing by. She didn’t describe a river, or train tracks, but she did talk about mountains, which are all around us here.
A little later, we find a crumbling, abandoned set of buildings. They are low, on a lot of land, and look old. Could this be it? It will need a lot of research, but for both of us this feels exactly like the place she described.

This feels quite triumphant, and we spend some moments taking the crumbling place in, getting odd looks from the locals.
On the walk back we take the upper road, and breathe in the mountain scenery around us, and the higher view over the Elbe.

The day takes us on to a second part of searching, of which I won't write today.