June 1945 in Riesa

"In the afternoon we arrive in Riesa an der Elbe. When we alight from the steamer, one of the rubber wheels on my pram breaks in two. I have to carry on without it. We meet huge numbers of refugees, and soon find out why. The Russian won’t let anyone through the valley. Desperately, people wait around. Others were taken to labour camps. But people famously talk a lot. We decide to carry on anyway. "

In the morning, we do lots of walking around Riesa, and get a little tangled in the town.

We wanted to get to the river, but had to loop back past and through an abandonded factory, which we think was used in some way to process wheat.

"There’s a refugee camp in Riesa, and despite being full, they let us in because of the children. Frau Neumann and I spend all night talking to all kinds of people. They have all lost any hope of getting through. Many have already returned. "

15th July - Riesa to Lichtensee
"Then Frau Neumann and I have a conversation with a [woman who ] tells us that she walked nearly the whole way here from Berlin. Writes down the place names, and possible train connections. And that’s how it happens. Frau Neumann and I decide to carry on to our goal, with some detours. We don’t want to get stuck in Riesa, don’t want to starve, want to get through. "

"The camp itself is so filthy and unpleasant, that we leave very early. Despite being occupied, we easily cross the bridge over the Elbe. The Russians must think that we’re off for a walk with our children, or going to pick mushrooms. Only we know our true intention, and so we manage to cross. "

"We continue through a strong storm, on foot, village to village. We don’t get far with the children and the heavy prams on the badly paved road.

In the evening we arrive in Lichtensee. Once Frau Neumann makes herself clear, the Mayor takes us to stay in some private quarters. I land on my feet. I’m with a seamstress and her married daughter. There are no Russians in this house. I am allowed to bathe the children again. Gerlinde and I get strawberries with milk and a sandwich, and are allowed to sleep in the women’s bed.

We take old streets, down and along the river.

In walking through town we also encounter a lot of remnants of Eastern Germany – building blocks, and monuments. Feels like another layer of history has slipped between Inge and my experience of these places – a history that hadn’t yet happened for her, and that is now also long gone
Looking back up from the ferry dock to the town,
I enjoying getting a sense of the water, the view from arriving by water. I wondering if the refugee camp she was in could have been set up here, or maybe in the nearby park.
...sitting next to the circus.
It is an interesting thing, to know things from distances. The factory – first close, then from far, then – as we leave the town over the river – from much further. It gives me a sense of getting to know a place in space and through different distances.

We have a long walk along a road, after we have crossed the long long Elb bridge, which is a constant stream of lorries and cars – hard to reconcile this with the bridge under Russian occupation that they crossed, but this must be it, as there is only one.
This is a day of experiencing a lot of kindness and friendliness from local people. We get into a town, stop at a bakery. Very friendly people all over – in the bakery, in the pharmacy.
We carry on to the village of Lichtensee, where she also stopped. Enjoy breathing in the old houses and the new.

Again we are stopped by friendliness – a lady wants to know where we are going and how she can help us get there – runs inside to collect her train timetable for us.
A man stops and has heard us speaking English – says ‘A very happy day for you!’ and smiles.
We spend a little time before the bus to the next town arrives, then we speed through, and wait for the train. Soon, we arrive in a small sleepy town where we are staying. It was very hard to find accommodation around here. We are beginning to see why – every town feels half deserted. We arrive too tired to walk the final hour, but we can’t get a taxi here, all are gone or closed down. We ask at a pizza delivery place if they would take us, for money – and they do, but for free and with a smile.