June 1945

"[...]we are glad when the forest ends, and we reach Bad Liebenwerda. I sit on the pavement outside the Mayor’s office. I can barely go on. The fever has gone down, but the bleeding seems to be getting worse. We’ve also run out of food. Frau Neumann manages to get us accommodation in an old office building. There are already a lot of refugees here. Apart from Riesa, we’ve managed to stay away from these kinds of places."

We leave the accomodation quite early.
I sit in the quiet square while Steph gets us breakfast. I take in the Old town hall, where she would have sat and waited. The heart above the door. The old date. The heavy wooden door – surely the same one.

I look around the square. One of these buildings could have been the office that she was housed in – hard to say with any certainty.
17th July - Bad Liebenwerda to Falkenberg
We eat in the shade. The first of several quick curious and slightly bemused encounters of the day comes from a lady leaving church. ("Aren't you cold in those shorts?")

People around here seem unaccustomed to walkers, to people not from here, and perhaps women travelling alone. It feels as though we look very strange to them.
We loop through the old castle, and then along the river.
Later we come to forest, and the walk through this larger pine forest is pleasant and cool. Sand underfoot, and we wonder if it was possible to move a heavy pram along here, or whether they would have stayed on the paved road where we turned off.
Falkenberg is more deserted than anywhere else – at least it feels it, even though it is probably as large as Bad Liebenwerda. Many, many derelict buildings. No one in our hotel - not even staff to let us in, we have to use the key box. Overgrown gardens and no one on the streets. It feels unsettling somehow - it also has a darker feeling than previous towns we have been to.
We find an odd old war memorial from 1918 – I don’t think you would see these in Western Germany. Telling Germany to rise from its’ ashes.
"[…]We walk badly. Our hunger is great. In a village Frau Neumann gets as far as the Russian commander. Eventually we’re given some cold milk and cold potatoes. We eat in the ditch. It works out at three potatoes each. […]

In the afternoon, Frau Neumann’s children go round the houses to beg. The come back with hardly anything. Secretly, Frau Neumann always gives me the biggest portion. If only the milk will hold out. Otherwise the baby is lost. "
"[…]In the evening we arrive in Falkenberg, exhausted and beat. No one takes pity. No one will take us in. But then a poorly clothed woman on a hay cart stops. She has compassion, when she sees the two smallest crying so miserably, and in the end takes all ten of us with her. She only has two small rooms.

We sleep, tightly packed, on the floor and in one bed. We make hot coffee. Frau Neumann still remembers where she hid her jewellery at the border. I bake something close to a cake. We eat it all, even though it was meant as our food for the next day. "
"Frau Bergner decides to read the cards for the women in the neighbourhood. She has never done it, but it works, and people become obsessed, which gets us some food. We stay the next day. "
Town Hall
The old office building??
Along along along with the rising heat of the day. The fields around quite lush still, the land here is heavily irrigated. Every place we pass through is empty. Though on route we pass several cyclists today.
I want to learn a lot more about what’s happened to these towns - about why they are so empty.
"It’s hard to stand the misery. We’re in the same position, but we still look comparatively clean, and aren’t as starved as these people. Above all, it also makes you feel so much more hopeless.

In a dirty tavern we’re given cabbage soup. It’s tasty, because we are hungry."