1924 to 1932 – Russia

First, my parents.

Unfortunately I can remember little about my father. I lost him early. I was just ten. In photographs he was good looking man. And it would seem he was also professionally very successful. Airplane Motor Designer. The most successful of his brothers.

In 1934 he died in a crash of a test flight. That happened in Braunschweig where we lived at that time in our often changing lives.

Mother was the opposite. Quiet, industrious and frugal. The last two traits were what father liked most about her, even though he made good money the last years. Mother bought sandwich meat by the 1/8 pound!!

The reason for our frequent change of domicile: Father was part of a team that was in charge of resurrection a German aerospace industry after World War I. This happened for many years in other countries.

For the duration of their engagement father worked in Spain and Morocco.

After that back to Berlin. I was barely born when they left for the Memel. Mother told me that she carried me in a basket when they went to the beach.

Again back to Berlin. There we lived in Treptow, a few blocks away from my father’s parents. But that was only their town house. They had a property with a summer house on the Grabenstrasse in Gruenau-South at the back of Bohnsdorf.

That was the weekend meeting place for the whole Huhndorf clan. A paradise for us children. At the end of the property was ditch were we could wade around without any danger.

In the neighboring plot, at the Friemel family, they had a real bowling alley were our fathers enjoyed themselves to no end. Our mothers cooked, cleaned up and chatted. I’m sure they did plenty of the latter.

When I was five years old the team got transferred to Russia. We all lived in a little town on the Woronesch river (Lipetsk). To be exact the men went there first. And after a year the married men had their families come.

When mom and I arrived it was a bitter cold winter. I seem to remember something like -60C. We both got sick, and the doctor wanted us to go back. My father was against that. He probably did not want to see the travel expense for us go to waste.

And surprise, we survived. Even though my memory is faint, I would say this was the start of a few good years.

I quickly made friends. And since the German girls all lived too far away, and there were only a handful anyways, I played with Russian girls. That worked out nicely and I learned the language faster than my parents even though they had engaged a tutor for themselves.

The men only worked half day in the summer. It was too warm in the afternoon. Quickly swimsuits and food were packed and off we went to the boat ramp. From there we rowed to the opposite bank of the Woronesch to a beach were we were alone.

There we lived a worry free life till the evening. Every imaginable water and beach game was played. And not just by us children. The adults enjoyed themselves just as much. Photos show all manners of games including dress-up. There I quickly learned to swim. I learned it by myself since I fell off the boat ramp, and then began to paddle like a dog.

In the winter I was able to ski on our road. I had small boards and felt boots. I think they were called Walenkis.

Every once in a while we went to Germany on vacation.

My father was able to get employment for his brother Max. He came with his family to Russia so that my cousin Horst also spent a few of his childhood years there.

There were a lot of parties. Always in a home, taking turns, always the Germans kept to themselves.

But I know my parents had a good relationship with their maid. And when Tonia got married we all went to the wedding at the church. It was a colorful and moving event. We also experience Easter in the orthodox church. I have a dim memory of church decorations, lanterns and icons. All the icons were kissed. The traditional Easter service included beautiful song, and cakes were blessed. Small or large they all looked like cut off bowling pins. I remember thinking they looked like the hats of the pope.

My parents also had a good relationship with their land lords. After our return to Germany they sent food packages to them for years, until there was no more answer. A certain class of people got annihilated back then in Russia. They were starved out.

I cannot remember any Russian shops. We probably bought everything at the market. When there was no more food to be had we got provisions from Germany. But then the situation became too insecure in 1932. First the men with families moved back to Germany and later the bachelors. They stayed maybe 2 to 3 more years. If that.


NEXT: 1933 – 1934

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