As usual, on a warm summer day, we would love to go swim in the river. Dad taught me how to swim when I was about 7. We would go to the river, and he would teach me, holding out his arms to catch me when I went under.
Tirelessly he’d encourage me to try and try again. I loved dad so much. I was one of the youngest kid in our village that knew how to swim, and no wonder it became my favorite sport. If I see a lake or river on my travels.. I am in it. Lake Mead in Nevada, my absolute favorite.
The river Saale, is a slow moving water, and during the war, to became a filthy river. All the sewage from Halle ended up in the river.. this and more.
I would swim all the way across to the other side, because there were fields with edibles.. and no one there knew who I was, so I ate whatever there was to be found. Even cherry and plum trees. Needless to say “I swam for food!” But I enjoyed swimming tremendously. I always was told to never swim across the river all by myself, but I did anyway, how could I resist? Being seven years old, you just are not afraid of anything.. anyway, I wasn’t.
On one warm summer day I dove in again, all alone as usual. On the other side, coming to the area where the water was shallow I touched bottom and played around. Diving, swimming under water.. just playing in the water, I loved it so much and I still do.
Suddenly my foot caught on something, something that would not budge if I tried to push on it. What would that be? So I dove, to find out.
It was a human body in uniform, yes it was a drowned soldier. I was so terrified I lost my breath.. but somehow I managed to swim back to the Brachwitz side of the river. Getting out of the water and running home is a blur!
But this was not the only time I had such a terrifying experience. Next to “Mr Saalbach’s” homemade ferry, I was looking for pretty and smooth rocks, to skip them into the water.. Thea was there also and we both skipped rocks, One, two, three up to four skips was tops for either one of us. Slowly walking along, looking for pretty smooth rocks.. Thea screamed suddenly.
Quickly I was by her side.. and I saw it too.
In the very shallow water.. on the sand but covered by water.. there was a human body, yes.. another dead German soldier. We ran home to tell mom, and what happened after this, I do not recall.
We had become so used to terrible things that we got over them pretty quickly, and went on with our daily activities.
But the memories are there, vividly.. and very clear, as if it happened yesterday!