Dorothea arrived in Britain as a young bride. She moved in with her parents in law in Glasgow.
INT: And were you excited to be going to Britain?
DB: Well yes I was glad.
INT: Or were you worried about it?
DB: Well sure I was worried because I didn’t have a clue what was going on and Donald hadn’t told me quite the truth either. He had said ‘Oh, we are going to be on a farm and everything will be fine’, you know. And then it turned out it wasn’t really true, his parents were in Glasgow and he didn’t like to tell me that and later on I understood why. But at that time I couldn’t understand why he would be telling me something that wasn’t true so…but that kind of put a kibosh on it a bit. But anyway we got into Liverpool and, well, I thought Liverpool was lovely, you know. The red fences, the white houses, the green grass.
I said what a lovely place this is, you know, very nice. We disembarked and went straight to the station to get the train and when we got on to the train the man said the bomb has just been dropped on Hiroshima, the war is over. So in a way of course that was great news, we were glad the war was over but what was waiting for us… And me of course in the first few weeks of pregnancy, you know, I don’t think I felt that well. Anyway we got on the train and we got to Glasgow and there was Donald’s father and mother at the station waiting for us and I couldn’t understand a word of what his father was saying because he was an Aberdonian and of course he spoke with a very, very heavy accent. So, and then his mother was OK, I could hear what she was saying but I thought to myself ‘Oh what are these people thinking who I am?’. You know, they have probably never seen a Jew in their life. So that wasn’t very good.
INT: And do you think they were worried for their son bringing this…?
DB: Well they were very glad to see him I’m sure, you know, come back from the war, you know, and he brought this girl which they didn’t know anything about except that she was originally German, Jewish didn’t mean anything to them much I didn’t think. So it was very odd really but I must say they were wonderful when I think back on it, you know how they accepted me. Anyway, we went to their place and that, again, I mean they lived in a very working class area of Glasgow which I wasn’t used to. I mean I was used to, kind of, not posh but middle class, and theirs was definitely not middle class but very working class.
INT: And is that why Donald had not told you that?
DB: I think that’s right.
Anyway in Glasgow he seemed to know everybody. I thought how come you know everybody? You know. We’d be out in the street – “Oh Donald it’s you! …’And it turned out because he was a ‘Glasgow Blue’, you know what that means?
DB: That means that you’ve excelled in some sport. And Donald was a runner and he was really well known in Glasgow because he was top notch runner. I didn’t understand that really very well, but anyway…So he wanted to introduce me to all sorts of friends and some were more friendly than others, you know. There were quite a few who understood exactly where I came from and who I was and others didn’t have a clue. And the other thing was of course there wasn’t any food then, there was rationing and I was used to the fleshpots you know. We never had much rationing.
DB: One egg a fortnight I think it was.
INT: And unlike Liverpool you were not very impressed with Glasgow?
DB: No I was not impressed with Glasgow at all. And, but you know, what could I do anyway? And I had a very nice sister-in-law who was, she was very nice to me and she had two children, one of whom I’m still in touch with, she lives in Glasgow…and actually her brother too, I still know.
INT: And did you live with your parents-in-law?
DB: Yes we had to. There wasn’t anywhere else to go and they made us very…I mean for them it was very welcoming, you know, they were fine really. It was just me it struck as being very odd. So we stayed with them and of course there was clothes rationing and Donald insisted on buying me maternity clothes and I wasn’t very happy about that.
And we had to go out to … it was Fuller’s Tea Room every day because I was so hungry. In Fuller’s it wasn’t rationed, you could have cakes and scones and things so we went every day, we went to Fuller’s to eat.
INT: And did Donald have a job at this point?
DB: Well no because he’d left the British Council and he was looking for work and he was very interested in the Food and Agricultural Organisation but couldn’t get a job there. He had a lot of high ranking friends, you know, who would look for him but nothing turned up really and in the mean time I was getting nearer and nearer the child’s birth and he said ‘No, never worry. We’ll just have to go to Arran, to the country, you know. And I’ll be able to work there on a farm.” I said “OK”.
But in the meantime, of course, I had to have this child. He took me to the most expensive gynaecologist in Glasgow because that was an old friend of his and the baby was born under a full anaesthetic. I don’t remember a thing about the birth because this was such a posh gynaecologist. And then I said well wait a minute, and I had always friends in London because, you know, old friends from Germany and my mother’s friends and family because a lot of my family were in England so I could always go to London and kind of escape. I said “Wait a minute. My Turkish is perfect. I’ll apply to the BBC for a job”. You know, get a job as a…as somebody there. And I was having this baby and I wrote to the BBC and they said “Oh yes, come at once, we need somebody very badly!” you know. I thought well I’ll have to tell them the truth. How can I go with a baby that’s just two weeks old? I really can’t do it.
So that was a bit of a washout but at least I felt well I could be used somewhere. And I had to say “No I can’t do it”, you know. And then we went to Arran and these friends of Donald’s who owned a big farm in Arran were very, very good to us. They took us in and we lived with them for Kirsteen to sort of get out of the very first baby stage and, oh they were very good. And of course there was more food, you know. There was an egg almost every day and porridge, I had to learn to eat porridge. But there was plenty of food really, cream and everything, you know?
INT: And did they accept that you were German and Jewish?
DB: They were more accepting…Well I think they did understand it a bit better, you know. Who I was and what I was. And in any case they were very, very kind to me, very kind and they had a land girl and children about the same age as me so it was much more interesting for me.
And eventually we lived in a cottage there with a little old lady who thought it was very strange that I didn’t know anything about how to light the, the Rayburn cooker and a lot of difficulties but in spite of that…And the doctor, he was awful! I said “Well I’ll have to get Kirsteen vaccinated.” You know, they didn’t do all of this I don’t think. I said “I want her vaccinated” and he gave her a great big thing and I kind of argued with him. But I was, got very friendly with the butcher’s wife, she was a very nice lady and she had a child about the same age as Kirsteen so, you know, I made friends.
INT: Did you feel any desire to find out if there were other people similar to you in, anywhere in Scotland?
DB: No, not at that time.
INT: Not at that time.
DB: No, no. Not at all. I just tried to fit in the best I could really. Well, what else? And then the British Council said “Well you could come back to us if you are willing to go to a…” What did they call it? Groningen I think. We said “What’s Groningen? Where’s Groningen?” And it turns out of course Groningen is in Holland but that wasn’t what they meant, they said Göttingen.
INT: In Germany?
DB: In Germany. And so we said “OK”. So that’s when we went to Germany and that was, of course, strange for me, you know.
INT: And were you quite happy to do that?
DB: Because, I suppose, it was pretty close, the war has only just finished and it’s strange that they should want to send me there having been a German originally. And they said “Oh it doesn’t matter”.
And of course, in those days you see, you were more part of the army than of your own…
INT: So were you going more as part of the military rather than the British Council?
DB: No, the British Council. It was definitely the British Council but we did all the, we got all the facilities that the military had.
INT: I see.
DB: I mean like housing and the N.A.A.F.I you know, we could shop and everything was just like military. But I thought, well Alison, then Alison…when was she born? Wait a minute, I’m leaving out something I’m sure…yeah. No, because Alison was born in Edinburgh after…wait a minute there is a bit missing here…where did we go first? Did we go to Bratislava first? Maybe it was…
INT: Yes I think you said you went to Bratislava first.
DB: Yes it was, God I’m getting it muddled up.
INT: Yes it’s alright, you are getting tired.
DB: Yes I’m sure that’s right. We went to Bratislava and we stayed there for four years. But in the end Donald was shot at by a Hungarian and that’s why I don’t like Hungarians even now.
INT: And why was he shot?
DB: Well God knows but I think they suspected that he was a spy because at that time we could go to Vienna quite easily. You know, it was just…you went to Vienna just like you are going from here to Glasgow; it was very near.
DB: And it was just before Christmas so Donald decided he would just pay a visit to Vienna and get some Christmas shopping done.
And when he came back I was actually in the kitchen baking Christmas biscuits, you know, and we had a little dog and suddenly I heard the dog running away to the door and I thought ‘What’s going on?’. I was alone with the children, they were asleep, and when I went to the door there was a guy with…having a gun in his hand and had shot Donald. And Donald was just dragging himself back into the house and he said “You’ve got to do a tourniquet.” I didn’t have a notion what a tourniquet is but I soon found out and then I immediately phoned up a friend of ours, a surgeon, Slovak, and told him that Donald had been shot. “Oh” he said “I’ll send an ambulance right away.”
They took him to the hospital and dealt with him as best he could but he said “There’s a bullet in his groin really and I can’t remove that, it’s too dangerous.” You know. Very, very nice man; a good old friend.
And then the consul, he lived very near us so I phoned him and he came up straight away and stayed with me and… well Donald was in hospital there for a fortnight.
INT: And the man who…
DB: The Hungarian.
INT: This Hungarian, he ran away?
DB: Well, of course, he ran off but I recognised him. I knew that he was coming to our house to the woman who lived below us, like a soup kitchen, you know, eating every day. So they said “Oh we’ll have to have a parade and bring all the guys and let you see which one.”
I pointed him out straight away – I knew. So…then there were all sorts of funny things like…well I said, you know, “I can’t stay by myself in this house, it’s so dangerous.” And they said “No, no, we’ll send some guards for you.”
When I went out in the night to the loo I discovered that it was soldiers, you know, and there were Russian books. “What are you reading?” I said and when they showed me it was Russian I thought… God, I said to the police “I don’t want Russian soldiers outside my door, you know, you have to take them away.” And they said “No, no, we’ll send police.”
So then they sent police and then in the end… and this was only at Christmas and we had a very good colleague/friends who lived in a tiny flat with two children and they said “Oh you just have to come to us, you know, for Christmas, we can’t leave you here.” So I went with the kids, with Kirsten and Keith and they had two small children and in this tiny flat and we spent Christmas there. And then…oh I’m probably leaving things out. The ambassador from Prague decided he would come down and see what was going on, you know.
So he came and I had to give them a big dinner and British council people, and they all said “Well you can’t stay here, you have to go home.”
And so we had to up sticks and I had to pack up everything and we went back to Britain.
INT: And Donald still had the bullet in him?
DB: Yes he still had the bullet and when we got to…then they said “Don’t talk to anybody. When you get to London there will be, the press will be there…don’t talk to them. Just forget about it, just go on.”
So then we went on and of course when we got to Glasgow the bloomin’ press had been to Donald’s mother and told her, of course she was terrified at what had happened, poor thing. But where was his father? Had he died in the meantime? I don’t think his father was there. Anyway…So that was pretty bad, really bad. But anyway, the British Council said “OK, you can’t go abroad now, you’ve got to stay put.”
Luckily when he went to the hospital, I mean Donald had friends everywhere, the main surgeon in the hospital in Glasgow was an old chum of his. So he said “Oh I’ll remove that bullet.” It was in his groin and he took it out and then Donald recovered and…so what did we do after that? Well we went back to Arran, where we had the friends.
INT: A safer place.
DB: A safer place! And yeah…Alison was a baby and then on the farm we said “Well we’ll not stay in the house”. So we camped, with Alison. Oh no, when Alison was born that was terrible too. Well I was pregnant then with Alison and went to the hospital and that was terrible. Keith was an awfully cheeky boy when he was little, you know, and after all sorts of stories about that, you know, he climbed out on the roof and I had to beg him to come back in again because he could have fallen over the side.
And then we were invited to a cousin of Donald’s who lived in Edinburgh and we went to this very nice tea party with all his cousins and aunties and everybody and Keith, he was two then, he said to the people “Well, of course…” he said “I came out of my Mummy’s tummy.” He was born in Bratislava, you see. “But I think this one will come out of my Daddy’s”. Haha! He thought, you know, I’d done enough!
INT: Yes, absolutely.
DB: Oh he was funny. And so I went to hospital to have Alison.
INT: In Glasgow?
DB: In Edinburgh, we were by this time and we lived already in the flat that we lived until we came to this one, so we haven’t lived in many different houses, which was right on top of a tenement building in Edinburgh, a very nice flat.
And it was very difficult to get any help but I had a Czech girl at one point and then I had a Danish au pair girl and she was completely really cuckoo so I phoned her father one day, I said “I can’t cope with this anymore, you’ll have to get Annie back, it’s really…”
“But that’s why we sent her to you!” Haha!
Well I said “I don’t want her”.
Anyway, Alison was born and she was…it, the birth, was not particularly difficult or anything but immediately…I had a very nice, young doctor girl and she, after Alison was born she came to me and she said, you know, “I’ve got sad news. Alison was born with a blood disease and we had to change her blood completely so you can’t nurse her, you can’t even go and see her.”
And then Donald came and they would let him see her and then the big white chief came from the hospital and he stood at my bedside, and I’ll never forget this, he said to me “Does the woman know?” and luckily this young doctor was there, “Yes”, she said, “of course I told her all about it.”
So that was OK. So amazingly within a week Alison was OK, you know, they really took good care of her there and completely changed her blood and we went back home. So then she grew up into a very jolly, nice baby and Donald was very good. We had this great big pram and we lived on the top floor of the building and he would take this pram down every day. But, you know, that was two years we were there at this building and actually an old friend of Kirsten’s, she’s just coming in a few days to see us, she’s always been a friend, you know, we’ve made lots of connections and friends.