What follows is a short story from Rosemary’s past. After talking with her, I have taken our discussion and turned it into a series of small stories highlighting the incredible life that she has led. Direct quotes from our discussion are highlighted in quotation marks. All else is a retelling written by yours truly.
World War Two was a horrific time. Many who fought, died and those who didn’t die were changed forever by the ordeal. Much changed in British society after those long, hard years of fighting, and things on a grand scale were different. But just because there is darkness does not mean there is no light. And on the small farm away from the fighting, light came in the form of a German prisoner of war.
Some of you may know who I’m talking about and some of you may not. But it is worth pointing out now that this was not Bill. We will talk about his and Rosemary’s relationship maybe next week.
This young man was named Rudi.
Before the prisoners of war arrived, Rosemary’s father went to his workforce – a grand total of maybe three people, Rosemary couldn’t remember exactly but it was a rather small workforce – and told them that there were prisoners of war coming.
“I do remember hearing my father say that these people who were coming, they were not our enemies, they did not choose to fight. They were forced to fight for the German government and Hitler, of course. So we had to be friends with them. They were not enemies.”
In a time of such destruction and hate, these were powerful words.
“I’m thankful for my father’s wisdom in that. He was a terrible tease mind you. He would make jokes at everybody and we all suffered at his hand, but he was very kind and very generous and quite wise in some ways.”
When the prisoners of war came to work on the nearby farms, there were a few locals who would go to the prisoner of war camp and invite some of them to church each week. This, which was followed by a lovely Sunday meal, was never a bad thing to be a part of.
Rudi wasn’t a Christian but he had come from a religious home and he was one of the people who attended these Sunday outings. In fact it was during his time in the prisoner of war camp that he became a Christian, but that’s another story. It was also during his time there that he came to work on Rosemary’s father’s farm. And it was here that he met Daphne, Rosemary’s younger sister.
It had by now been several years after the war and Rudi had already spent some time as a prisoner of war in the USA, says Rosemary. She tells me that he spoke very little English and what he did speak, he spoke with a strong American accent.
Despite the aftermath of war, despite the general hatred of the Germans, despite the limitations of language, the two fell in love. It was a true testament to the value of humanity, to the truth that we are all ordinary people, no matter our race, religion, or background.
They wanted to marry but Daphne was seventeen and her father said she must wait. So they did. And I’m afraid there isn’t much else to tell here. They waited and married, and they stayed married for over sixty years until Rudi passed away in 2019. The last thing Rosemary said on the subject was that she remembered feeling a little irritated that her younger sister got to marry before she did. But that would all change – as would the general course of her life – when Bill came along.
Stay tuned for more stories from the life of Rosemary. Please note: these stories will not necessarily hold any chronological grounding. I chose to begin with the journey to Sicily because travelling played a major part in the life of Rosemary. There are also more stories from Sicily which might crop up. But these stories are designed as snippets of understanding into the life of Rosemary and while some will hold chronology, others may not.