Pen Pal Friendships
(Page 12 of 14)
One day, I received a tape recording from him, but I couldn’t find a tape recorder that was equipped with the right speed for a German tape. I took it to the radio station in Spencer, Iowa, and not only was the station able to play the tape for me, they also recorded it onto a 78 rpm record so I could play it at home. It was exciting to hear Herbert’s voice for the first time. I later went back to the radio station and recorded a tape for him. We talked only about our families and kept our letters on a personal level.
I got married in February 1955, and Herbert married a young woman named Helga soon after. My husband and I had three children, and Herbert and Helga had one son. Some years later, when their son was very young, Helga was struck with polio. She was left paralyzed from the chest down and was hospitalized for nearly a year, but she was alive and had a wonderful husband to care for her when she went home.
In 1961, when the Berlin Wall went up, Herbert was unable to leave East Berlin. A lot of people were escaping, but Herbert would not leave his wheelchair-bound wife and son. We continued writing each other, and one day I received a letter from him telling me to send my letters to his friend Johan, who lived in West Berlin. Johan then smuggled my letters into East Berlin on the occasional visiting days when the East Berlin government let friends and family members living in West Berlin visit people in East Berlin. Johan also smuggled Herbert’s letters out and mailed them to me. This went on for several years before Herbert said I could send letters directly to him again. However, the letters were opened and read before he received them. Nothing to worry about, though, because we only wrote about ourselves and our families.
In the mid-1970s, I wrote Herbert a letter and sent it with a Christmas card, like always, but I never heard back from him. I continued sending letters and cards for three more years, and still no reply. Knowing Helga couldn’t read English and wondering if Herbert had died or was in prison, I finally quit sending them.
When the Berlin Wall opened in November 1989, my husband and I watched the televised reports showing all the people celebrating as the people from East Berlin crossed into West Berlin. I was hoping to see Herbert or his family, but never did. Then I began wondering if any of them were even alive all these years later. I thought about writing another letter to him, but never did.
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