Saturday, July 12, 2014

An evening at the cemetery

We were going to walk to the village kurvo festival celebration thing (I have no idea how it is spelled or even if that is exactly how it sounds. Part of being a foreigner is that you are only ever about 60% clear on things you hear from the natives), but it ended up being a longer walk than we bargained for. Magdalena and Jeremy pressed on while Miriam, Sterling, and I spent time at the village cemetery.

As the daughter of Suzanne Walker, I have learned to appreciate cemeteries. This was my first German cemetery, though, and it took some getting used to. There were no pictures on the grave markers (unlike in Russia and other Slavic areas), except for one near the back. The markers were very large, with one for each family, and the names and dates were inscribed on the back. I didn't see any relationships listed, like you sometimes see in the US ("beloved mother," etc.). Miriam and I found the oldest birth date (1837), the most recent death date (May 2014), and the youngest deceased (a two-month-old baby who died in 2003).

Miriam and I talked about the kinds of lives these people must have lived - those who were adults during the war years, those who were babies growing up during the war years, and those who lived very long lives spanning both WWI and WWII - there were so many long lives represented in that cemetery! Also, so many Georgs, Andreases, and Margarethes. We even saw a Magdalena, as well as a Hedwig (!) and an Elsa.

We looked for death dates during the war years. There were a few, but not as many as you might think. Most were from 1944, and several of them were distinguished by the letters "VERM." I could tell it was a German abbreviation - perhaps something like the English "KIA" for "killed in action." I told Miriam so, but made a mental note to look it up when we got home.

Thus it is that I googled "German gravestone abbreviations" and found out, with great sadness, that "VERM." probably means "vermisst" - "missing." What a picture that paints of a life cut short. One stone in particular told a story - two brothers, born one year apart, early in the 20th century. One was missing (dead) in 1944. The other lived until the 1980s.

For being an unexpected trip to the village cemetery, Miriam and I (and Sterling, in all his obliviousness) had a very quiet, meaningful experience. I hope we make it to the kurvo (or whatever it's called) another day, but I'm glad things went the way they did today.

4 comments:

Jen said...

I really need to have lunch with your mom. I'd like her to be my friend. =)

I love cemeteries. Growing up----and now raising a family---in New England has afforded us lots (and lots!) of cemetery exploring. There are so many old and even hidden cemeteries here (still!) that it's a popular Eagle Scout project to go in and weed/landscape and catalog graves in cemeteries that are sometimes centuries-old and have been ignored for decades. There's a cemetery in Maine that has graves for 8 or 9 generations of my family.

The idea of visiting a European cemetery is sort of the best thing in the world to me at this moment!

Suzanne Bubnash said...

I love this post. Cemeteries tell stories to those who spend time seeking. Glad that you are passing this interest and skill to another generation.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

Gosh Jen, I was just in New England for several weeks. Some of that time I was visiting cemeteries. We could have met up. There is one gravestone in St. Michael's Catholic Cemetery in Brattleboro VT that lists my gr-grandmother's baby brother. That is the only mention of his existence--no birth record, no death record. That stone is precious.

Jen said...

SURELY you'll visit New England again!!

I'd be willing to bet that Vermont has a good amount of those small, out-of-the-way cemeteries. And what a story about that baby! That's why I love cemeteries.

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