This historically accurate novel is based on the author’s interviews of German refugees from East Prussia, German soldiers who survived Russian captivity, and thousands of Germans who lived through the post-war period in Germany. The story is fictional but the people, their activities, trials, and especially the resilience of the women who bore the brunt of Nazism on the home front and then in cooperation with the U.S. Army, rebuilt Germany after the war, is true.


While I was on break at the Tucson Tucson Festival of Books, a family joined me. I told them about my book, Four Strong Woman. The mother, a survivor of WW2 from Lithuania who spent many years in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany following the war, listen with great emotion as I read a page from my book about this period. She cried as she confirmed to her family that it was all true. She bought a book, gave me a hug and cried again as she left. Not your normal book sale.


This story involves the lives of four generations of strong East Prussian women who oppose the Nazis but still survive the war. A handsome young lieutenant comes to their huge estate, the Falkenweiden, near Friedland, East Prussia, to build a signal tower. All the women fall in love with him and he with them, each in a different way.


After a month on the Falkenweiden, the lieutenant is assigned to the Russian Front. He is captured on his way to his assignment and spends fourteen years as a Russian prisoner of war. His memories of the Falkenweiden women keep him sane. The women all hope for his safe return.


The women rebuild their lives following the war after losing almost everything except their dignity and physical strength. When the lieutenant finally returns to them their lives get very complicated.


Excerpts:


“Hey,” cried Sonje, who was busy eating and had not been very involved in the conversation up to that point, “I’ve got a great idea. Let me be the lieutenant’s adjutant and guide. I’ll show him around the estate and help him find what he needs to get started.”

“Sonje,” responded her grandmother, “it would not be proper for a young lady like you to be the guide for the lieutenant. Perhaps you, Trudy, would like to give the lieutenant his orientation of the estate.”

So it’s not proper for Sonje to escort him but okay for me, a married woman whose husband is a colonel in the Army, to escort this snot-nosed young SS lieutenant? thought Trudy.

“No thanks, let Sonje do it. She is big enough to take care of herself and I think she is still too young to get into the other sort of trouble.”

“Lieutenant,” intoned Countess Charlotte in her most official voice, “if I permit Sonje to guide you around our estate, do I have your word of honor as an officer and gentleman that you will not touch the child? She is only 15 years old even if she is five foot ten inches tall and looks like a woman. Do you understand that she is only a child? If you touch her inappropriately, it will end your career. It could be life threatening because her father is a colonel and her grandfather is a general but her mother is a crack shot. Have I made myself clear?”

“Madam, you have my word of honor as an officer, I will not touch the child.”

“How about me?” teased Sonje, “must I also give my word of honor that I will not touch the young lieutenant inappropriately?”

“You can tease all you want,” scolded Trudy, “but if you touch him it could be a decision that will haunt you for the rest of your life.”

****

About ten minutes later, Ludwig led the horses to the back porch where everyone was waiting. One was a dappled grey Arabian mare with a white face and white mane. Hermann was very surprised to see the other, a tall prancing obviously spirited stallion that truly was the color of sparkling metallic gold.

“I’ve never seen a real live golden horse before. What breed is he?” asked Hermann as he walked around Golden Boy dragging his fingers through the hair of the golden stallion to see if the gold would rub off and petting him in disbelief.

“He is a purebred Akhal-Teke stallion,” replied Ludwig as he had done at least a hundred times before. “He is 16.5 hands tall, very strong and very spirited. He is the colonel’s horse and is rarely ridden as none of the farm hands can handle him. Are you sure you can handle such a horse, Lieutenant?”

“Where did you find him? Are there more like him? This is like a fairytale horse. What a beautiful animal.”

“My grandfather bought him in Turkey two years ago but he was born in Dagestan about four years ago,” added Sonje. “My father thinks he is the only one who can ride Golden Boy. My mother and I ride him all the time but we don’t dare tell my father. It’s our little secret.”

“Is there any special trick to riding him that you would like to share before I maybe make a fool of myself?” asked Hermann.

“Don’t ever kick him or whip him or yank too hard on the bit and you should do fine,” suggested Trudy with a mischievous laugh. “Good luck. You’ll probably need it.”

Herman continued to walk around the golden horse several more times, talking to it and rubbing it. Then in a flash, Hermann sprang onto the saddle but found the stirrup irons were too small for his boots and just as quickly hopped off again. Golden Boy stared back at him with a look of distinct curiosity.

“Do you perhaps have some wider stirrup irons I could use with this saddle?” asked Hermann.

“Unfortunately, no. I used the widest irons we have at the moment,” replied Ludwig.

“I guess we will not see you riding today, Lieutenant,” cooed Trudy. “Maybe it is all for the best. We wouldn’t want to see you hurt or embarrassed.”

“I can still ride,” replied Hermann. “Just give me a second to pull off my boots.”

With that, he sat down on the steps, removed his boots, socks, and his uniform jacket, and hopped back onto the golden horse. His size-14 feet, even without boots, barely fit into the stirrups. Golden Boy just stood there like a well-trained docile horse should.

“He doesn’t seem too spirited to me yet,” said Hermann.

“Give him a minute to get over the shock of what we have all just seen,” suggested Trudy. “No one on this farm has seen an officer ride barefooted.”

“Or one whose huge feet are too big for our stirrups,” added Sonje.

“Okay, Miss Sonje, mount up please and let’s go take a look at your farm.”

****

They rode down the opposite side of the hill from where they came up and along some forest paths until they came to the hot spring pond. The water lilies were in magnificent bloom and other wildflowers of all descriptions ringed the pond like some carefully created professionally designed national flower show. It was all natural growth. The family tradition was not to alter anything regarding the hot spring or the pond because it was so beautiful. Several acres of meadows could be seen just beyond the trees that ringed the pond. Even the main house and barns could be seen about a half mile away if one stooped or stood in the right spot to see between the trees.

“Well, this is an unexpected beautiful spot. Thanks for bringing me here.”

“Do you want to go for a swim?”

“I didn’t bring my bathing suit.”

“No one wears a bathing suit here. That is why the local minister prohibited boys and girls here on our farm from swimming together after puberty. Pretty silly rule I think. If we were going to get into trouble, it would not be in the hot spring water. There are too many other better places. Oh, I see you are uncomfortable with the idea of swimming with me. Okay, if you ride down this path you will see the main house in a few minutes and you can go on ahead. Tell my mother I’m here and she won’t worry.”

“Well, I’m not comfortable about leaving you alone out here either,” replied Hermann. “I know there are wild animals in this forest. We saw wolf tracks. They might come to the pond while you are swimming and cause you some harm.”

“People are the only animals that cause other people harm in the forest. The wild animals will run away if they sense you are here because they are afraid you will shoot them. I’ve seen many animals come and drink from the pond while I was sitting quietly in the middle of the water lilies. I didn’t bother them and they didn’t bother me. So go on, I’ll be all right.”

“Maybe I’ll just sit here, have a smoke, and relax while you swim. Then we can go back together.”

“Have it your way, but you’re missing the best part of the estate. People come all the way out from Koenigsberg to sit in our hot spring. It’s very good for what ails you.”

“Fortunately I have no ailments,” replied Hermann with his back turned as Sonje slipped out of her two items of clothing and into the warm water of the pond.

“Boy, this feels good. The water is probably about eighty-five degrees and clear as bottled mineral water. You should know the unique mineral content of this water makes it eligible for commercial sales. Some investors wanted to build a bottling plant here in town and pump the water in big pipes from this spring. Grandpa would not hear of it. If you want to drink this water, you must be invited to our farm. I have seen people from Berlin go home with twenty bottles of our water in their car. Some people even call it a fountain of youth because their skin feels so good after they get out. You are sure you don’t want to get in? I can go to the opposite side and not watch you if you are shy.”

“Okay, I’ll get in but you better not tell your mother or grandmother because that would get us both in trouble. Promise you will stay on the other side and not look.”

“Do you have something wrong with you that embarrasses you? Perhaps a tattoo of a naked lady? As you mentioned before, I am only a farm girl but I have seen reproductive organs on various mammals, including boys.”

“Do you think I am just a boy? Well, I am not. I am a man and it would not be proper for you to look.” Hermann undressed and slid carefully into the warm water that felt very good.

“Okay, okay, I promise I won’t look at you. But look over there. Do you know anything about breeding horses? See how Silver Lady is swishing her tail at Golden Boy to show she is ready to mate. We can’t let that happen. She is supposed to be bred to a big black Trakehner stallion named Thor. We can’t let Golden Boy cover her. We need to separate them.”

With that, Sonje scrambled out of the pond and ran over to try to separate the horses. She yelled at Hermann, “Come and help me. I need your help right now.” Golden Boy was now excited about the prospects of mating and was jumping around, pulling on his reins that were tied to a small bush.

“I can’t help you, I have no clothes,” replied Hermann who was now up to his chin in the middle of the pond but intently watching the nude Sonje struggle with the horses.

“Well, neither do I, but these horses need to be separated immediately or they’ll breed. Then I’ll be doing some very uncomfortable explaining when we get home. Come on and help me, please.”

Hermann scrambled out of the pond and quickly pulled Golden Boy over behind a big blue spruce that blocked his view of the prancing Arabian mare being pushed the other direction by Sonje, who quickly tied her horse and as she turned back to the pond, she caught a glimpse of Herman as he ran toward the water. He was truthful in his statement that as far as his physical development was concerned he was a man and not a boy. Sonje also slipped quickly into the water as Hermann kept his back turned.

“This is pretty silly, you know,” Sonje finally said. “We both gave our word of honor we would not touch each other so why are we playing this silly don’t-look-at-me game?”

“Are you sure you are only fifteen?”

“Well, I am a bit older now than when we started out this afternoon but fifteen is still my correct age. I have to admit I did look at you as you ran back to the water. You certainly have nothing to be ashamed of at all. Why are you so bashful?”

“Maybe we should head back for the house now before the horses get excited again.”






Akhal Teke

East Prussia

Germany

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