This year Amy Crow from “No story too small” changed her 52 ancestors challenge slightly. In the beginning of every month she provides a theme for the upcoming four weeks.
The year kicked off with a “fresh start” and moved over to a “King” and this week the theme is “a tough woman”.
It wasn’t really easy to choose one, since I wrote about some of my tough female ancestors already – in some cases even excessively :)
And although I would love to tell you about my mom, I know she would kill me if I would spread the story of her life into the worldwide web :)
So, when I screened my family tree for another tough woman, one name strucked me: Waltraut Veronika TILINSKI. My maternal grandmother. Unfortunately, I was just four years old, when she died in 1977 and I have no memory of her at all. But who would be better to give me some information about her than my mom? So, I spent the last hour and a half with her on the phone. I could sense that she felt a bit uncomfortable in the beginning to tell me her mom’s story – for me to tell it to the world. But she got more and more relaxed during the call :)
My grandmother Waltraut Veronika TILINSKI was born on December 13, 1921 in Korschen, East Prussia, Germany in the Bahnhofstrasse 4. Korschen is today’s Korsze in Poland. Her parents were Albert TILINSKI and a woman of whom I only know the last name: PETZ
She was the only sister of five brothers. If that is not reason enough for becoming a tough woman than I don’t know :)
Her oldest brother Otto-Horst was her half-brother. At least according to the wedding date of Waltraut’s parents. Otto-Horst was born March 3 either 1912 or 1913 and her parents married October 22, 1917.
Waltraut’s mom died when she was six years old in 1927. Since Waltraut’s youngest brother Egon was born in 1927 my assumption is that she either died giving birth to Egon or following his birth. But that is just an assumption. Waltraut’s father married again March 3, 1930. The second wife is just known as “Mama Johanna”.
Waltraut and her brothers grew up in a working family. My greatgrandfather Albert worked for the Reichsbahn (railway). My mom said that her mother didn’t really speak a lot about her childhood and how she grew up. But she would remember her mother speaking about the tons of snow they had when she was little. Another thing she remembered was that my greatgrandfather didn’t think a lot about girls going to school. He would always say that girls wouldn’t need this – they will marry anyway, so why bother. My grandmother didn’t finish school. But when she was bout 15 or 16 she went to Rastenburg, today’s Kętrzyn, Poland to work for a dentist – boys would go to the Wehrmacht, girls made something called a “social year”.
My grandmother was already 23 years old, when she married my grandfather Wolfgang Albert NICOLAUS on May 27, 1944 in Korschen. On the left is their wedding picture. I have to admit, she looks a lot older than 23 (sorry, Grandma!)
Shortly after their marriage, they packed their stuff and headed west. Away from the Eastern Front and the Soviet Army. Their first daughter was born in Kamenz, Saxony, Germany in January 1945. The second daughter, my mom, was born 1946 in Leipzig, Saxony, Germany. My grandfather worked as an actor at the theatre in Leipzig that time.
Back in Korschen, the TILINSKI family agreed that they would meet in Lübeck at the Baltic Coast when they would get seperated as refugees. My grandparents packed their stuff again in 1947 and moved north in the direction of Lübeck. The third and fourth daughter were born there 1947 and 1949.
The family moved into one of the refugee camps in the Lübeck area, the “Gothmundlager”. During WW II it was one of the camps for forced labourers. When Germany was liberated with the end of WW II, those camps would be used for the thousands and thousands of refugees from the far eastern parts of Germany.
1952 my grandmother filed for divorce from my grandfather. Imagine living in the 50s as a divorced mother of four. And although I don’t remember my grandmother, even I know – from knowing my grandfather – that those two people weren’t a match. From the stories I have heard about my grandmother, she was a down-to-eart woman. Hard working and hard to herself as well as to others. My grandfather titled himself as an “artist”. He was an actor and musician.. oh, and a womanizer. He had more than one affair while they were married. One of his affairs are even responsible for me being named Barbara. Actually my grandma wanted to name her youngest daughter Barbara, but at that time my grandfather had something going on with a Barbara – no way that my grandma would use that name. So, when my mother was pregnant with me, her mother said, if I would be a girl, she would love me being named Barbara. She didn’t say why, though. Thanks Grandma, I really love the name!!
Waltraut worked as a sales person for AEG, a huge appliances company at that time. She would go from door to door selling washing machines and other household appliances. As my mother put it, her hobby was her other job: she was working behind the bar at a carnivals’s society (check the net for German Carnival) where her oldest brother was a board member.
Actually, my dad’s father was a board member there, too. This is how the families met. But my grandma never really liked the “SCHMIDT”.. too bad, my mom would end up with one of them ;)
1972 Waltraut was diagnosed with uterine cancer. During a surgery they removed a tumor of the size of a baby’s head. She never fully beat the cancer and never fully recovered. In December 1976 she had to return to the hospital, but she wanted to die at home. So, my mom picked her up and spent every night with her – til the day she died on May 18, 1977.
My mom told me more and more and more.. way too much to put it all in a blog. Thanks Mom!