SEPTEMBER 1939: We have moved from Prague to Teplitz-Schönau because the Germans from the fringes of Bohemia are being brought together. My grandmother rushes into the bathroom where my mother is washing me and shouts: "It’s war, we’ve got to buy flour and sugar!"
APRIL 1941: My mother runs through the flat crying and carrying a woollen blanket. Everyone is speaking Czech. I'm the only one of the family who didn't learn Czech in Prague and now the grown-ups always use it when they don't want me to understand. Later I discover that my father was denounced and kept in prison by the Gestapo for a year.
JANUARY 1944: In the newspaper there are pictures of the bomb attacks on Berlin, where my father has been transferred to. I have just learned to read and try to decipher the headlines.
AUGUST 1945: My father, who walked all the way home from Berlin, drums Czech vocabulary and grammar into me. My mother teaches me Czech songs. Because speaking German is forbidden I sing them as loudly as possible when she speaks German to her friends in the street. We have to leave our flat and move into our doctor’s surgery, who, like many Germans, panicked and committed suicide when the Russians crossed the Eastern border.
DECEMBER 1947: I have passed the grammar school entrance exam. The school takes us to an exhibition of photos of the horrific deeds in the Nazi concentration camps. I am shocked and try to distance myself mentally from being German. At home I speak only Czech. I am still demoted from the grammar school because my father is German.
DECEMBER 1949: At midnight on 24th December we are on a train to West Germany. My father is scared of being taken off the train, but the border guards are in a kind mood this Holy Night. My little dog, who comforts me whenever I’m lonely, remains undiscovered.
MARCH 1951: I am teased at school because of my accent and learn Latin, English and French instead of Russian. I start filling in the areas in Geography and History which had previously been left blank and looking for some inner grounding in Religion and Philosophy.
JUNE 1959: Thanks to his first big commission as an architect my husband is able to buy an old water mill in Cologne which we extend a bit further after the birth of each child. A little paradise for us all.
OCTOBER 1973: Once my sixth child has been born, I think: "I can’t just keep on having children" and train as a child and adolescent psychotherapist.
MAY 1994: My husband is wheelchair-bound following a severe brain haemorrhage. By having my practice at home, I am able to care for him for seventeen years.