Monday, March 27, 2017

October 1941: Cuba Possible?

Letter from Ella to Opa


Tom Döppner
Manhattan, Kansas
1119 Kearney
Berlin, Charlottenburg 4
Droysenstrasse 14

My beloved boy, I haven’t written to you in almost two weeks, I was really down, physically and emotionally. So it goes from time to time. But I also hadn’t heard from you in a while. Just the day before yesterday the second letter from Manhattan came (from September 21.) I’m glad you’re settling in well there, which I’m sure the people you know from McPherson are partially contributing to. I’m looking forward to seeing the photo of your room that you mentioned; hopefully it will come soon. 
Even more, I hope some opportunity arises for me to be able to come to you. You got the cable from the Quakers, in the meantime, and I think you’re doing what you can. You’re clear on the urgency, of course. I do think that I’ll be able to pay back the money that is being raised for my passage and an additional stop in Cuba. –Hunschen, it’s very moving that you want to send me money. But please don’t, not to mention that it’s just not practically possible. In the meantime, I got the money that I still had yet to claim, so I’m getting by for the time being. And I do think I will come to you. Naturally I can’t visit Patti. I got a Red Cross letter from her last week. She’s happy, just terribly homesick. When will I see the child again? Hunschen, after getting the cable you put yourself in touch with the Quakers! They always have good advice.   
I’m really worried about you: Hunschen, don’t get sick! Why are you so tired? Why are you getting so little sleep? You have to make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep every day! How are you eating? Do you have enough to eat? Write about it thoroughly! Can you take care of yourself a little, and have you?  The fact that the exam showed that your lungs are working fine calmed me down a little, but if you think you’ll soon get used to getting little sleep, that’s a big mistake. Please, Hunschen, make sure you get enough sleep! Write about it! If only I could take care of you again! –There’s a very nice lady living with me now. She has a 19 year old son, who goes to the technical high school and reminds me so much of you. I ache when they sit so sweetly next to each other and talk about whatever comes to mind. How I would like to be able to do that with you and Patti and also Maurice. Even though I’ve still never seen Maurice, he is as dear to me as I ever would have thought possible. How lovely everything could be if we were together!
Thanks to your roommate for his greetings. I will write to him soon. The Shelleys will also get news from me soon. –That Jürgen is doing well, and that the two of you are in touch, makes me happy.  
You wrote very little about your work, or did a letter get lost between the 5th and 21st of September? In any case, write to me thoroughly about everything. –I can imagine my boy giving the baby a bottle. You’re a sweet boy.
I kiss and hug you, my Hunschen!  
Yours, Mama

Ella is holding on to all hope that she will get to join her son again. She only hears from Patti through Red Cross postcards, a standard method of communication in wartime (a luxury really). Patti is homesick for her family, something that must give Ella a mix of joy and sorrow
It looks like there may be some brief opportunity for passage to the US via Cuba, as Ella seems to be making some sort of plan. It looks like the Quakers are raising money to try to get her passage to Cuba, and Ella is optimistic. She is so sweet about Opa's offer of money as she absolutely refuses it. 
Then Ella goes into her ritual of mothering: "don't get sick" "why are you tired?" "do you have enough to eat?" "get enough sleep!" Bless her- she really can't help herself. She asks Opa to write her in detail about what he is eating and how well he sleeps. HA! I don't know if her complete spiral into nervous mothering is a means of distraction, a way of catching up for lost time, or if she was always like this and nothing has changed. I suspect a little mix of it all. 
Little does she know that Opa's access to food and sleep are probably significantly better than her own. Perhaps that's the standard she's applying, hoping that he eats and sleeps well while he can. Nothing is solid or predictable in Ella's life. 
Ella talks about her roommates (likely a way to save money) and how she envies the mother and son who get to sit and talk about anything they want. It's all she wants.

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