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'Sugar kisses' after 70 years

Last year I returned to the German army base in Bavaria where I'd lived as a Displaced Person after World War II. This year I tracked down one of my playmates from those days, someone I hadn't heard from in 72 years.

Sometimes breakthroughs in research come from planning: you find the right archivist, or the right historian, in the right town and they come up with the answers you were hoping for.

But sometimes it's just down to luck.

It was luck that helped me find the person I had last seen 72 years ago when we were both four year-olds running round a Displaced Persons camp in Germany.

Jadzia (an affectionate contraction of Jadwiga) was the daughter of another couple in the camp, waiting for the last bureaucratic approval to start a new life in a new country. Jadzia's parents had their hearts set on America. My mother and I were following my father to Canada.

For a few months Jadzia and I played together in the optimistically-named Camp Hope in Bad Reichenhall, where hundreds of other souls who'd made it through the years of war were hoping to find peace in a new land.

Jadzia's parents, Janina and Henryk Czaplak, had befriended my mother Mary in another DP camp, Weiden, where Jadwiga was born on 6 June 1946. Ten months later I was born in the same camp.

When the Weiden camp closed, both families were moved to Bad Reichenhall. At the end of 1951 the Czaplaks set sail for New York. One of Janina's first acts was to write to Mary, who had arrived in Northern Ontario six months earlier.

She ended the letter with greetings and 'sugar kisses' from Jadzia to 'Halinka', "because Jadzia recalls her time and again."

Who knows why my mother chose to put the letter aside, to be hidden away for the rest of her life. But when I found it, it gave me some new names to research. And that's where the luck came in.

By chance I stumbled on an obituary for Henryk Czaplak. Checking the other names in the obituary against Mama's old letter, I realized it was Jadzia's father. He'd been dead four years when I found the notice. I called the funeral home. Joe answered. "Sure we still have the records, but I can't share them because of privacy issues. But I will call the family and see if they want to talk to you."

A couple of hours later my phone rang.



And 72 years slipped away, just like that. We were transported back to a time we barely remembered, but which had changed the lives of our parents, and shaped our own futures.

We promised to stay in touch, and share information.

And we ended exchanging sugar kisses. A wonderful moment, and it was all thanks to a piece of luck.

In the photograph, I am showing to Bad Reichenhall archive Dr Johannes Lang a picture of my mother Mary taken when we were living in the DP camp. Second left, with his son on his shoulders, is Colonel Thomas Nockelmann, the camp commander.

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Lea Brovedani
Lea Brovedani
Nov 22, 2023

I am looking forward to reading your book. You've led such an interesting life Halina, and the path was set before you were even born. Of course!

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