Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Poem From Out of WWII: Ich Möchte Nach Hause Wandern/I Want to Wander Home Again

    Edith von Sanden, my aristocratic East Prussian grandmother, lived to escape the invading Russian Army during that final, bitter winter of World War II. At her home in Guja, East Prussia, she was a sculptress and a poet. When paging through one of her old, published books, Bunte Blumen Überall (Bright Flowers Everywhere), I found a creased and yellowed paper folded in the pages. The poem below was written on that paper.

    I think she must have written the poem while she was making her dangerous passage across the frozen part of the Baltic Sea - that part which is called the Frisches Haff. I can only imagine the fear she must have felt- many people died on that ice when it cracked, giving way to the angry, frigid waters below.

    She never returned to Guja. She never again looked out of her window to the courtyard below where her beautiful Trakehner horses stood, but I know she always dreamed of home. Her words so moved me that I translated the verse into English, but I'm also posting it in German for those of you who can read the language. Somehow, it seems more powerful in its original form.

Ich Möchte Nach Hause Wandern

Ich möchte nach Hause wandern
In einem Bettlergewand
Auf stillen und einsamen Strassen
Von niemand erkannt.
Und ob auch die Füsse bluten
Die Kräfte langsam vergehen
Ich wollte wandern und wandern
Bis ich die Heimat gesehen!
Und wenn meinen Händen entglitte
Zuletzt auch der Bettlerstab
Nur Glück wärs für meine Seele
Ich fand in der Heimat mein Grab.

Edith von Sanden-Guja

I Want to Wander Home

I want to wander home
In torn beggar’s clothes
On peaceful, lonesome pathways
That no one else would know.
And should my feet be bloody
And all my strength be gone
Yet, shall I keep on walking
Until I see my home.
My beggar’s staff may slip
Slowly from my hand
But my soul shall be in heaven
In the grave upon my land.

(Translation by Marina Gottlieb Sarles)

(c) All content and photos are the private property of the Gottlieb family, unless otherwise stated or linked,  and may not be used without permission.
(c) Privatbesitz Gottlieb Familie


  1. Evocative photos, poem lovely and poignant.

  2. The poetry of life is clearly embedded in your DNA.

    Your rendition of her tale may finally end your grandmother's wandering, and bring closure to the Prussian people.

    Cannot wait to read it!

  3. Marina...
    Your grandmother has found her way home. Aztec and the other Trakehner horses' whinnies have become words.Your writing brings alive the voices of your ancestors. You bring honor and healing to East Prussia and all who fled its land.
    Love this blog... love the photos... love you and your courage to let the energy of the spirits move through you.

  4. Marina,

    I am so touched by both your words and the photos. The Roma wagon and faces, your grandmother's image, and the sturdy old trees that were then and are now living brought this era to life for me. This is clearly your calling. No one else could have done it. I look forward reading The Last Daughter and to experiencing more, painful as it will be, but beautiful too. Thank you.


  5. That top photo looks just like I imagine Manya. Love that photo.