Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Spirits who Inspired

    It occurred to me this morning that we never create alone. We often write alone yes, but the ideas and  energies flowing through us – the creative transmissions – come from many other sources. They come from unseen worlds, from people – friends, family members, even strangers, and from nature too, animals, places and experiences.

Photo by Christine Matthai

    This week I wanted to take time to remember some of the people who stood by me as I was writing The Last Daughter of Prussia, people who championed me through so to speak. As you know from viewing this blog, I love using photographs, but I must confess that there have been a number of invisible advocates for this novel, spirits who appeared to me in dreams, and they must remain faceless on my blog.
    However, I  see them clearly in my mind's eye and I bow to them. They are the spirits of the men, women and children who never made the trek but stayed behind in East Prussia to face the Russian Army, hoping they would not be raped or killed. I honor their courage. 

Photo from the book, OSTPREUSSEN by Adam Kraft Verlag.

   This picture was taken in Goldap, a town just kilometers away from Guja, East Prussia where my grandparents lived. Theirs are the kinds of faces that would visit me and whose eyes would beg me to write pieces of their story.

    Other spirits came to me as well, those who had risked the arduous trek in that bitterest winter of 1944-1945 hoping to escape the oncoming invasion, but who did not survive, people who could have been saved had Hitler given the go ahead for earlier evacuation.

   And then there were those spirits who never left the concentration camp in Stutthof - the prison which I write about in my book. Once a peaceful sea-side resort located in a deep green forest full of larks, it became a death camp, a veritable hell hole, where many thousands perished. Oh, how I wept and still weep for them. 

    I felt I could not honestly write about those victims without going there, so I did. (see my essay about Stutthof  in Wild River Review) This shot I took is the entrance to Stutthof - the so-called 'Death Gate.' Never have I felt such an unbearable emptiness in my bones as when I passed through those swinging iron doors. Never will I be able to give full expression to the pain that lies invisibly congealed between the cobblestones or that still saturates the air in heavy silence.

Photo in  Stutthof  Museum  in Poland


 Many spirits walked beside me for the five years it took to complete the manuscript. I always felt that they were transmitting information – chapters of lives and threads of stories that needed telling. Many a night those voices pierced my sleep, explaining what needed to be written. Many a day they urged me to sit down at the computer and work without stopping.

Cobblestones on "The Himmler Allee" running through Stutthof Camp

    In a sense, writing the book became my own trek. Like the refugees who were stuck for days in the snow, I was often stuck on a page or on a sentence searching for something to help me move forward. Often I lost sight of the end and swore I would abandon my keyboard – leave it behind like those tired travelers who abandoned the fleeing columns of humanity to lie down in the snows of forgetfulness from which they never awoke. Sometimes the characters were so alive that I could barely distinguish between who was real and who was not. But the gift in this was that, despite my being a lonely writer, I was never alone.

Photo by Christine Matthai

    They held my hands when I needed guidance. They lifted me up when I stumbled into the pit of despair. From my heart, I thank them for these fallen angels truly were my inspiration.

-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 comment:

  1. I am enjoying reading your Blog and I look forward to seeing The last Daughter Of Prussia printed.