The two women then wandered over to a noisy duck pond and sat down on a new wooden bench. Carin had beckoned to her nurse and driver to please remain seated in the cafe’s veranda, but to be close by at all times for their safety sake.
In the murky pond where dragonflies danced and dived, Mullard ducks were now squabbling loudly over who should have the clumps of floating bread that had been carelessly tossed into the agitated water for them to enjoy and fight over it seemed by passers by.
Karen noticed a group of about seven laughing young men were now walking towards them and seemed to be making their way to an old oak tree. The elderly leader turned and asked the group of younger men.
“Ska vi silla har herrar.” They all nodded in agreement. Then all settled around the tree with the older man seated, leaning against the base of the ancient tree in front of them all. Most removed their rucksacks and sat down comfortably looking at him enquringly.
At the mention of these five distinctive Swedish words, Carin’s composure reacted as if an electric volt had marched through her frail 42 year old body. She stood up and said a few words of welcome to the young men in Swedish.
“How are you gentlemen? Please allow me to introduce myself as Carin Goering, formerly Carin Von Katzow from Rockesberg.”
She then offered her slender hand to the leader of the group and waited. He swiftly arose and walked towards her saying in polite Swedish: “Countess, it is a great honour for me to meet you, your fame proceeds you..” He then bowed to kiss her hand but she stopped him saying kindly: “Today in Germany we are all equal …. well I certainly hope so.” She then gently shook his offered hand with a smile.
And so began Carin’s unexpected introduction to Per Bergmann the popular pastor and administrator of “The Swedish Seamans Refuge.” Founded in 1899 in Gothenburg and co-ordinated now by the Swedish Lutheran Church.” Easily located in the “Alt-Moabit” district of Berlin.
In the next few weeks at the invitation of pastor Bergmann, Carin would frequently visit the establisment. Sometimes with Karen and sometimes with Hermann.
Unfortunately Karen, because of her own busy family commitments and the care of young Lancelot, she would be unable to go with her friend to the refuge. But Carin, ever the inveterate letter writer, would update her family and her sisters in Sweden on what was happening in Berlin. And how she was enoying her meetings with the young Swedish men and also the staff of the establishment.
Hermann, when he could and his political speaking engagements allowed, would join Carin to visit the house. And he of course would charm, as usualy did, the young men clustered around him. Usually by recalling his past flying feats that he had performed so many times during the war. Of special interest to the excited young men was his ‘Iron Cross’ first class and his’ Pour Le Merite’ (the Blue Max) that he had brought into the mission hall to display to the many young men with much pride. Even allowing them to hold and admire both medals.
He also spoke with passion about the cause of the party. And how it performs an imporrtant role in these difficult times the country was going through. He even signed up many of them in joining the party and its then growiing ranks.
But for Carin there was also an unexpected re-awakening in her spirtual journey that returned her to her childhood religious roots forged in her faith so long ago in Sweden.
“The Luthran Seamans Refuge may have been established rather like the conditions and rules of the popular “YMCA.” The original logo of that association interestingly enough had Pax Christi as a backdrop. Also shown with an open A.V. Bible turned to John XVII on its masthead reading:’ That they all may be one.’
(This would later be modified and not for the better either!)
During the next few days pastor Bergmann after his encounter with Carin in the Tiergarten had invited her to visit the refuge. And she gladly accepted. She was delighted to meet and be surrounded by so many young fellow country men and to speak to them in her own language.
“These are rough, but well travelled sons of the seven seas.” As pastor Per liked to call them. He knew each man’s name and birthday and where they hailed from in Sweden.
She would visit when possible with Karen and also to attend the clinc for medical updates and excercises for her own still perilious state of health.
One morning she was introduced to an older man who introduced himself as pastor Raf. He was one of the governing bodies of the Seamans Refuge and took his duties concerning the refuge very seriously. He had not as a young man sought the calling of the clergy as an occupation, but had seriously considered a career in the Royal Swedish Navy, but a defective left eye had denied him this desired vocation.
Some years ago he had authored a small devotional study of the old Testament Book of Psalms. And had presented a signed copy to Carin, who at first was rather cautious about opening its pages and reading its spiritual words. In the past she had always been rather suspicious concerning the writings of the Old Testament. She knew of course that it was all about history. Concerning amongst other other things, the daily survival of the downtroden Hebrew race in a barren, hostile dangerous terrain that was always rightfully theirs given to themby God. Their persecution by the Egytians and other aggressive races had brought death in their wake over their long blooded stained history.
Yet with the Psalms she had always known of the beauty of Psalm 23. She had after all, listened to its beautiful words of consolation being spoken at the many funerals that she had attended. Usually with grieving family and friends.
And according to pastor Raf in one of her many conversations she later shared with him, his own personal favourite was rather surprisingly Psalm 64. Carin later discovered that after reading the ten verses of this Psalm quietly to herself, she could almost memorise and recite them all by heart.
One of Carin’s last invited social invitations was when the Swedish ship the S.S. AGSA. docked in the harbour, the old captain had then invited all the men from the Swedish Refuge on board, for drinks and sandwiches and pastries. What Carin was not aware about was that the newly designed ward room with the new state of the furnishings on the SS AGSA had been named after her. The 26,000 tonne ship with a crew of forty would be leaving the next morning for Port Said. So celebrations would cease early it was announced. Carin was touched when she read the brass plate fitted above the door with her full name and title engraved on it.
Then as she was about to finally leave, most of the crew and the invited men from the refuge and pastor Raf of course, sang a gusty “Auld Lang Syne.” Carin broke down and cried at this kind unexpected gesture. She then thanked each man personally for a wonderful evening.
All she could say to the smiling captain as she departed the ship clutching her presented bouquet was.
“Thank you dear captain but I dont deserve it … but Bon voyage to you and your crew and may you all arrive home safely to your families in the future.”
The only thing that spoiled that delightful evening was when Carin was walking carefully down the gangplank. She suddenly caught the high heel of her right shoe in one of the wooden struts causing her to stumble but happily quickly righted herself. But unfortunately she droped her presented bouquet of red roses down into the swirling “River Spree.” Then she sadly watched them swiftly float away towards the turbulent waters towards the gray angry sea.
To Carin this was indeed an unforeseen dire omen as she shook her head in despair In what had been a perfect evening. Now it had all been spoiled and she started shivering as she carefully made her way down to dock and waited for her car to arrive. Then much to her annoyance she noticed the heel of her shoe had broken away and was now beyond repair. Then she awaited for the car’s arrival. She turned one more time to look at the soon departing ship towering above her. Then Carin walked towards her car when it soon arrived. And she was then so pleased to see that Hermann was driving. Then once closited inside its warm interior she rested her tired head on his firm shoulder and fell into a welcomed light sleep.
Carin now had five weeks to live.
To be continued…..
(C) Copyright G. Patrick Battell