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The Good Daughter

I hope everyone had the opportunity to read” The Diary of Eva Goerlitz,” the story that ran on page 3 of last week’s edition of this newspaper. As I told Eva as she was relaying her story to me, it was the best history lesson of my entire life.
I was introduced to Eva by Corrie, a mutual friend of ours. Corrie is a neighbor of mine and a nurse in the assisted living facility where Eva lived. I spent several afternoons with Eva over the summer and she told me about her wonderful family, and how much she loves and misses Berlin, the city where she was born. However, when Eva spoke about her father and mother, I noticed her entire demeanor changed. It was as if she had an aura about her.
Growing up during the Second World War, Hitler’s mandate that there would be no children in Berlin resulted in Eva being forced to live with her aunt and uncle in neighboring Poland while her city was under attack. Meanwhile her father and mother were being treated in two different hospitals, and after a year of being without them, Eva had a premonition that she needed to return to Berlin to reunite her family. Showing incredible determination and courage for a girl in her teens, she was able to accomplish exactly what she set out to do. The incredible details were chronicled in last week’s story.
As Eva spoke to me about her father and mother, her love and admiration for them was obvious. Talking about her father’s service to his country in World War I and her mother’s devotion to her husband put a smile on her face and a sparkle in her eyes that made me understand completely why she risked her life more than 75 years ago to get the three of them back together. While Eva spoke of sadness when speaking of her father passing away at the age of 59, she beamed with pride telling me about her mother living an active life until her death at the age of 96.
I asked Eva if she had any photographs of herself as a young child. Still vibrant and absolutely stunning at the age of 91, I can only imagine how beautiful she was as a young woman. Unfortunately she lost most of her family pictures when she and her husband lost their home to a wildfire when they were living in California.
When I took the draft of her story for her to review—to make sure I had the information accurately depicted and that it met with her approval—I could tell that the story was the one she wanted me to tell because as she was silently reading it I noticed twinkles in her eyes, smiles on her face and, more than once, tears rolling down her cheeks.
As we spoke during the summer I couldn’t help but be impressed by Eva’s razor-sharp memory and her incredibly astute attention to detail. She recounted names, places, and dates as accurately as an honor student memorizes things of importance for a midterm exam. I told Eva that I had been to Germany several times with my wife and how much we loved her country and its customs. I also mentioned how much I enjoyed German beer and now it’s the only kind I will drink. Eva told me her favorite was a German Pilsner; I told her that when her story was published I would bring her a copy of it along with a couple of bottles of beer so the two of us could celebrate.
I mentioned in the story that Eva was writing a memoir and that she wanted to incorporate the phrase ‘white sandy beach’ into the title, a reference to a question she asked her mother when she was a child: ‘Why is this (the bombings in Berlin) happening to us while some people are on a white sandy beach surrounded by palm trees?’
Unfortunately Eva won’t have the chance to finish her memoir, nor will the two of us share those Pilsners. Eva Goerlitz Rigney passed away on November 5, 2019—two days before her story appeared in this newspaper. While I’m proud to have been able to tell Eva’s story–and that her children and grandchildren were able to see it in print, it saddens me that we’ve lost an amazing and memorable lady; a woman that literally made history.
Everyone remembers people in their lives differently; I am no exception. Later in the afternoon that I learned of Eva’s passing I looked up at the clear blue sky, a scene interrupted only by the occasional cloud or two.
Only what I saw weren’t white fluffy clouds; they were—and quite possibly always will be–white sandy beaches.

Scott Ludwig lives, runs, and writes in Senoia.  His latest book, “Southern Charm: Columns from a small town Georgia newspaper,” as well as the rest of his books, can be found on his author page on Amazon. He can be reached at magicludwig1@gmail.com.

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