If I begin at the beginning, I will say that I was born in Munich, and that my family later moved to the Allgäu region of Bavaria, southwest of Munich, near the famous Neuschwanstein Castle (which is not all it’s made out to be … long story).
By the way, as I post this on Sunday June 30th 2019: it is 30 years ago today that I arrived in Canada!
I grew up with five siblings – four ‘whole’ ones and two ‘half’ (from my father’s first marriage). I am a middle-aged woman, and my friends have started to get sick, some have died. Makes you think. A couple of years ago, I started instigating the idea of a sibling reunion; my brother Peter took the idea and ran with it. This event just took place, and I am blown away.
We decided to meet not in Germany, but in a place in Northern Italy which carries our family name: Andrich. Peter has done a lot of research: almost everyone in this village carries this name. About 250 years ago, some 150 people decided to leave to seek their fortune: half went to Brazil, half to Germany. All of them were carpenters. We have not done the genealogical explorations to be certain that our clan originated here, but our father and grandfather were also woodworkers, just sayin’ . Until it was lost to bombs during WW2, my father’s family owned a furniture manufacture in Dresden, producing Bauhaus designs.
The village of Andrich is nestled in the middle of the impressive Dolomite mountain range. We stayed in a town nearby. On day one of our reunion, we hiked for several hours through valleys and up and down mountainsides to reach this small village. We crossed ice-cold glacier mountain streams barefoot, shoes in hand, and traversed villages along the way. Such a walk was the perfect way to share in conversation, continually changing speaking partners.
Our partners and children came along. Sadly, the oldest of my sisters broke her hip a week before the gathering, and was unable to make it. We skyped her in for a couple of occasions.
We took further excursions to mountaintops during the days. Evenings were spent reminiscing.
Two of my brothers had brought along photo albums or had digitalized my father’s old Super Eight films and endless slides – Papa liked documenting! There were some amazing shots and reels, which prompted laughter as well as thoughtful discussions. It was very meaningful for all of us to get together, share memories, and reconnect after many years of having gone our own ways.
This was also a first meeting of my family with my partner of over a decade. After the big gathering was over, we went southwards with just my brother Peter and his husband. We relaxed in natural thermal waters which come from deep below the earth in this region, and took excursions to the amazing Italian cities of Padua and Venice.
On a drive which took a little too long, climbing over the alps like Hannibal, we drove through 5 countries in one day (Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Germany), making our way towards Munich.
There, we dropped in on the annual gathering of the extended clan in the home which my maternal grandparents had build, and in which my mother grew up during WW2. I was able to show my husband the bomb shelter in the basement, where she cowered during raids. Many delightful memories were also shared. How great to see my cousins and their children and my aunts and uncles, sip tea and eat delightful homemade treats in this space that carries so much of our family’s history.