IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY MUM - 1924-12-08 to 2018-07-29
When I come to write about my Mum, I realise I know almost nothing of her Ukrainian heritage. The only relative of Mum's side of the family that I have met or been in contract with was her Uncle Andrew Grinke. There are a few scraps of letters from 1960s to 1980s, correspondence between our families that I have not read that were left in her house when she died. I have never been to the Ukraine or met others from the family. I am now interested to find out more about that side of the family.
Mum was born in Omelno in the Ukraine to German immigrant farmers, Ludwig Rast and Hulda Grinke. They were part of a German immigrant community in the Ukraine who had been attracted there by the fertile farming lands. They were a land owner of a farm and as such were considered quite well off. However, the Russian communists were in control and were taking control of the farms. So early in Mum's life her father joined
White Army to fight against the
Red Army. During WWII that developed into a very ugly three-way war between the Ukrainians, Germans and Russians. I was staggered at the brutality of this war when I watched a documentary. Mum's early life was tough and she was fortunate enough to live through.
Through the German network in the Ukraine, Mum was smuggled out of the Ukraine back to her German homeland. Not sure when that was but it was in time for German push into the Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa began on Sun 1941-06-22. The German invasion to the Soviet Union was brutal on both sides. The Russians had a
Scorched Earth policy as they retreated from the advancing forces. Mum had been recruited by the German army as a translator since she spoke German and Russian. Mum was on the advancing front, translating commands to the captured Russian villagers and translating during torture sessions of captured soldiers. As the push to Moscow failed, the Germans evacuated Mum on
the last train back to Germany with her handbag her life's only possession.
At the end of WWII, Mum was back in Germany and Holland. She worked as a maid on a farm in Holland but I know very little about this time.
In 1949, Mum flew to Perth, Western Australia.
In 1953, Mum married my father, Geoffrey Wynter Pryor.
In 2018, Mum died in Royal Perth Hospital.
Mon 1924-12-08 ANNA RAST IS BORN
Well, that is the official date. Not really sure what the real date was. Presumably the date is based on the Julian Calender but it is not certain. The Ukraine adopted the Gregorian Calendar on 1918-03-01 but the Church continued to use the Julian Calender (until at least 1984).
MUM'S MOTHER'S AFFAIR
While Mum's father was out fighting the Red Army, his wife Hulda was having an affair with a local farmer. Hulda use Mum to courier letters between her and the farmer. Unfortunately, the farmer's wife caught her one day and gave her a belting.
ESCAPES FROM THE COMMUNISTS
With her father in the White Army fighting the Red Army, Mum's family was not in favour with the Communists. Her mother and I believe some Mum's siblings were exiled to Siberia. Mum was still free but the Communists were hunting for her. The German network in the Ukraine was hiding Mum and trying to get her to safety in Germany. I do not know what year that was.
One day she was in a house and they saw the soldiers coming up the road. The maid of the house took Mum and stood behind the front door of the house. As the soldiers opened the door, she stayed silently behind the door. The soldiers entered the house and as they searched the house, the maid ushered Mum out the front door to run and hide. A narrow escape.
On another occasion, they knew the soldiers were coming so Mum was hidden in a stack of hay. During the search, they searched the haystak which was in a bard. They started using pitchforks to prod the hay. There were dogs tied up in the barn which were barking at the soldiers. So they did not check that part of the haystack which Mum was hidden in.
This is the another remarkable story in Mum's life. Here was a young (24-year old) woman wandering around the aftermath of Europe after Word War II without contact with family. In her handbag was a old photo of her uncle, Andrew Grinke who at that time was living in Perth, Western Australia. On the back of the photo was the name of the photo studio where the photo was taken. The Red Cross contacted the photo studio and managed to get in touch with her uncle. A tribue to the good work of the Red Cross.
I cannot imagine what it was like to make the arrangements to get Mum out of Germany into Australia in those days. And there remain no records of that.
So on that basis, her Uncle Andrew had arranged for Mum to immigrate to Australia. Mum said that as a little girl she wrote her Uncle Andrew a letter saying she wanted to be his daughter.
Sun 1949-06-26 THE FLIGHTS
I have one letter (below) confirming the flights from Frankfurt to Sydney in 1949. Not sure what it cost back in 1949 to fly from Frankfurt to San Francisco and then onto Sydney and Perth then. But it would have been a rare and expensive journey.
Interlude in San Francisco
Fri 1949-07-01 "LANDING ON THE EQUATOR"
Mum often spoke of her
Landing on the Equator. As a kid, I would imagine a plane landing on a line marked
Equator on some island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
It was a dark and stormy night... There was a lightning storm and Mum was travelling in a Pan-American Airways airplane over the Pacific Ocean. The plane was bouncing around in the turbulence so the Captain, Mr T. J. Page decided he would land on the nearest island. Mum describes a dramatic landing on an unknown island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in the dark of night. After landing, she said the plane was at the edge of a cliff and she could hear the waves pounding on the rocks. Upon their arrival, she was given an orange juice by the locals.
Fri 1949-07-01 CROSSING THE INTERNATIONAL DATE-LINE
Not a big thing nowadays, but when Mum crossed the international on Fri 1949-07-01 at 16:19, it was a big thing. Such a big thing that Pan-American Airways (
The System of the Flying Clippers) gave her the certificate below.
Sat 1949-07-02 ARRIVAL IN AUSTRALIA
Sun 1953-11-29 MARRIAGE
This is the day my Mum and Dad got married.
I have no records of that day. My Dad's mother (Mrs Vera Bladen) did not approve of his marriage to the
Geoffrey Wynter Pryor
Mum's husband, my Dad, was Geoffrey Wynter Pryor. He was the son of Louis and Vera Pryor (need Bladen). They had an acrimonious divorce and she reclaimed her maiden name to avoid the distain of the Pryor name. They had three children: Peter Bladen who changed his surname to Bladen in defferenced to his Mum; Joy Pryor (who later married Arnold Foster and took his surname) and Geoffrey Wynter Pryor (who had the nickname of Samuel).
My Dad was the rebel of the family. ??Continue.