Linz, Austria By Thomas Ledl - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

A history lesson and glimpse into the future

You may have read that headline and wondered what the hell I could teach you about history. You’d be right. The readers of Stately Play are some of the best read history buffs I’ve ever been witness to (to the point where I’m embarrassed to admit I’m struggling to read a historical fiction novel that was recommended to me), and far be it from me to try to explain anything that’s happened in the past to any of them.

That said, May is going to be a strange month and it all revolves around history. Specifically, my history. Well, my father’s history at least.

You see, there was a conflict that messed up most of Europe which ended in 1945. You may have heard of it. My grandparents were Romanian farmers and, around that time, changed careers to become refugees. Something about the Russians moving west and things not being so great. After the war, they ended up in a displaced persons camp in Linz, Austria and, thus, my father was born in DP camp outside of Linz in 1947; not coming to the US until 1952 at the ripe old age of six.

I’ve been to Austria a couple times now, but never to Linz. I’m not the kind of person who dwells upon these kinds of things. I’m not nostalgic for my history or my family’s history. I don’t visit graves, I don’t drive by old houses, and I’m not the kind of person to sit and reminisce about the “old days”.

My dad, however, is. Other than going to Vietnam in his 20’s, my dad has never left the US. In fact, as he got older he couldn’t get a passport because all records of his birth were lost and it was a big mess. A couple years ago I convinced him to hire an immigration lawyer to help him get his documentation in order and get a passport. He’s always wanted to go back to Austria and now that he was retired, why the hell not?

Passport finally obtained, I was swiftly recruited to accompany him on his triumphant return to the continent and we’ll be leaving in two days. Yes, all this bullshit was a prelude for me to tell you that I’ll be in Europe for the next three weeks and it might (ok, will) affect content on the site. I will be bringing my laptop and iDevices along, and have told my dad that I need to plant myself in coffee shops and get posts up on the site. He’s okay with that. He’s moving slow these days anyway, so sitting and drinking coffee (or beer…or bourbon) for long chunks of time is right up his alley.

So, what I’m saying is that I’m heading off on a three-week journey to knock off as many of my dad’s bucket list items as I can. The site will still be operational, but the times of postings may shift to be a bit earlier than you’re used to. I will still be in contact with all the writers, so my dream is that you don’t even notice I’m gone, and I can go back in about a week and just delete this post. I’m somewhat of a realist, however, and I know that there will be a day here or there where finding a coffee shop just won’t fit into the schedule for that day. I’ll try to limit them, but if we go silent for a day, now you’ll know why.

Sorry for dumping all the background info on you, but it seemed easier to frame it that way than just telling you that I’m leaving and things may slow down. Although, that is what I just told you, so, for everyone who just skips to the bottom anyway, there you go.

Thanks for reading the site, everyone. Keeping this enterprise going is what gets me going every day and I don’t think I take the time to thank you or the other writers enough.

auf Wiedersehen! (I’ll actually be around tomorrow to post. I’m just practicing my German)


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Notable Replies

  1. That sounds like a fascinating trip!!! One of these days (maybe even in a year or two, since our mortgage will be paid off this year), I plan on traveling to Europe and seeing all of this stuff.

    I think this will mean a lot to your dad, and I’m so happy you get to accompany him.

  2. I’m dragging a 3- and 5-year-old through the International Showcase at Epcot Center in June. That’s kind of like a nice trip to Europe, right?..

    Have fun, Dave!

  3. I’ll bet you can find a board gaming group there with a quick internet search. I’ve been amazed at how every city seems to have board game events welcome to anyone and it’s been the way I’ve most connected with locals and ex-pats while traveling. Not sure if that says more about the power of board games to create connections or about my ability to meet people in other ways, but in any case, highly recommend finding the local gamers!

  4. Fucking legit, as some kids somewhere probably say.

    Other than going to Vietnam in his 20’s, my dad has never left the US.

    That’s probably the most amazing humblebrag I’ve ever read. “Apart from escaping Europe in the wake of WWII, ahead of horrific Communist repression, and taking part in one of the 20th century’s most iconic conflicts, he didn’t like international travel.”

    Mate, I wish you and your dad all the best. If there’s a book you want to read, try Savage Continent by Keith Lowe. Please keep us informed, at a level you’re comfortable with. This is living fucking history.

  5. Have an excellent trip. Gute Reise!

    Being British*, these hidden family histories are something that we tend not to encounter. The relatives have, or had, their war stories; great-uncle lost a toe to frostbite in Norway, grandfather was in the steel industry and not allowed to enlist ** and so on, but in general there is a continuity of place.

    Last year we were in Germany for Mrs StC’s father’s funeral, and in the way of a generation remembering one of their own, so many stories resembled @Neumannium’s. The family who fled from Budapest via Austria, and then from Austria into Bavaria out of the Russian zone; the friend whose parents met in a DP camp, and were happy to be billeted with 3 other families in a 2 bedroom house; the family who fled west, but some of whom didn’t make it across the Elbe. It’s an undercurrent, a folk memory, that’s more embedded than the Anglophone world understands or admits.


    ** I have a photo of my grandmother in service uniform on a motorcycle looking incredibly dashing. I have no idea of the story behind it, to my deep regret.

  6. Pics or it didn’t happen.

  7. Have a nice trip through the old world. And don’t worry, we won’t mess up SP in your absence…much. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

    Interesting bits about your dad. I have some similar (well geographically) family tales as well.
    I was born in 1980 to German ethnic parents in Romania. There were 2 regions in Romania which had a very strong minority(?) of German/Austrian descent (Banat (mostly Swabian) and Siebenbürgen (mostly Saxxon). Back 80-150 years ago German was a trade/juristical acknowledged language there. My grandparent’s generations and above were going to German schools etc. All part of the Austrian Empires plans to incorporate the Balkan into a bulwark against the Ottomans.
    Then the 20th century happened. And after WW1 the Hungarians tried to “whitewash(?)” that part of the world to be Hungarian compliant. After that Hitler came around. With his ascent to power, the bullying of German minorities in Europe was reserved a bit. Romania pretty much was going into the full bootlicking mode to prevent being a second Czechoslovakia. WW2 happened, Romania tried to jump the bandwagon and get some eastern European soil, either claimed back from USSR or getting more of it, but when the tide turned against the Axxis Romania did again an about 180° and went in an even more berserk-bootlicking mode than before, this time with the USSR. What that meant for the German minorities I don’t have to spell out. Not everyone was as lucky(?) as your grandparents tough. Most of my elder’s 3-4 generations had to stay and manage the bullshit the Romanians did to appease the USSR. In Romania mostly you weren’t oppressed by the USSR as in eastern Germany directly (only shortly after the war via deportation to siberia…it was via the Romanians and other Slavic portions of the populace which also tried frantically to get a shoe into the door and get a part of the cake that was middle-class lifestyle of German ethnic people back then. So part appeasing USSR with the spoils of others and part getting a hand in the honeypot as well before it dries up.
    That may not have happened everywhere and not to everyone but if you study the more accessible records of deportation in Romania (in comparison to the deportation records of German ethnic groups directly under Stalin’s yoke at the Volga, Rus, Kasachstan and other places) you get a clear picture. I was lucky to born to parents in 1980, which abandoned their attempt to flee via East-Berlin in 1982 at the very last moment (which is great for me as I may have been an orphan because the group my parents were with before were sacked during their attempt). Corrupt as many parts of the oh so great Socialist machinery was; my Parents managed to get out with me, 2 suitcases and no official documentation (only copies, the birth certificates and other important documents had to stay there) in 1983. The fee was a 10.000 Deutschmark (DM) per person to be payable in DM. How insane that really was is nearly incomprehensible…as the possession of foreign currency was also considered a crime!). Only seniors could go freely (as they were not suitable for labor anymore and a burden to the great socialist society). Similar to the Birth Certificate Problems of your Dad I had problems as well applying for state-approved trials (bar exam for Pharmacists(?)) as I had no official documentation. The Pension fund association is giving my father great grief as well for the time he worked in Romania, as again no documentation exists and the German bureaucratic machinery simply cannot imagine that fact (or understand that Romania’s bureaucracy of nowadays still require many many greased palms to get what is left of said documents).

    The times may have changed but I won’t ever go back there again. I am pretty much in line with my parents. Some things you simply won’t forget or forgive. I am thankful for a more or less “normal” western childhood which my parents never had. Also as the internet is a pretty nifty place to search for photographs and to see what happened to my birthplace after all German ethnics were chased out? I lived there for 3 years only, and as @Neumannium said I am not a part of the “nostalgic and reminiscent old people movement”, but if I would show pictures to my parents or grandparents now of the slums that were once their homes? Pretty sure I would give half of them a heart attack.

    In short, I suggest to stop at Vienna in your travels east, or at least I would do. It is a great city and I was there a lot of times :slight_smile:

  8. Have a great trip, Dave. Take a lot of pictures and don’t shy away from posting shots of you in random bars/coffee places (“Today’s post comes from Ed’s Bar in Romania”).

  9. I can highly recommend any Eastern European night clubs probably not run by the Eastern European mafia, who threaten to fucking stab you if you don’t accept a complimentary bottle of champagne between a dozen of you that costs £300 at the end of the night.


  10. That should be “Today’s post comes from the floor of Ed’s Bar in Romania.”

  11. Well, most of Dave’s posts come from the floor of a bar, so I was thinking he might class it up while in the homeland.

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