Several months ago, Eric Spoeth from Edmonton contacted me to let me know that he had written and filmed a movie and would be showing it in Vancouver on April 8th, 2018. I agreed to promote the film in my “Das Schwarze Brett” magazine and on this blog. We even traded ad space. He received a half-page ad and I was able to see my 30-second advertising spot on the big screen.
Here is a picture of film director Erich Spoeth, with one of the “stars” of the show. His mother, Erika, was the youngest of 4 children, born towards the end of the war. She had two older sisters (Alwine & Altertine aka Tina) and one brother (Wiegand). This movie was the story of them being forced to flee the USSR in 1944 and end up staying in a house in a small village along the way. That is the last time the children saw their father alive. Baby Erika was only 1 year old.
Here are two of the young people waiting out front in the line up and the three teenagers sitting together in the theatre. One of these girls was born in Germany, one was born in Vancouver to a German father and one was born to a German mother. Each of them had a reason to attend this film. To learn about their heritage. To learn historical facts from a German-citizen-born-outside Germany perspective (Volksdeutsche) and to be a part of the German Community here in Vancouver.
Here is one of the young ladies raising her hand to ask a question in the Q & A season after the film was over. The questions were typical ones you might expect: How did you end up in Canada? What made you decide to make the film? Where was the story filmed?
The main thing when talking it over with some of the youngest audience members was hearing how this story was all new to them. Only one out of 3 had heard a little bit about this turbulent time in history, when Germans living in the USSR and other territories were caught up in the violence of war and forced to leave their homes, sometimes in the dead of winter, forever.
The girl who knew about Russian Germans had an Oma (grandmother) who came from Bessarabia, a place where Germans had been invited to live by Katarina the Great and had built prosperous farms and villages over 150 years. World War II changed everything. First, they had been forced to leave their homes in 1941, and had been relocated to West Prussia. Then, they had been overrun by Soviets and again, where forced to leave a place they had just gotten used to. But at least, the Bessarabians had been relocated as one group and had even arranged to stay in the same relocation camps as one united group during the war.
Unlike having woman and children, as well as entire families, separated as men were either fighting in the war, working for the war effort or supporting their families with long-distance work. The women, the children, the elderly were the ones who made the escapes in the big so-called “Trek”. That is what happened to the Zernickel family. Just as the father left, the mother and her four young children were forced to leave. Helene tried everything she could to stall, to wait, so that Waldemar could catch up with her, but alas.
Waiting for Waldemar never does come up with an answer to the question: Where is Waldemar? Instead, he has been missing since 1944. Nobody ever found out where he went or what happened to him. There is nothing they would like better than to see him one more time. Talk to him one more time. Spend some time with him, listening to his music, his piano, his singing… If Waldemar Zernickel was alive today, he would be 105 years old, but that wouldn’t matter. The movie did its part by pulling in the audience and letting us feel the anguish, the loss, the pain, as well as the hope and belief that kept them going.
I can recommend everyone to watch this movie and be transformed by the story. As ordinary Germans who just wanted to be together, to enjoy family life, to play piano, and eat farm fresh food and who were caught up in events beyond their control. Yet they still came out of it with the knowledge that “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Waiting for Waldemar is a moving 45-minute film about a family that escaped to Germany from Russia during the Second World War. Erika and her brother Wiegand, who were only babies when their father Waldemar disappeared during the escape and are now in their 70’s, combine fragments of memories and third-hand testimonies to paint a picture of the man that meant – and means – so much to them. Waiting for Waldemar is a bittersweet affirmation that love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Eric Spoeth has directed two full length documentaries and a dozen short films. His work includes working as an Assistant Director on The Matrix, Cut Bank, Blackstone, and other film and TV productions across Alberta.
You can buy the movie on the website: http://www.spoeth.com/wfw.html
About the Author
Elke is a connector, a promoter, a writer and a blogger who loves to build community, attend events and network with other entrepreneurs. Whether you need help with advertising, public relations, social media or communications, she is there for her clients.