We left Coburg, Bavaria, Germany, in the spring or early summer of 1949. How many of us were packed into the back of a large, open truck, I don't recall, but we arrived in Munich in time to see our train pull out of the station without us. This meant at least an overnight stay in a hotel, and catching another train headed south to Italy. The seats on the train were hard, wooden slats, and the tunnels dark, and Switzerland was a night-time blur. I remember the dark and the discomfort, all overlaid with a child's anxiety about where we were ultimately going.
When we arrived in Acerra, the men were separated from the women and children and I have no knowledge of where they were billeted. We children and our mothers were sent to one of several large building with long halls filled with bunk beds. This is where we were to sleep. We all ate in a communal dining hall whose aromas and foods were completely strange to me, but those smells have stayed with me all my life.
The toilet facilities were housed in a separate building in the middle of a yard. They were cleaned periodically by being doused with chlorine, the smell of which gave me nightmares into my late 30's. I still remember seeing the rivulets of chlorine run in the hard baked dirt ground surrounding the facility, and for some reason, it is not a pleasant memory. After a while, we moved into a one level building where we had one room, but we were a family again, mum, dad, and me.
We were able to leave the camp and go sightseeing, and I remember the post war rubble of Naples. We went swimming in the Bay of Naples, which I understand is no longer possible due to serious pollution problems. I remember being shocked at seeing half naked, grubby children (my mother had always been very modest and clean), and I remember the heat of the southern Italian summer sun.
I do not remember any people of this period of my life by name. A few are in the attached pictures. If anyone can identify them, I would be delighted to hear from them.
These are also obviously very old memories. I am now 60 years old and have lived in several countries since the incidents described above occurred. I have also suffered several strokes, so the memories are not what they used to be, so please make allowances for gaps and mistakes. I still believe however, that these recollections are better than nothing, and that hopefully this will trigger the memories of others who shared the same experiences, and that they too will come forward and share what they can, before these memories and experiences are lost to time.
We left Naples in 1949 on the "Wooster Victory," bound for Adelaide, South Australia. We were then taken to Woodside, to the DP camp there. I have, however, managed to put together a partial passenger list from Australian archive records available on-line, and I presume most if not all of these people were also at the Acerra DP camp. The original passenger list is available for research in Canberra. So far I have not been able to locate any records of the camp in Italy. If you wish to contact me I may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Irene (Nowyckyj) Johnson
Leaving Coburg for a new life.
The first is my mother and me, then my mother, dad and me with dad's head lopped off, but I wanted that one because of the little boy in the next window.
This beach photo is of me as the child, and my mother is sitting in the water. I don't know the other people.
My mother is the adult, I am the child on the right and the child in the dark on the left I don't know.
Here is the single level camp room. I remember the sun was too bright. I have no idea who the little boy is.
I will do Woodside next. I have about three photos of that. I am also trying to put together the list of refugees of the Acerra camp.
This has been extremely difficult for me to do. My family has been after me for years to get all this written down, and being a genealogist, you can imagine how much hassle I've gotten over the years for not having written my life story. The strokes were not the usual kind where I was left with damage to one side and speech was impaired. All that recovered nicely. What has been damaged is the brain, and that has been difficult for me to accept. I find that I am having even greater difficulty in dealing with the past, which is not fun.
Well, I hope this blurb adds to the knowledge base. Keep up the good work. You are appreciated. Many blessings - Irene email@example.com
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