Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Baby Sweaters and the Danish Boat Lift


Last week before I got sick I went to a lecture that was spellbinding and mesmerizing---yes, there is a difference---and at several points it had the hair on my arms standing right up. That was a common reaction. I’ve been going to the Life Enrichment Lecture series at the senior hall for many years and this was only the second one where the speaker got a standing ovation. What was it about? It was titled “When Good People Do Something” and it was an uplifting account of what the people of Denmark did during WWII to save 98% of its Jewish population (7,200 people in all) from being rounded up by the occupying Nazis. The speaker was a professional storyteller and a Professor of Humanities at Lawrence Technological University, born in the Bronx and was great at doing accents. She took us through the steps the Danish people did spontaneously when they got wind of the fact that the Nazis were planning to raid the synagogues on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and send all the worshipers to concentration camps.

With less than 24 hours’ notice, gentiles and Jews alike sprang into action. They passed the warning around not to go to the synagogues and to find places to hide away from their homes. Strangers and neighbors took people in to their homes to hide, businessman provided money to help them flee the country and hospital workers helped sedate Jewish children so they could be hidden in fishing boats for an impromptu boat lift to take the Jewish people off the peninsula that was Denmark to neutral Sweden where they could apply for political asylum. Only 500 of Denmark’s nearly 8,000 Jewish population were rounded up by the Gestapo and deported to Theresienadt concentration camp. By far, the most successful Resistance Operation in all of Europe.

Denmark was important to Hitler because it was his breadbasket to feed his troops. Along with its rich fishing industry they also had some of the best boat builders in the world and Germany brought all their ships to their ports for repair. The Resistances repaired them in such a way that they’d break down again out at sea. The lecturer read some words written by the King of Denmark in late 1930s about Adolph Hitler and they were the same words we often hear used to describe Donald Trump. She snuck that quote in so fast and kept right going to another antidote that it had everyone looking at each other, wondering if we just heard what we heard.

When good people do something. Christian churches hide artifacts from the synagogues until the end of the war and when the Jewish people were able to come back to Denmark two years later they found their houses just as they left them only they’d been cleaned, the cupboards stocked with food and fresh flowers were on the tables. But the Danish people were not the only ones who did courageous things during those dark days. Historians speculate that the person who spilled the beans about the planned raid was a high ranking German in charge of occupied Denmark who had lived there long enough to learn to love the country. Another high ranking German, historians believe, let his humanity show when he pulled most of the Germany patrol boats off the waters to “paint” during the month while the boat lift was in full operation and that added to their evacuation success. 

The lecturer, Corine Stavish, ended her talk with these words: “People were presented with a clear choice between good and evil and they choose ‘good.’” She’s active at National Storytelling Festivals and, if you get a chance to hear her talk, go. She’s witty and poignant and she knows how to make history come alive.

Switching Gears: Let’s talk knitting. The sweater and vest below are my last projects of the 2018/19 winter. I have to put my knitting needles and yarn away because it gets too hot and sticky to knit in the summer. The lady bug sweater is for my youngest niece’s cottage where her grandkids often need a sweater on cool summer evenings on their pontoon. The vest is for my oldest niece’s grandson who loves wearing vests, and he loves his grandpa’s John Deere tractor.

My mom used to make graphic pictures on sweaters but the tractor was my first attempt. She also used to make entire sweaters with patterns like on the lady bug sweater’s front panels only fancier and with more colors. With the vest I learned how to use yarn bobbins---at one time there were nine bobbins hanging down the back of the tractor---and I can see how they can take the frustration out of those Scandinavian designs. I may try another next winter. Anyway, good-bye knitting and hello eBay. May is here! ©



NOTE: Photo at top is from the Danish Jewish Museum and shows one of the fishing boats used to smuggle people to Sweden. Can you imagine how many trips it would take to get 7,200 people across the bay to Sweden? Our speaker said someone tried to burn that musuem down recently but they saved it.

34 comments:

  1. You did a great job on your knitting projects! I love the sweater.

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    1. Thanks. I love making tiny sweaters but they out grow them so fast. I'd switch to making doll sweaters but I'm not sure little girls even play with dolls anymore.

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  2. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." I think of this quote far more often lately than I ever have before. Your lecture recap made me think of it again.

    And Jean--those sweaters! They are astonishing! What an accomplished knitter/artiste you are! Thank you for sharing them.

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    1. That is a timely quote that we all must take to heart. I was thinking after the lecture that we need to put more talks like that into the high schools. As good as it was, she was preaching to the choir. Most of us seniors have heard Holocaust stories before and know what is at stake. Kids don't get history in schools anymore.

      On the sweaters, I only had to tear out a dozen rows to redo on the tractor when I counted wrong. It was an interesting project that was hard to put down. Knitting graphics and patterns is good for honing your math skills. The lady bug sweater didn't photograph the color as pretty as it is and I gave it away before I could shot it again.

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  3. Your sweater and the vest are just adorable! I wish I had a baby to knit for.

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    1. I wish I could get Levi to wear sweaters, I'd knit for him but he fights any attempt to put sweaters or jackets on him.
      Molly likes to dress up, there are lots of cute dog sweater patterns.

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  4. Now that was an interesting life enrichment lecture! I hope our Village finds some great learning speakers for our group. Opening June 3.

    I am in awe of your knitting skills. A friend (former neighbor) creates her own patterns and after getting them tests, sells them on ravelry. I think everyone in her family now knits. Each of her patterns has a story ... from her trips to the Oregon coast to a trip to Ireland. Impressive talent you knitters!

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    1. Our senior hall networks with other places in the area who use speakers so they can share resources.

      Some of those Revelry patterns are great, others not so much. That vest pattern was purchased online and pretty useless. If I wasn't an experienced knitter I never would have been able to follow it. Making a pattern isn't a skill I have. I could add a graphic or design to plain front sweaters but that's the extent I'd go and that's just math. Love to see a link to your friend's trip to Ireland creation.

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  5. I LOVED this post! I'd love to hear this lecturer...wonder if she ever comes out West? What was the quote, do you remember? I can probably Google it, I guess. The sweater and vest were adorable!

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    1. I already tried to find the quote before writing this post but I couldn't. It was mostly a string of adjectives like sociopath, liar, etc., that she rattled off very quickly. She has a website at: http://www.stavishstorytelling.com/index.html but it looks like she only has one appearance this summer at the international Storytellers Festival in Jonesborough, TN in June.

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  6. What beautiful sweaters!! It is so difficult to knit patterns, with all differing colors. I always had a hard time keep the colors wrapped around each other when switching, so no hole would appear. Of course my fave is the John Deere vest.

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  7. Since I discovered the yard bobbins I'm more confident. Those forgotten wraps can drive you crazy. LoL

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  8. Interesting stories from Denmark during the war. And really pretty sweaters. I hope you are feeling much better.
    Regards,
    Leze

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    1. There are so many great stories in history. I really enjoyed this lecture.

      Still have a deep cough but feel better each day.

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  9. This is fascinating. As one who is intrigued and can't get enough of WWII history I find this story beautiful and mesmerizing. But then, the Dutch were just remarkable in their resistance. We only think of Anne Frank but this story shows how that was just the well known part of people doing good. Saving all but 500, and those children -- wow. I didn't know about this; I'd love to hear that talk.

    You are a wonderful knitter! Those are just adorable! I'm glad you're feeling a little better.

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  10. Whew, it gives me chills reading about all the perseverance people had in the disjointed world of Denmark and neighboring countries back then. These people you speak of were the antithesis of dis-jointed. My, how inspiring!

    So glad the museum was saved when someone tried to burn it down. Oh, my.

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    1. She had a lot of interesting research on the Danish people's resistance against Hitler. It was really uplifting.

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  11. There is so much focus on the harm that humans do to each other it is good to read this account.

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    1. I know what you mean. I walked out of the lecture thinking if I had Danish ancestors I would be very proud of their WWII history.

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  12. Dagnabit! I commented a couple of days ago but I think the internet ate my comment. So here I go again...let's see, what did I write again?
    Oh yeah, these are the types of stories that need to be told - and often, to the young especially!
    Also, love the knitting! Something I should get back to. You are inspiring, Jean!

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    1. I mostly knit for an excuse to sit in the living room in front of the TV. I can't seem to do the latter without something in my hands. LOL

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    2. I hear that! I used to knit to keep my hands from going (via a bag of snacks) to my mouth, while watching TV. Nowadays I need something to keep me from falling asleep...LOL!

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  13. You did a beautiful job on the sweaters. I used to crochet, but I never learned to knit.

    This was such an interesting account. It's very disheartening to see anti-Semitism on the rise in our country. Shameful.

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    1. I honestly don't understand how people can condone that kind of hate growing in America. I also don't understand why Trump ordered Home Land Defense to quit tracking hate groups in our country...well, I understand HIM doing it but not the fact that people around him are letting him do it.

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  14. I'm very admiring of your knitting skills. I tried to learn how to knit when I was a kid, but I never did get the hang of it. I have a friend who is a very talented knitter (the kind who can make up beautiful abstract designs as she goes), and I have some wonderful sweaters that she gave me as gifts.

    This was a part of WW2/Holocaust history that I didn't know. Many thanks for sharing it.

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    1. I made an abstract sweater once. It turned out great but I probably ripped out as much as I knitted. Fun though.

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  15. Your knitting is truly delightful. Expect your gifts will be greatly appreciated. Like the tractor. I’ve never learned to knit so looks very complicated to me.

    Holocast-years stories always send chills through my body. Sounds like a truly fascinating presentation. A gal in our writing group a few years ago wrote her story as her mother related it to this gal’s (her daughter) husband — is available on Amazon.— Isabelle’s Attic. What a harrowing time as the daughter was only 3 years old and one of only three children who survived from that town in Poland where the family had been very prominent.

    I vividly recall news of those years I heard on the radio, and saw in b&w newsreels whenever I went to movies. I used to think about what I would do to help those people — how I could spy and fool the Nazis.. There must be many unsung heroes and stories we’ll never know of and people who may have died trying to help the resistance. I’ve always believed there were good Germans and have been interested in how they coped during those years. In fact, coincidentally, I had been reading documented histories of what happened written years ago, and how such a person gradually came to power and became a dictator before our last election.I always believed that could never happen in our country, but have been shocked to see the step-by-step manner in which we started going down that same road in 2016. Lots at stake In our nation.

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    1. I think most of us liked to believe it could never happen again but have been shocked and scared to see the parallels from the past playing out before our eyes now. The disrespect for the rule of law and the eroding of our co-equal branches of government are steps that should not be crossed but are in the past two years. Clearly a good 1/3 of our country isn't educated enough to see what is going on or they don't care.

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  16. Most of the stories I've heard about such efforts during WWII involve France, Germany, and England. I'd not heard this history from Denmark, but it's inspiring. Now I'm wondering if some of the Danish communities I know of in this country, including Danevang here in Texas, might somehow be connected to those resettlement efforts. It would be interesting to know if any of those Danish Jews ended up here.

    I do have one reader whose grandparents fled Ukraine under cover of darkness during Stalin's regime. The tales are hair-raising, in every sense of the word.

    Your sweaters are delightful. My mother was a crack knitter, too, but she didn't do such designs. She was given more to patterns, including the ones that are typical of Nordic sweaters. I'm so glad I still have some of those to remember her by.

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    1. Same for me on my knowledge about WWII. From what little I've read since this lecture I think Sweden's part in saving Jewish people from the camps is an under covered part of history---at least on this side of the Pond.

      I still have one two of my mom's Scandinavian/Nordic sweaters. Those complicated designs must have taken forever to make.

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    2. P.S. I still have the pattern my mom used for those sweaters. I might try it next winter.

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  17. First -- impressive knitting! My crocheted blankets pale in comparison, but I do love the feeling of peace and calm it gives me to work on one. The lecture sounds amazing...there are plenty of opporutnities at all times for good people to do something!

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    1. Knitting is calming too, like a meditation almost.

      I wish a few more good people would stand up in D.C. and do the right thing for the country!

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