Comments on diaries

Our diaries about 50ies

Eva v. Zobeltitz/Bremen
Comments on Sardinian diary

I´m adressing Sardinia
Dear Stephano, dear Carlotta,
you´ve created a most lovable diary with pictures and texts, with details like plaited ribbons, little roses, food items and one can see how many times the hand written document had been touched through the last 60 years. You have succeeded to convey a feeling of affection and intensitiy, also through both languages. We could read about school being a privilege, teachers who used to be very strict and caning was usual. Love, marriage and family seemed to have played a major role as in most other countries
It was great pleasure to be taken into the Sardinian world of the 50ies. In fact even my 89 year old mother being seriously ill would take it in her hands and was most delighted to be reminded of her times.
Thanks a lot.

Eva v. Zobeltitz
Comment on the Romanian diary
Dear friends,
Your little booklet was most interesting. Your words of philosphical deepness at the beginning and in the end felt like a beautiful piece of literature and I noticed myself being taken in into „your world“ of affection and gratefulness to life. Your diary also surprized me through its old shape, burnt edges and the gender handwriting. It was a description of the very poor material situation – 8 people sharing 2 rooms, clothes mended and reshaped, no electricity – the after war situation being still present and church and religion playing a great role reinforcing the bond with God.
Your protagonist once said: „ You don´t need too much of an education to feed the chicken, do you?“ this statement seemed to be essential to the way of thinking of those days, yet she meets her cousin from the city who gives her an idea of the city life where lipsticks were taken instead of butter on dry lips in winter , and her education in the city seemed to continue.
You used very lively pictures to describe Romanian rural life where following basic needs filled most part of life.
We thank you for that grand work.

Eva v. Zobeltitz
Comment on the Sicilian diary
Dear students,
your diary was most touching for its beautiful photos. Young women as well as men proudly showing presence and importance either on engagement or wedding or as farmer with their cow or with their new car. When reading your texts I could imagine all those matters around school and how girls were „encouraged“ to give their best, or how important and yet intruding church was, what it meant to marry and then for some people of the village to emigrate into a new world.
You created a great document which is nice to hold in one´s hand.

Eva v. Zobeltitz
Comment on the Polish diary
Dear friends in Jaworznia, dear Comenius students,
today I had the time to read and study and really enjoy your diaries. You´ve found a very pleasant way of compiling many texts and pictures from different people covering so many various topics. I could open your book with the ribbon easily and display every page. What a job to arrange things for six schools! Just brilliant!
I was very pleased to find such detailed information to get a close insight especially into rural life of the 50ies of your country and then into the city life.
In the country each member of the greater family had his role which was necessary to keep up family life, from kids leading cows to the pasture up to grandpa helping to repair machines, women to spin, weave, sew or mend clothes, or girls to help with everything in the household. Everything was handmade and only with very simple tools. Farm work wasn´t enough to sustain the family, mine work and housework was also essential. People in the country „had their hands full of work“ to keep up a poor life, the word „poor“ seen from the materialistic side.
And it definitely was hard work.
Even if photos of that time looked romantic and people seemed to be very satisfied the hardness of everyday life can be seen and is clearly described. Children who walked barefoot to church and only infront of the church they put on their shoes, mattresses which were stuffed with grass, or the clever yet difficult methods of storing food, wardrobes which didn´t contain much,or even teeth that had to be pulled out by the blacksmith-it is hard to imagine this in our times.
Quite some things reminded me on my youth, especially greater festivities and how people decorated Easter eggs or prepared the Christmas tree; clothes that had become too small were handed over and altered for the younger ones.
In the city and for a family where both parents had good work life was more promising; kids could have free time to spend on school work, read, do sports activities, even go on a holiday, study languages, have school experiments. It was nice to see the other side and to „meet“ quite another standard of life belonging to a richer family where people could afford to hire a car of the father´s factory and go on a family outing. How interesting your photos were, a very nice research work.
Thank you for all that. I hope many people have read your diary and will still read it. We must think of a good way of disseminating those precious pieces of work. At least Gabriela from Romania promised to have books scanned and put into the webblog.
How fascinating a look into the 70ies must be.

Eva addressing to the Latvians
Dear authors of the beautiful diary of the 50s,
today I read your diary and at first sight I was impressed by the loveable handcraft with which the cover was decorated. It helped me to walk back into those days.
You investigated the time with the help of interviewing elderly people and a realistic picture evolves before the reader´s eye. Sometimes strange names appear, a language that is far away from my language and those Romanic-Germanic sounds and syllabuses which we in Germany are only famiar with. That´s fascinating and shows me the diversity of our project.
Days of hardship to get along with the basic needs are described, children had to help in the house, pick frozen potatoes from the fields, do handcraft in the evening, collect stamps or candy wrappings and behave nicely and respectful at home or at school. Things that seem to be granted in those days. Despite of the poor conditions and hardship it is always emphasized that people lived in harmony, a question that the author is contemplating now and then leaving open if our present time in which we just „google“ things provides greater ingenuity and happiness.
What is special from your side is the fact that in many cases war had taken away fathers and the political situation interfered a great deal into life. Rooms in the house were let to soldiers, fathers had remained in the war or had disappeared because of a strict political system, holidays were taken in Soviet countries, religion was not free to be practised, queueing took a great part of the day.
These certainly are things that are interesting to talk about.
Also through historical photos the reader gets a pretty clear and authentic picture of the 50ies.
And the authors got in touch with their grandparents, greatgrandparents, greatgreat….. What a good idea to join Comenius!
Thanks to all the people who were involved in that great work.

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3 Comments »

  1. As soon as we have come back from Bremen, we have analyzed the diaries we brought, in order to compare them and find out similarities and differences. Everyone in our class wanted to see,touch and keep them.Some students brought the books home to show them, their families and relatives. Our attention has focused on means of transport used in partner countries.
    As far as it concerns the means of transport in the 50ies, in Sicily very few people had the ” Fiat 1100″ and most of them went on foot, by cart and horses; while in Sardinia people used motorcycles, bicycles, horses and carts and they also went on foot a lot; In Germany “Fiat 500″; in Polland there were the ” Syrena car”, the warszcuva luxury car. They also used fast trains colled ” Torpeda” for long distances and buses colled ” robur” in towns. Lorries colled ” Star” were also used to transport heavy goods. In Romenia people travelled by train to visit relatives because cars were very expensive; they used trams in town, when necessary, but most of the time they went on foot in town and in the country. In all diaries everyone’s dream was to have a luxury car to go out, it’s really significant the last sentence written in the diary from Romenia: “The only travelling I do is going to the 8th of September fair in the nearby town – and to get there I need to walk all the 10 Kilometres. I’d like to travel using a cart, but my mum said travelling with it is too expensive for us to waste money on it!

  2. zbyszek said

    Dear Comenius Friends,
    It was really interesting and fascinating task to produce the fictional diaries depicting life in the 50`s. Although the diaries were fictional they gave us the opportunity to study different aspects of life in different countries in the past decades because the commentaries and material on which their content was based on was authentic and reliable.
    Here in Kielce we have organized our little diary exhibition so that every student in our school could see,read and learn about various topics from the diaries. Students` parents were invited to the exhibition too and they also admired the diaries.
    As far as the Italian diary is concerned a lot of students, teachers and parents liked the idea of coffee stained pages which made them look older, almost like from the past years. Another good point were sample pages written in Italian language so they looked quite mysterious, realistic and even more interesting. Despite the fact that we could only see a small part of the history we obviously noticed many similarities our countries had in common. From the letters written by women in the 50`s we have learnt that just like in Polish schools Italian teachers were strict or cruel sometimes , no wonder children didn’t want to go to school because they were punished by teachers when they made mistakes or were not clever enough at studying school subjects. Punishment made by smacking or sending to a corner was quite common and often in use. In churches priests were very inquisitive during confession and wanted to know even most intimate matters from their parishioners. Marriages arranged by parents were also very popular and in some cases an unwanted necessity which frequently ended in runaways from home. What surprised some of our students was the fact that women had to put on veil to cover their faces before entering the church. Another difference was the way of celebrating the 1-st of May. While in Poland it was obligatory to attend the street parade with communist party leaders watching people from the parade stands made specially for the occasion, in Italy everyone went to the country or to the beach to have a barbecue, relax or just have a swim in the sea. Last but not least the photos showed us separate histories ranging from children at school in their uniforms, Italian ladies and gentlemen wearing elegant clothes, wedding presents, modern cars , relaxing on the beach, having fun at a party to just ordinary and usual chores at home like doing the laundry, milking the cow or preparing food. They made us think of the times when many things had to be made at home by hand because people couldn’t buy everything they needed at the shops.
    Next the Romanian diary took us to the world of living in a village with no electricity, poor living standards and quite harsh living conditions. Families consisted of grandparents, parents and children living together and sharing the same small house. There was only one doctor for 4 thousand inhabitants living there. In Poland people shared the same communist regime during those years which resulted in the fact that religion was taught in families and people stopped going to church because they were too afraid of losing their social status. As a result of the Second World War the rural areas were underdeveloped and a lot of people suffered from the lack of food and money. The everyday life in the countryside was boring and not very exciting with the same old routine like feeding the animals, taking care of younger siblings, cooking, weaving, cleaning, washing, ironing. The villagers had only one shop in the whole village and a lot of things were made by hand, for example the wooden furniture. Similar to Polish villages, people often gathered for a kind of social meetings in one house to help with some domestic works whereas the host provided food for them. We also had and luckily still have the same customs during Christmas and Easter time like singing carols, decorating Christmas tree, preparing presents or painting eggs for Easter. Different custom to ours was “ Martisoare” described in the Romanian diary as a cord with two coloured threads, one white and one red, when the white colour meant purity and the red one love.
    Finally, the German diary was presented in a form of a book narrated by four children from the Schneiders family, three girls and a boy who made comments about their everyday life in Bremen during the 50`s surprisingly in a secret before each other. We start learning how the life in this city looked like by reading memoirs written by the oldest daughter in the family, Annemarie who tells us about her life within four years from 1950 to 1954. We begin quite an interesting journey with her when she describes still poor living conditions during the early 50`s and tells us about her grandmother sleeping on a blanket in a kitchen because of the lack of space in the house. Here again we have found a lot of similarities to our country such as family members taking a bath in a huge wash tub in the same water but on different days of the week. Similarly, school life with classes having as many as 42 students in one class and physical punishment at school. The following pages of the diary are told by her two younger sisters Dagmar and Helga who tell us about other similar aspects of life in those years such as complaints that younger sisters had to wear their older sister worn out clothes because clothes were very expensive. They also remind us about the time when students before lessons used to welcome their teachers and say the Lord’s Prayer together and about a milkman selling milk in the street. At last the diary is told by their brother Hans who takes us to his technology class and describes modern devices of that time mentioning some of them: a camera, an electric light, a cooker, an iron, a fridge, a record player or a transistor radio. What a happiness it was to have a TV set, let alone a brand new car about which Hans talks a lot. He uses his diary to write about his feelings and experiences, about good and bad days from his life, for example he feels sorry for his sister Helga when she was ill and was taken to hospital or when his rich uncle Peter buys a brand new Fiat 500 and takes him for a ride. He sums up his life of that time as very comfortable one and in fact he is pleased with his family and friends. It was real pleasure to see some photos from the 50`s which evoke recollections of those years. We had a chance to see interesting photos of a living room and a kitchen with some kitchen appliances, the city life with old trams,cars,horse carts and shopping stalls in the market place. However, our school sport funs really enjoyed the photos of German footballers as the famous winners of the the world championship in Bern in 1954.
    On the whole reading the diaries was an extraordinary opportunity to compare the life in the 50`s, a great way of getting information quickly and experience the true culture of those countries. The greatest reward for us all was to involve our students in the project, the knowledge that together we have done the diaries on our own and that it was quite hard work involved. Hopefully, we are confident that we will carry out our next new tasks with conscientiousness and dedication.
    All the best for the future.
    Zbyszek , Ewa, Magda and our students

  3. Eva Bremen said

    Hi Polish friends,
    late at night I got involved in your comment and was very happy to see that you have carefully read all the diaries with pleasure and great patience and thoroughness. Thanks a lot. In fact through your comments I got even new ideas and aspects to think about which I had already forgotten.
    I personally think that this part of the project was my best experience since I´ve been doing Comenius. I had a feeling of gratitude to all the people who were involved in the topic, who were taking part in the conference here in Bremen and I´m very much looking forward to our next meeting which seems to be getting another highlight in our project.It shouldn´t be complicated to report on this first year towards the national agency here in Bonn.
    All the best to the Polish lot.
    See you soon
    Love Eva

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