[Rhineland, spring 1920] After their first meeting in Bonn, the reserve between Chiara and John and the German Bergmanns quickly vanished. They talked over the telephone, Chiara sent photos of her children, her mother Amber and all her relatives over there in America.
Winemakers on both sides of the Atlantic
Chiara’s heart grew heavy when she thought of her mother’s family back home in America, and Lottie and Matthias shared their worries. In the USA, prohibition was applied since 1919 nationwide, in vain President Wilson had exorcized his veto. Now all drinks with more than 0.5% alcohol content were prohibited, so wine and beer too. This threatened the winemaker’s existence, and also the “Mountain Men Vineyard” in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia had to fight for its survival. Like most winemakers, they switched to grape juice and continued to grow wine only within the framework of the legal exceptions. Their German relatives on the Rhine, who had come to love the vineyard, felt with them from the bottom of their hearts.
A wedding in February
February 1920 was warm, already at the end of the month the first crocuses bloomed. Kathi loved these little flowers with her splendid colors that radiated optimism even in rough times. Kathi and Max knew well that they had to face hard years, but they were in love, gave strength to one another, and wanted to change things for the better.
Kathi’s family and friends had come to the Bergmann winery for her wedding. Chiara and John had gotten leave for that day. Kathi and Susan showed them their “Stübchen”. Chiara was eager to see the place where her beloved grandfather had spent so much time as a child. Now Kathi and Susan ran a soup kitchen here, a small low priced grocery store, and Kathi still drove around the villages delivering food. Helene the seamstress worked miracles out of remnants. Chiara was deeply moved: “Grandpa Lorenz would be so proud on you!”
“This is certainly not easy for you,” said Kathi, “You and John are here, your children are at home in the United States, you must miss them very much.” Chiara smiled wistfully. “Oh, yes, we both miss them,” she replied, “they are with their grandparents now. Yet, our children would be badly disappointed with me if I let their Dad down, so I had to come. And we won’t be separated for long time, John got orders to stay in Coblenz for two years, and in the summer holidays the two children will come over and help on our small farm that the AFG quartermasters have set up, and then we all will meet again. But now let us celebrate your wedding.”
Bring our world back into balance
Joscha and Marie had also come for Kathi’s wedding, much to the delight of their families and friends. Hungary had gone through bad times after the war, the family was worrying about them. Finally the Csabany estate near Budapest was safe and looking forward to better times, and Joscha handed over its management to a cousin.
Late in the evening, when the family was still sitting together, Joscha took a deep breath and said: “Austria and Belgium want to negotiate an agreement to settle the Austrian debt to Belgian citizens, maybe I can help, Marie and I will go to Brussels.” When he saw Lottie’s frightened face, he added, “I know it won’t be easy, they have every reason to hate us. I want to do it, for Mama, I want to find out if our Brussels friends are still alive, and if there is any hope to re-establish old relationships. It is not easy for anyone in these days, not for you in the occupied Rhineland, and not for Chiara’s family either.” Chiara gave him a grateful smile. “No, it is not easy for all of us. I agree with you, we all have to do our best to bring our world back into balance. And .. you two would be welcome to represent Austria in the USA, too!”
The photo is from the German Wikipedia, public domain section.