The silver spoon

This unremarkable silver spoon, decorated with a floral pattern, tells the story of the Waschkies family. An engraving points to the (previous) owner. The initials “EW” stand for Emilie Waschkies.

Emilie Waschkies flees with her daughter and granddaughter from the family's estate in Laugallen in the Memel Territory (now Lithuania) in January 1945. The Soviet army catches up with them and takes them to Belarus to work. Among the very few things from their escape luggage that they still have at this point in time is this spoon, as well as a saucepan and a pen knife. It is stuck in a honey jar that Emilie carries with her in her handbag.

The prisoners' walk is terrible: it is cold, there is hardly anything to eat; small children who can no longer walk alone must be left behind. In this hopeless situation, Emilie gives her ten-year-old granddaughter Christa a spoonful of honey every now and then. At our meeting, Christa Leifert remembers this spoon full of sweet honey as a great refreshment. Emilie herself collapses more and more. The 66-year-old finally dies in October 1945, completely exhausted.

Christa Leifert and her mother arrive at Friedland camp in 1948, and their sparse luggage also includes the little silver spoon. For Christa it is a souvenir, on the one hand of the deceased and the circumstances of her death, on the other hand of the family's possessions in the past. The small spoon is the only remnant that bears witness to the way of life on the large farm estate.

For me, this spoon also is as a symbol for life itself and survival. Just as table silver is handed down from generation to generation in families, the grandmother here passes the spoon on to protect the life of her granddaughter with a little extra food, as far as she can.

Katrin Pieper

[1] The spoon has been in the care of Museum Friedland since 2012. Since its opening it is exhibited in the attic of the museum, in the room “7 things”.

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