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Lost but Not Forgotten 1

Freda Isaksen

A wine carafe is usually light weight so that the liquid contents should not make it too heavy to lift, but my wine carafe is made of heavy crystal so it was surely designed to be a decorative piece. It’s unusual in its design because it’s made of clear glass with etchings of amber colored flowers, and it has a sterling silver pouring spout, which lacks a stopped. It’s beautiful enough to grace any serving table.

It was a present from my husband’s friend who was attending our wedding as best man. The ceremony was held in London on Regent Street in 1936. The friend traveled from Norway to London for the occasion. My husband was also a Norwegian and after the wedding I returned with him to his country as a new bride, supposedly to live there happily ever after. I started a new home in my new country and a new life with the help of all the presents I received from family and friends from the two countries, and each gift was useful and precious, and now after 67 years I remember so many of them, but unfortunately I lost just about everything when the Nazis occupied Norway in 1940 and stole our possessions and our lives.

So why do I write about one specific present—a glass wine carafe? Because when I left Norway to save my own life I opened my front door and closed it behind me not realising that I would never return there to live. I thought this departure would be temporary and I would return to find everything as I left it. I took only small personal and essential items. If I had been inclined to save anything the wine carafe would have been the last thing I would have chosen. But today I can look at it and remember it as a symbol of everything else that was lost.

I left the Nazi horror behind by escaping first to Sweden and then to the U.S. It took about 25 years before I returned to visit the site of my old home and those of my family and friends who survived the war and the Holocaust. Of course I knew that everything we previously owned was long gone. I did not grieve for that because material things can be replaced. Whilst there, I was invited to dinner by a former friend, as I was sitting at the dining table I noticed a lovely wine carafe adorning the glass cabinet which was in the room. I remarked to my host, “I used to have a wine careafe just like that one.” He answered, “It’s probably yours because it just turned up after the war, just as many other things did, nobody ever claimed it so I don’t know who it originally belonged to, so I suppose it’s yours. Take it!”

So now that wine carafe without the lost stopper graces my dining room in Los Angeles. I was able to retrieve very few other small personal possessions and I am proud that I can remember how I acquired each thing and they will be antiques from the past and the history about them will be remembered by my children and grandchildren through my written stories.

Footnotes

  1. For the context of this story, see Freda’s Autobiography.


Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at math.wayne.edu.

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