Magda told me the story, which happened more than 50 years ago. Magda was then not even 10 years old. She was very small and thin and the people thought that she was 3 or 4 years younger than she really was. In the neighbourhood there were many children Magda played with. One of them was Elena. Magda didn’t particularly like Elena but when they played in groups both always joined in. They were almost the same age but Elena was almost two heads taller than Magda and about 15 kilos heavier.
In a quarrel, as happens between children, Elena grabbed Magda’s doll and held it high in the air, so that Magda could not reach it. Magda jumped as high as she could but Elena only laughed, because she knew that Magda had no chance. In the meantime Magda had become quite angry and tried to hit Elena. Elena, surprised, let the doll fall to the ground and stood with one foot on its face. Magda saw red with anger. Her favourite doll in the dirt, possibly destroyed. Magda began to hit out at Elena, but Elena, being taller, stretched out her arms and prevented Magda from reaching her body with her small fists. Magda changed her strategy and began to scratch Elena’s arms fiercely. Elena screamed with pain and it wasn’t long before she ran off in tears. Magda picked up her doll. The doll’s plastic face was dented, its dress was torn and the doll covered in dirt.
Magda washed her doll. It took almost an hour before she succeeded in restoring the doll’s plastic face to its original form. With the dress she could do nothing. When she got home, her mother called her into the kitchen for a talk.
Elena’s mother had already visited her mother and complained about Magda. As both mothers were very close friends and got on well with one another, Magda didn’t get a chance to tell her side of the story. Magda had to bend over and her mother spanked her bottom 10 times with a wooden spoon. It hurt there, but not so much as the emotional pain that Magda felt. She had only defended herself against Elena, she had only defended her doll. And what had the mothers do to with the matter, it was something between her and Elena. After 50 years one could still feel from the story the injustice of the smacks, the humiliation suffered then.
The result was that Magda did not build up a real bond of trust with her mother. But another result was that throughout her life she never once struck one of her many children. She had learned her lesson the hard way.
I had the great fortune to have landed on the sunny side of life. Favourable biological, family and also social conditions have all made a substantial contribution and offered me opportunities, which I have simply grasped.
I am well aware that my life could have been quite different. It would be naive to think that one could change everything oneself, if the starting conditions had not been so favourable. So I feel a great gratitude and humility for what I have. The people, with whom I work, are in much the same situation. We know that we are privileged. Therefore, we try to give back something to those, who did not have as much luck as we did. So this year we are selling apples for Caritas Zürich. An apple for 5 francs and the proceeds go to children living in poverty. Yes, they really exist, very well hidden in rich Switzerland.Read More »
It is Sunday, the wind is sweeping over Lago Maggiore and creating small waves, sometimes with a sprinkling of white foam. I’m sitting in my Laser, a small one-man yacht, in which even when there is scarcely any wind one gets a wet bottom. I’m sailing from Ascona to Ronco with the objective of sailing round the tiny island of Brissago and then returning with a following wind to the harbour in Ascona.Read More »
As a child I was forced by my father to weed his fruit and vegetable garden. That was uncomfortable, boring and for me quite senseless. I would have preferred to play with colleagues, instead of making a contribution to the economic success of my father, the hobby gardener. His successes were also mixed and it seemed to me that that the cost far outweighed the benefit. Once condemned to gardening, there was no escape.Read More »
They were always very short of money. As long as Karl could remember, at the end of every month there had been a yawning hole in his mother’s housekeeping budget, the result of which was that he had to take stale bread for his snack or in the worst case no bread at all. But Peter, Karl’s classmate, always shared his sandwich with Karl. So Karl was never really hungry. Read More »
Das Geld war bei ihnen immer knapp. Soweit sich Karl zurück erinnern konnte hatte es am Ende jedes Monats eine gähnende Leere in Mutters Haushaltskasse gegeben, die dazu geführt hatte, dass er uraltes Brot zum Znüni mitnehmen müsste oder im schlimmsten Fall gar kein Brot. Aber Peter der Schulnachbar von Karl hat immer mit Karl sein belegtes Brot geteilt. Read More »
Then I was on a student exchange in Leningrad. It’s years ago and in the meantime the city is called St. Petersburg. Then as today I lived close to the centre. Our student home then was five storeys high. The dormitory was large enough for 30 girls. The girls’ showers were on the fourth floor, the boys’ on the second. Everything was Spartan.
At 9.00pm the porter locked the main door and, whoever was not inside, had to wait until 6.00am until it was unlocked again. For a twenty year old ambitious economist, as I then was, this rule cried out to be disobeyed. It didn’t take long before I discovered that the cellar of our home was connected to the cellar of the next house. The other house stayed open the whole night. The way into the cellar was barred, but I was probably not the first or the last to disobey this youth unfriendly rule, One of the bars could be pushed aside. When one is young and very slim, a perfect way in.Read More »