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07.03.2015

Unsung Hero (Part 1)

The river Doubs, Swiss/French border.
I looked at the neat pile of notebooks in front of me – everything that was left of my grandfather.

The call had come at 3 am Sydney time.

"Granddad's just died." Mother's voice didn't sound as if it was travelling sixteen-thousand-six-hundred kilometres.

"I'll take the next plane."

"No. He was adamant you should stay where you are. He asked me to tell you that a funeral is no excuse for missing your exams."

That sounded like Granddad all right. He'd helped pay for my studies in Australia. Shortly before my departure, he'd fallen ill but still urged me to go.

"Is there anything of his you'd like to have?" she asked.

"His diaries. If nobody else wants them."

They were sitting on my desk when I arrived home two weeks after
my final exams. Still jetlagged, I grabbed them and went to my favourite spot by the lakeshore. I sat under a tree and fished one of the notebooks out of my backpack. The cover looked like black and white marble. The label read 1943. Granddad's small, neat writing filled lined pages that began to yellow around the margins and smelled musty. I opened at random.

"23 November: Passed a loaf of bread through the fence to a French woman."

I smiled, remembering the Sunday afternoon when Granddad had told me that story. The smell of his coffee laced with apple-schnapps, a tin of Grandma's home-made biscuits, the clicking of her knitting needles in the background.
(To be continued)

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