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04.03.2017

Go West! (Part 2)

I shrugged. What did she know, married and pregnant with her first child and yet four years younger than me?  

I am the second of ten brothers and sisters. Traditionally, my parents' farm will go to the eldest brother. We others have to make our living elsewhere. Work is hard to find. The factories are sometimes looking for people but those are badly paid fourteen-hour jobs that will make you cough your soul out because of the soot and fibre in the air. 

Nevertheless, some families have no choice but to send their children to the factories. It's their job to creep under the looms and mend the broken strings; an important if dangerous task that can't be accomplished by grownups.

My parents, too, were unable to keep all of us at home. There were too many mouths to feed, so they gave my sister and one brother into care. Josy stays with her godfather and Walter with a schoolmate of Father's. Such children are called 'service children' because they are employees rather than family members, and it can be a hard lot. To outsiders this common custom must seem cruel. It's true that
Walter and Josy have to work for their living at a young age but this way they don't have to leave school early, don't go hungry and are treated well. Not all the service children are so lucky. Many are exploited as cheap workers, even illtreated. Still, as long as there's so much poverty, it can't be helped. 

My father told me I could work on the farm until I got married. When I read the notice, I was twenty-five with still no suitor in sight. The people in the village already called me the spinster. So my prospects were anything but rosy. 

That night I tossed and turned and did a lot of soul-searching. In the morning, I scraped my savings together, asked Mother whether I could get the day off and begged a lift from a farmer on his way to the market in Aarau.
(To be continued) 

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