Loveland Man Goes Home To Austria For The First Time Since WWII
My friend Kathy and I have been friends for years. Little did I know of her father's plight living in Austria during WWII. Now he's going home for the first time since the war.
Bill Becker's story started when he was only 3 years old, when he saw his family being carted off in a wagon never to be seen again. He was a German living in Russia during WWII. Since they were at war, the Russians gathered many German families and most of them ended up in Siberia to be put in concentration camps. Many of those families didn't make it, and, unfortunately, Bill's family was one of those families.
His mother knew of their future fate, and since Bill was too little and sickly, she feared for his life, so she made arrangements with her sister, who was married to a Russian soldier, for Bill to stay behind with her. However, her sister wasn't too receptive of young Bill, and neglected him, making this 3 year old sleep in the cold barn with the dog.
Another Aunt (on Bill's father's side) heard of the ordeal, and decided to kidnap young Bill in the middle of the night, and flee Russia for Austria. Once they got there, they lived in what was called displacement persons camps for 10 years, often living in deplorable conditions. The camp where young Bill and his Aunt, (who later became his mother) lived was in a large horse barn. Each family had a small space separated by bed sheets, and many families were crammed into this horse barn.
Food was very scarce for these families, but it was through a miracle that this family survived, thanks to a Russian man who helped to feed them. When the United States Army arrived and made their base in Salsburg, they were looking for civilians to work on the base. This Russian man found work originally doing some welding work, but eventually made his way to working in the mess tent feeding the American soldiers.
One day he saw young Bill and his Aunt walking down the street, and he was captivated by the woman's beauty. He would tell young Bill, who would be walking by the Army camp on his way to school, to bring a wagon, and he would save the food that the soldiers didn't finish on their plates, and send it home with him to feed his family. This Russian man, who would later become Bill's father, faced his own tragedy during the war. He was married with children, and lost them all in the war, and even saw his own parents who were sick, being buried alive in a mass grave that the Russians made for the dead, and sickly.
They eventually managed to escape their bleak conditions for a better life, in America. Now, nearly 60 years later, Bill Becker will be going home to visit his childhood country where he and his family survived the brutal conditions of war time.
Bill's daughter Kathy had a dream of sending his parents back to Salsburg for a visit, but unfortunately funds for such a trip are extremely expensive. So she searched the internet and found the Jeremy Bloom Foundation, a foundation set up to help senior citizens live out that one last dream. Jeremy, who's a former Olympian, felt a need for such a foundation because often times our senior citizens are overlooked and forgotten. He set up this foundation to help make wishes come true for many senior citizens, and for Kathy, her dream of sending her parents back to Salsburg, Austria, is coming true.
Kathy saved her own money so she could go on this amazing trip with her parents, and they'll be leaving on Wednesday, April 16th, for a journey that Kathy says will be bittersweet. "This trip will bring back some sad memories, as well as some good ones..." Kathy stated, "We'll get to see the hill where my father played soccer when he was just a boy." That hill is the same hill where Julie Andrews stood to sing "The Sound of Music" in the movie.
Their journey will be filled with both joy and tears, and I'm hoping that Kathy will share her adventures with her parents, so we can share their journey with you.