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Elizabeth Brunner







Fairy Tales around

19th May 1996... 

the story about a baby in a box 



Sunday, the 19th of May 1996 ...  

Elizabeth carried on, "he went with me and my mother ... shall I tell you another story?" Dagmar beamed, "yes! Please tell me."

            She continued, "I was four or six months old. You see in those days you could not rent things, so you had to take on the train all the things you needed, even furnitures, and for mother and father specially their things for painting, the easels etc.

They had made from iron a folding bed and all the things they needed. In autumn already. Finally it came the problem of me. Mother was still nursing me. And mother did not know cooking. But father knew a little, because in his childhood he had to look after his baby brother. Mother never learned sewing either, but she cut material and put me into frocks etc. So, finally they reached with all this luggage (boxes, paint-boxes and brushes and what not) Munich.

            But they arrived via Vienna. And in Vienna was the customs. The custom man opened everything one after the other, examined and passed it. And then the custom officer saw mother carrying the little box (all padded with cotton wool) in a sling across her shoulders with me inside. And what is in this, he demanded, expecting to find jewelleries in it. Mother was a little shy (although she was not a shy person), still, she could not say that there was a baby in it. So the officer grabbed the box and threw it on the floor. And then the child in it started howling. Nothing happened to me because I was so well wrapped-up. So the officer looked at the baby and laughed. Mother took it over her shoulder again. Then the officer took his stamp and put a huge stamp on the box. No customs for this, was his comment."

This made both Elizabeth and Dagmar laugh out aloud. "This story the whole family knew," said Elizabeth and she carried on:

            "In Munich my father took always the same studio every year. It was in the Maria Theresian Strasse near the Pinakothek. First time as a baby, I stayed in Munich for six months. They used to go back home to Hungary in the summer, and be in Munich in the winter. His 'guru' had his school in Munich, the famous artist Simon Hollósy [Elizabeth pronounced the name Shimon Holoshy].

            There were no lifts in those days, of course. Father's studio was six floors up. Very good light up there, of course, for painting etc. So there were those very hefty strong German men helping mother and father. These huge Germans carried all their things up to that 6th floor. When the folding bed was carried up, my mother was standing in the room with me in the box over her shoulders. To better tell the men were to place things, she put my box right in the middle of the room. The men had also become curious about the box. So my mother asked them to open it. And those Germans, they became like soft butter. Huge men with big bones, they all knelt down and spoke in German 'ein Kindlein, ein Kindlein'. My mother said it was alright to pick me up and those huge big people were so sweet and so gentle.  -  To my mother it remained a kind of a riddle after what happened later on and during the war in Germany.

            Years later in India, I told my mother that we should do one more exhibition in Munich. After our stay in Japan, remember? My mother wanted to have an exhibition in England of our Indian paintings. So after that exhibition in England, she wanted to show me Europe, show me all the museums and great works of art, of course." Dagmar asked, "that was in 1938 was it not?" "Hm," Elizabeth, "a strange thing happened on our way in the train to Munich. We were looking out of the window, all of a sudden our train stopped. Another two trains passed by. In one of them Hitler was going, in the other Chamberlain, in opposite directions. We did not see them, but we were told."


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Copyright © Dagmar Barua 1997 Sass Brunner East West Trust, 75, Rabindra Nagar, New Delhi - 110 003