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Grace as a Child in Hungary and Germany



Prevenient grace is the grace that comes before we even have a relationship with God. It is a compound word. Prevenient is derived from the Latin meaning that which comes before. Grace is the undeserved favour of God. Why God should have come to me in this way I cannot tell you. When I think of all that I have done in life I deserve none of it. I have been my own worst enemy.

Before I continue, let me tell you about the unexpected ways grace can come to us. When I was at school at the age of fifteen the mathematics teacher hated me, especially the ruler I always brought to class. It was a linear ruler - made in a solid triangle of dense tropical hardwood with six edges of engraved measures in a shape much like a block of Toblerone chocolate. One edge was marked off in measures of 1/64-th of an inch.


He would repeatedly pick it up and announce loudly to the class that only metal rulers could be that accurate, not wooden ones.


I treasured that ruler and, in defiance, would bring it to every class. One day he had enough. He came over to the double desk I was sitting at, grabbed my ruler, and put all his strength against it to break it in half over his knee. It refused to break. The more effort he exerted the redder his face got, but he was surely determined to break it.


It is then I noticed that my friend, a gentle giant  who always sat beside me, had quietly walked behind the well-built teacher. He grabbed him from behind by his neck and belt, lifted him up, and with a smile on his face twirled him around horizontally several times high above the class. My friend was the Victorian junior weightlifting champion, Brian Courtnay. Then he put the teacher gently on his feet again. The teacher slunk back to his table up front and we never heard another word, not even from the Headmaster.


All I can say with certainty is that clergymen have been in my bloodline, both on my father's and mother's side. I am confident that those prayers offered up centuries ago have been honoured by God. On my mother's German side there was grandfather Pastor Oels whose photo I have published below. Somewhat more obscure, I am distantly related to Moricz Zsigmond, a major Hungarian novelist and journalist (1879-1942) who was born to Balint Moricz and Erzsebet Pallagi. Erzsebet herself was the daughter of a Reformed Church clergyman who is in my direct bloodline. ( and


It turns out that several on my father's side were Reformed church ministers who married the daughters of Reformed Church ministers. I am currently chasing up my Hungarian heritage through DNA testing. On my father's side the males attended Debreceni Reformatus Kollegium which I visited some years ago in Debrecen, Hungary.


I was given a hero's welcome despite my poor verbal Hungarian. I had the honour to personally leaf through a treasured 450 year-old Bible that was beautifully illustrated. I understand and read Hungarian moderately well as any child would, despite the fact that we moved to Germany when I was only 3 years old towards the end of WW II. Although the Reformed Church was dominant in our lineage my Hungarian grandmother, who died before I got to know her, was Catholic.

I was glad and not altogether surprised when my DNA search showed that I had a 1.4% match of my autosomal chromosomal DNA with Ashkenazi Jews (MyHeritage analysis). It roughly means that 6 generations ago (about 210-240 years ago) one of my grandparents was Jewish. Our family always had a soft spot for Jews. In post-war Germany I had often wondered why they never arrested my father during the war. He had a prominent crooked nose which German propaganda vehemently targeted. My father is pictured below with his mother whilst playing cards in Hungary before I was born. According to my son, who was more interested in genealogy at the time, my Hungarian father told him that his grandparents were of Transylvanian origin which is also in agreement with my DNA data.


Ashkenazis were of the diaspora who arrived in geographical Europe millenia ago. The apostle Paul visited such a community in Rome. From the data I estimate that an Ashkenazi got into our blood line about 250 years ago, possibly indicating descent from one of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin or the half-tribe Levi. On the other hand, the Southern kingdom, which was decimated by the Romans in 70 AD, was interspersed with a few members from the other 10 tribes (Luke 2:36). God is the ultimate keeper of records. He keeps everyone's genealogy (Revelation 7: 4-8).

DNA heritage 1.jpg
Pallaghy senior with his mother in Hungary.JPG

I am delighted that I had Christian forefathers whose prayers have surely carried through to us in this present age, but genealogy is not enough. It can work either way as was demonstrated during the ministry of Jesus. Jesus pointed out many times that a true Israelite is one who listens to the words of the Son of God. He demonstrated this in practice when he preferred to keep on talking to His disciples rather than go out of the house to greet His mother and brothers. Mary would have wondered about that.

God is Spirit and we must be born of the Spirit. That is the only way Christian unity can come. We must let go of the old and become new wine-skins, because the old cannot contain the new but will burst at the seams - this is what Jesus said.



Baby Moses should have perished at birth and then again as an adult when he slew the Egyptian guard. Jesus should have died when Herod slew all the boys in Bethlehem district two-years old and below. Jesus should have died when, on several occasions, the crowds tried to throw him over a cliff, but the scripture says that ‘His time was not yet’. The prophets record that God knew people before they were born and that all their days were written in a book before they were. We should not be surprised if we look back into our history and discover the many times we should have died, but did not. God seems to have had His hand on me since my birth.

I always felt sorry for my parents because I was born in November 1939 to a German mother and a Hungarian father. WWII had begun. In Hungary at about the age of two or three, I was admitted to hospital with scarlet fever. A Polish nun nearly succeeded in murdering me, the little Hitler as some called me in the hospital. I had blond hair and spoke in German to my mother. The nun was distraught because Germans had recently wiped out a Polish village. She was about to inject a fatal cocktail when a Hungarian doctor walked in and asked her what she was doing. On another occasion I had a bad bout of scarlet fever. Before the advent of penicillin that could have been fatal in those days.

Charles Pallaghy with mother and sister Hungary 1943 on

My next escape from death was when I had a very severe case of diarrhoea and was badly dehydrated. The doctors had given up on me, but an old woman in the village heard about it and came with a home remedy. It was simple and very effective - alum. The small crystals of potassium aluminium sulphate cured me.


My mother was very attached to her German culture. She was exceptionally good with Christmas carols and Christmas tree decorations. This ability has been passed on to me. As a child I loved Christmas services although I did not yet know God.


Using a boy to run her errands, she anonymously sent wonderful German cakes with a note in German to the German military dental unit. It made father nervous especially when one day a truck crammed with German officers stopped in front of our house to thank their anonymous well-wisher. I and my sister Elizabeth remember getting 'horsy' rides on the knees of our regular, friendly visitors. Every soldier suffers from homesickness. One of the surgeons remained a life-long friend. However, my father was worried and had an uneasy feeling that we would be branded collaborators. Some Hungarians loved the Germans and some hated them.

Charles Pallaghy's rabbit before cooked by invading Russian paratroopers 1943 on

I well remember the night we hid in the dark cellar and watched through a small basement window Russian paratroopers landing silently during the night in our extensive garden in Gorombo Tapolca. Their chutes were a ghostly white in the dim moonlight. They quickly hid their chutes and disappeared as suddenly as they had come. Get away from the window, somebody said in a hushed voice. Elizabeth and I cried the next morning to find our pet rabbits gone from their cages, probably taken for rabbit stew - see rabbits in photo.  Towards the end of the war  stories were spreading about the atrocities carried out by Russian shock troops as they advanced into Hungary. They certainly did that to Berlin when they got there. My father, an industrial chemist in charge of a magnesium plant, made hurried arrangements to transfer his job from Hungary to IG Farben in Germany, and for the family to live in Friedrichroda, Germany. My grandfather was a tall Lutheran pastor, very old fashioned in a Prussian way, who spoke very loudly thinking that my father would understand German better if he raised his voice. We lived in the two storey manse of Pastor Friedrich Oels. The southern Gotha district was a safe haven for military trains because of hills and tunnels close to town. We also attracted bombers because the new German jet interceptor was being developed there for mass production elsewhere.


We would scamper to the tunnels at the first sound of the sirens.  My sister, who is 4 years older than I, recalled that my mother used to comfort a neighbour’s distressed husband who would come home from work crying. He wouldn't tell his wife why. The reason seems clear enough to me now. The Ohrdruf concentration camp, liberated by General Eisenhower, was only 20 minutes down the road. I suspect he was employed at the camp.

Pastor Oels loved to take us on walks through the extensive Thuringian forests (which was used for ski jumping in winter with a run starting at 710 m). The big house to the right of the church, with the big blue-grey roof,  could have been the manse where we lived. A baker was next door. This scene was painted in 1920 but that is how it also looked during the war.

Friedrichrhoda Germany. Home of Charles Pallaghy's grandfather 1944 on

We would watch dogfights high above, and collect aluminium streamers hanging from tree branches that had been dropped by  waves and waves of heavy bombers droning their way across the sky on the way from East Anglia through to Dresden.  The streamers confused the German radar system, but were delightful on our Christmas tree. During one of our walks I raced ahead to pick up a brand new toy tank lying in the middle of the path. "Don't touch it", yelled grandfather. According to my mother and grandfather the allies had been dropping booby-trapped toys and fountain pens. Would a staunch Lutheran Pastor who hated the war lie?

(Friedrich Oels is shown with his daughter, Inge and my aunt, in long plats. The second young lady is unknown to me). My Aunt visited us several times once we moved to Australia. She never married after her fiancé, an officer in the German army, was shot in the head on the last day of the war. I visited her in Nurnberg where she lived in an old age home for ladies.

Grandfather of Charles Pallaghy 1935 on

Apparently, booby-trapped items also turned up where there were concentrations of Germans in Czechoslovakia. Milena lived with her older sister and parents in Starec railway station where they owned the railway restaurant. It was fairly isolated, about 2 km away from town, amongst the fields and had living quarters upstairs.

Railway restaurant stop in old Czechoslovakia for German troops. Milena Pallaghy's home during the war on
Former Czechoslovakian Railway station and restaurant in Starec, home of Milena Pallaghy on

The station had three tracks suitable for heavy goods trains carrying armaments. Military trains with troops and tanks would stop there, sometimes for days, when the tracks ahead were damaged. A German overseer ensured that the restaurant was continuously in top shape for the troops. Briefings were held in the crowded restaurant. According to Milena's older sister, Jana, the Germans on the military trains were gentlemen and even gave chocolates to the girls. Jana remembers looking over the shoulder of a German soldier who was writing a letter to his wife in a corner of their railway restaurant. Jana could read German. His letter began with 'Dearest ....'. 'Dearest' was underlined three times. The soldiers were homesick! At the end of the war the locals wanted to hang the overseeing officer but Milena's mother intervened testifying he had always been good to them.


Once the Russians took over, the girls had to be locked away upstairs for safety. Although the Russians claimed to have liberated Czechoslovakia they forcefully appropriated for themselves whatever their eyes desired. Whatever atrocities the Germans may have done elsewhere, at least their military organized  a 'comfort wagon', with willing women, on troop trains coming through Starec, thus preventing the rape of locals - at least, that is what Jana recollects.

Milena Pallaghy's (nee Kouril) family in Starec 1943 on

These photos are of Milena and her older sister Jana when the family was running the railway hotel.


Not so good was the fact that Milena's father was put into a low security concentration camp for serving beer more abundantly to Czechs and buying illegal wine on the black market. When he ran away and returned home  the local policeman turned a blind eye and said, 'I didn't see him. I didn't see him'.

Milena's Uncle (wearing glasses) did not fare as well. He was an outspoken young physics professor and was transferred to Dachau never to return. He would send postcards home pleading for them to save the stamps. Eventually they carefully loosened the stamps to add to his collection to find tiny notes scribbled underneath such as 'they've torn my tongue out'.


When we visited the station in 1990 Milena pointed to the spot where she had picked up a parcel in the garden. Her father immediately told her to put it down very gently because people had experiences with booby-trapped packages. Who dropped them there? Wars bring out the best and worst in people.

Kouril family member whose tongue was ripped out in Nazi concentration camp on

Towards the end of the war I remember several bombing raids on Friedrichroda. One day we arrived late at our air raid shelter. The four of us ran hand-in hand along the rough gravel towards the entrance of the railway tunnel when one of my shoes fell off. I tore my hands from my father's grasp and ran back, ignoring the fighter plane swooping towards us. Some shots were sprayed but we entered the tunnel safely. My father urged us to get well away from the entrance where others were gathered. As soon as we went around the bend, deafening detonations came from the entrance followed by the stench of wet concrete and explosives. When we arrived back the street was peppered with deep bomb craters. Every house around the manse was reduced to rubble for quite a distance as far as I could see. The baker and his family next door, taking refuge in the cellar with his 11 children, were dead. The bakery received a direct hit. From the second floor window I noticed that we had received no damage except that our fence was smouldering with a few flames here and there.


Looking back as an adult it struck me that God had intervened on our behalf. I was not a Christian yet, nor had my parents made any real commitments to the Lord that I was aware of. Bombings became so bad that we packed sheets, blankets and food supplies, and took up residence in a disused trench on top of a nearby hill. Apart from shells whizzing over our heads, all was peaceful until a German soldier began to walk towards us. My father shooed him away saying that he was making us a target. I am still so sad to remember the disappointment on his face. He was fatigued, battle weary and obviously wanted homely company. Soon the shelling became very intense and on an opposite cliff we could see Americans climbing up the cliff face  using broad nets for footing as were used to board ships from barges. So dad said it’s time to flee to an occupied city. He tore the sheets to make a white flag for each one of us to hold. We ran single file at breakneck speed down the long hillside. Unbeknownst to us, we ran straight between and along the American and German lines firing at each other. I could see some helmets. Wherever we ran the shooting stopped and then resumed behind us.

Typical rubble seen in germany after war by Charles Pallaghy

When we arrived at the edge of town all we could see was rubble. Walking along the empty street we eventually came across an old lady. 'What are you doing here'?, she asked. Apparently, all citizens had to report at the town hall or they would be shot on sight. So we hurried along but suddenly about four blocks away we saw an American jeep coming towards us. My parents were frightened and my mother decided to forego her German citizenship and suddenly became a true Hungarian. The jeep stopped with four soldiers on board.

Before they could say anything my mother stepped forward and wanted them to know that  we are Hungarians not Germans. So in her best French she said, 'We are Hongarie'. Having totally misunderstood the soldiers laughed, got off the Jeep and gave us chocolates and chewing gum. Then they pointed the way to the Town Hall. I immediately took a liking to Americans.

For some reason we had go to another town. There I saw General Patton's tank column coming through in much the same way that these German boys were photographed watching columns come through their town. I became all excited and ran through the column of moving armour risking my life. It was all a big adventure for a boy like me. Any of those smaller boys in the picture could have been me.

American tanks rolling into Germany 1945 on
US vehicle markings in Germany 1945 on

The American occupation lasted only a couple of days. They were followed by the British some days later and followed by the Scottish occupation forces.This was staged over several days. Finally, the Russians occupied us who ordered every house to display a red flag or it would be shelled by tanks. We knew what that meant. We had a room in a house that had one wall opened up with a huge shell hole. A very large, feathered pillow was emptied in the rush to make a red flag. Before the Scots marched through with bagpipes the residents were warned not to laugh at risk of their lives. We had never seen kilts before. Neither the British nor the Scots were as friendly as the Americans - Die Amis, as we called them.  Their white stars were everywhere on vehicles.


Eventually, all Hungarians and Poles were sent to a Russian detention centre behind barbed wire which my parents never wanted to remember or talk about. In fact, my father so hated the war that in Melbourne he threatened to throw his shoe through our TV set when I watched an action film featuring Krauts, as German soldiers were called in Australia. In the camp, we youngsters formed opposing gangs with Hungarians battling the Poles for command of the camp rubbish tip. I threw a broken flower pot at a Pole which gashed his head open, blood streaming down his shirt. I ran home in a panic. I was obviously so distressed that my father forced the truth out of me. Fortunately, he bared my back side and began to solidly beat me across his knee when the door of our room burst open with a Polish lynch mob rushing in. They stopped dead in their tracks in amazement just watching silently in approval until my Dad finished beating me. Then they turned around and departed without saying a word, gently closing the door behind them. Even though I was hurting badly we were all relieved. What would have they have done to our family if the Lord had not timed everything so perfectly? I doubt whether the Russians had penicillin for the poor Polish boy. There was no love lost between the Poles and Hungarians in those days.





How did we get out of the Russian zone? This was another miracle of the Lord as survivors shared with us later in Australia. Russians made it known that they would repatriate all refugees to their home countries. Apparently, however,  on occasion they would send trainloads of people towards home, go across the border, stop in a forest, shoot and bury them all and send the train back for more. Who would want to feed all those refugees in war torn satellite countries? Anyhow, that is the story survivors told the Hungarian community once we arrived in Australia. In those days, after the Russian population had suffered so much, the Russians plundered all they could from Germany, even rail tracks. In contrast, the Americans were rebuilding Germany. The stark differences between the East and West Zones of Germany would have testified to that.


Since train tracks had been bomb damaged or removed our train to Hungary had to meander a long way intruding briefly into the American zone. American soldiers stopped the train and ordered everybody off, the Russian detachment on board protesting to no effect.


That saved our lives. In later years on meeting other Hungarians in Australia, we were told that Hungarians, repatriated back to Hungary by the Russians after the war, few ever got to see Hungary alive again. They were either shot in mass graves on the way back or sent to forced labour camps in Russia. Wikipedia ( reports that of all Europeans Hungarians suffered the most in Russian civilian labour camps. Of the 600,000 Hungarians deported 200,000 perished in their labour camps. I am therefore inclined to believe the stories we were told. Bill Crawshaw at our retirement village, a member of the British Submarine Tank Corp during WWII and who is well read up on Germany's history, corroborates my suspicions. As I am writing, I have the uncanny feeling, that, as was the case for the young Moses in Egypt and Jesus in Bethlehem, Satan wanted to be rid of me too. Perhaps that is why I had so many close calls, what others would call "lucky" escapes.


That's how we arrived in the American zone first staying in a refugee camp in Sillenbuch, Stuttgart, and later in a rented apartment in Karlsruhe. I was nearly run over by an American officer's limousine. They glided along so smoothly and silently, not like German cars one could hear from a distance. In Germany, I never bothered to look sideways to cross a street. 


Our refugee camp in Stuttgart was comprised of a long two storey building connected somehow to another building just like it - in a horseshoe shape.  Here I was briefly sent to school, but never received regular schooling until I was about 11 years old in Australia. All I knew was how to read and write.  A young Hungarian, very tall for his age, called Almos (sleepy) owned a projector and sold tickets for us to watch Charlie Chaplin films. Camp life was interesting, but you had to be street-wise. The older boys harassed and urinated on us once keeping me trapped in a deep trench. The memory of the stench of crumbling houses with aging human faeces in every corner, often smeared against walls, prevented us from seeking shelter in abandoned houses on cold days. It always made me think of the Jews destined for concentration camps packed upright like sardines into box cars for days on end. How utterly ghastly that must have been. Man can be so cruel. An account from Corrie Ten Boom's book on her experiences describes how she was in one of those wagons with a bucket at one end of the wagon and a jug of water at the other end, with people unable to move around.

One day, through a bizarre atmospheric condition which persisted for some days, the rising and setting sun looked enormous on the horizon. Word went around that the end of the world was coming. We believed it and heard adults talking about it too. The cruelty of the recent war no doubt triggered adult minds that the book of Revelation was coming true. Gruesome things happened in Germany even after the war. Human remains, such as fingers, were sometimes discovered in canned goods and we kids figured the worst because we always had an eye out for suspicious men loitering about. We didn't think about the possibility of industrial accidents because we had heard about people mysteriously disappearing. Everybody, even children, were in survival mode.


We remember a lady who would not bother going into the forests with us, but collected and boiled all the nearby poisonous mushrooms we left untouched. One day, we found her dead on her bed with her toes partially nibbled away by rats, apparently dead from her mushroom meal. She obviously had not steamed her meal thoroughly enough - an old physico-chemical technique to remove alkaloids.


There were good times too. We would go on escapades to the Lithuanian rubbish dumps fossicking for bits of white bread and discarded biscuit fragments. My parents thought of them as real treats. Lithuanians and other non-Axis refugees received much better Red Cross parcels than we ever did.  We also found or rather stole hazelnuts, strawberries and unripe apples in our semi-rural surrounds. My father made beautiful Christmas candles, red and white, by pouring waxes into upturned empty toothpaste tubes containing a long thread for a wick. My sister and I became assembly workers in our two small rooms which was also inhabited by our dog Stopi which frustrated my father.

Other snippets of memory come randomly to mind. My parents took in a homeless man despite us living in only two rooms. A few days later he disappeared as also did my father's only treasures he brought from Hungary.  My father had brought with him some solid gold items, a complete cutlery set that reminded him of his mother and a set of chemist's scales complete with standard, gold weights for precise chemical work.


My mother bartered the candles for bread and eggs at surrounding farms. Picking blue-berries in a secret forest location where beautiful salamanders congregated in tiny ponds was one of our other pleasures. They easily lost their tails when they struggled upon being picked up. They would regrow them again. One of our highlights was to toboggan down a hill full of frozen cauliflowers protruding through the snow. We would kick the heads off the stems on the way down. More exhilarating was to escape from revenge-intent athletic farmers who sometimes got too close to our heels,; However, we could squeeze through the barbed wire fences better than they. I imagine a picture of Peter Rabbit doing the same thing as I am writing this.

In Karlsruhe I first began to hate dentists with  their drills  driven by a foot operated leather belt. The vibration would go right through my head. I ran from the dentist's chair down the street which I also would do later in Australia. This had an amazing outcome once I became a Christian witnessing tooth filling miracles in Australia. More about that later.


There are three more stories I like to recall from Karlsruhe. Firstly, I would like to talk about the generosity of Americans. They were well known to feed hungry people from their rations with high melting point chocolates that would not melt in pockets. As street kids we would follow Americans until they dropped their cigarette buts. Camel cigarettes had an attractive aroma, but the buts, drenched in brown nicotine muck, looked disgusting. Nevertheless, we stripped the better looking tobacco into match boxes that could be traded for loaves of bread. On one particular occasion we surrounded two soldiers. We had been trailing them for several blocks.  One of them held up two brand new cigarettes. We all stretched our hands up, calling out 'Me, Me'. After a short tease they gave them both to me. I ran home and couldn’t contain my excitement knowing that they were worth several loaves of bread, even white bread which was a rarity. Little did we realize then that white bread was less nutritious.

Charles Kalman Pallaghy in post-war Germany on

The second story concerns the fact that I have never liked school and that I often played truant, even in Australia, when I began regular schooling at the age of about 11. I and my German friend, Helmut Knorr, would skip school, hide in a ditch or play in wrecked planes and then pretend to come home from school at the appropriate time. Once my dad caught onto what I was doing. He hid behind the shrubs  in the narrow garden in front of the apartment block. He rushed at me from behind the bush, pulled my pants down, put me over his knee and started thrashing me with a belt. A fully loaded tram came by and ground to a halt. The driver and passengers streamed out, the driver yelling, 'Hey you foreigner (Auslander). How dare you hit a German boy'! My Dad had black hair, had a bent nose and frankly looked the type Hitler would have been after.  I don't know why he was never put into a concentration camp during the war just for his looks and peculiar German grammar. In stark contrast, I was the typical German Aryan.

My father looked up and said, 'This is my son. He has been skipping his classes at school'. When they heard that everybody promptly filed back into the tram. As the tram began to slowly move on, the driver opened his cabin and shouted 'Give him another one from us'.


On reflection, I am glad that I was not born earlier.  With my love for action and weapons in those days I would have become a loyal member of the Hitler Youth. Thank you Lord that that never happened!


Well, my life nearly came to an end once again. We lived on the third floor in Karlsruhe. My mother gave me bits of stringy meat for breakfast and Dad was leaving for work. Suddenly one end of a piece of meat was in my wind pipe and the other end in my gullet. I couldn't breathe. I jumped out of my chair pale and frightened, choking. My mother couldn't do anything. All she could do was to scream at the top of her voice. My father' already rushing for the tram on the street, heard her scream through the fortunately open window. He, immediately recognizing an emergency afoot, rushed up three flights of stairs, grabbed me and turned me upside down. He put his finger up my throat and pulled the obstruction out. I was about eight years old then.

It was around this time that the Lord really touched me. As usual, Helmut and I skipped school. We would seek out a deep ditch and sit there until school ended reading every word in an abridged version of the Bible in old German script, a used copy given to us at school. I have loved German script all my life. It was illustrated with beautiful prints from old-style woodcuts and covered both the Old and New Testaments. Helmut and I read it with tears in our eyes. We loved the kindness and miracles of Jesus.  We were greatly moved. I would have been ready to accept Jesus into my life there and then. But there was nobody to do that for us. My father apparently valued that book too. He packed it away and gave it to me once I got married. For the moment, the business of immigrating to Australia and getting used to the culture shock on our arrival put Jesus far into the back of my thoughts.

German 1877 Bible read by Charles Pallaghy in post-war Germany on
War-time German Bible with reference to Jews blotted out on

The image shows Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. I just realized something, which I never did before - a portion of the word blotted out in pencil, ‘for salvation is of the Jews’ (John 4:22).


I especially remember the International Refugee Organisation (IRO) which helped children in particular. They sent us by train to camps in the alps and near the North Sea where an aging ‘auntie’ Lisl lived, which is why I am nostalgic about trains to this day – I have a garden railway with genuine engine sounds. Our train would shunt slowly backwards and forwards in the middle of the night with lamps slowly moving to the left and then to the right, and to the left again.


I saw the war damage over much of Germany.  Indelibly imprinted on my memory is the time when the train went slowly along the river bank in Cologne with the only slightly damaged cathedral rising high above the flattened city. 

Cologne destroyed as also witnessed by Charles Pallaghy cited on         rles Pallaghy
G-gauge model railway set of Charles Pallaghy on

On another occasion I was sitting up on an all-night train. Opposite was an old man holding an old tin can constantly bringing up sputum and spitting into the can. The noises were absolutely disgusting, but he was suffering terribly. I couldn't sleep. My eyes were fixed on a bright blue globe in the right corner of the dim carriage. My eyes kept going back to it. I still remember the vivid light and sounds, and vision of the train hurtling through the darkness with its hypnotic sounds. These haunting memories draw me back to those times, which is why I have a garden train at the back of our unit. I have always loved trains. I have five different locomotives. My train travels as a child in Germany are  burnt forever into my memory. Every time I think of that blue light I associate it with the leading of the Holy Spirit which I cannot adequately put into words. That blue light is still so vivid as if my retina had been branded with it. 

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