IV. A province seeks new farmers
Holstein, Prussia 1800 to 1913

At the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, the Vageler family, which came to Holstein from Holland in the Seventeenth Century, wants to move on. They have owned land for several generations. However, the prospect of being able to follow in their ancestors' tracks becomes dim for three sons and six daughters. Hans Vageler decides to examine the opportunities of the depopulated Province of Prussia. He travels there with his administrator Jagemann and selects without hesitation three properties for lease, including Maeken. While Jagemann stays behind, he returns to organize the transfer of all movable assets, his large family and some stores. Al1 are loaded on to a sailing boat together with Hans' green parrot, purchased one day from a sailor. Hans travels by post chaise to get there more quickly and to meet the family at their arrival in Elbing. His second son Wilhelm stays behind to finish school.

Grete, Frieda, Gertrud, Ella, Liese and Helene Vageler

When Wilhelm rejoins his family in the Province, he takes up farming like his father. He marries Marie Falkner from a nearby property and takes over Maeken. Later on he transfers to the larger estate Gross Thierbach. They have 2 sons, Paul and Hans, and 6 daughters, Grete, Frieda, Gertrud, the twins Ella and Liese, and Helene. Gertrud, my mother, is born at Maeken on 30th September, 1891.

For years the six blond girls are under the strict control of their loving second brother Hans, his father' s boy. They visit often grandfather's farm, where the centre of attention is an aviary with many local and foreign birds including grandfather's green parrot. The birds are quite tame and sit on grandfather's shoulders while he is feeding them. A turtle wanders about on the floor. Everyone is happy. When grandfather gös for a walk in the forest, he is accompanied by his squirrel which runs ahead and then returns again to hop straight into his coat pocket. Grandfather is on good terms with all living things. At this time, the green parrot speaks with him only Platt-Deutsch, a dialect of the sea coast of Germany. After the grandfather dies, he learns to speak High German.. He stays behind in 1945 when the Province is deserted.

Gertrud Vageler in 1910

The children receive their first schooling from private teachers living at the farm. Hans keeps them under observation and ensures daily that the girls are on time. After the lessons, Gertrud lives with the animals of the farm whom she loves dearly and whom she misses most later on when she is sent to boarding school in Elbing, which is too far away from the farm to permit weekend visits. Soon the six blond girls are known all over town. Among Gertrud's admirers are Grete and Lotte Simon, the local doctor's daughters the elder of whom is to play an important role in the life of Gertrud's family 40 years later,

Marie and Wilhelm Vageler with grandchildren Gisela and Gundula

Gertrud wishes to become a teacher and is sent to Königsberg for training in the teachers' college of Maria Karoline Krause. She meets Fritz Radok, the man of the world. His sister Lisbeth tells me one day that he owned a pair of shös for every day of the month! He opens his heart to Gertrud in a letter written from England.

Wedding photo of Gertrud and Fritz Radok 1913

One day he tells us children that such things are done more easily in writing. Their wedding takes place in the Luisen-Kirche in Amalienau, a suburb of Königsberg, on 24th March, 1913.

Luisen-Kirche 1965