Letters from Sonja: Uganda's Independence is Near
The year is 1959 and Africa is on the verge of some major changes. It is also time for that second operation for Michael.
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First published: September 9, 2005
Before we begin Sonja's 12th letter here are some 1958 photos we left out in the last letter:
Michy playing with boys on Klausner's farm.
Michy's 2nd birthday.
Michy's 2nd birthday on his new swing.
In January 1959 the Kohls from Fort Portal went for a vacation to Lake Nabugabo where they rented a bungalow. They invited us for the weekend. It was a fantastic and very romantic place. The virgin forest with its unbelievable big and overgrown trees reached almost to the lake. Only a very small place, where the bungalow was situated, was cleared. The bungalow was very simple but it certainly was a nice change.
The Queen Mother from England was on a visit to Uganda. We received an invitation from Government house for a tea party in her honour. However we did not go there, as we could not fulfil the dress code. We had to save every penny for our trip to Germany and for Michy’s second operation there. We did watch her pass by the Cooper Motors showroom on Kampala Road, which, during the time of Amin/Obote, was damaged from the fighting in Kampala and is still a ruin now. Radio Uganda reported on the news that the Queen Mother was greeted by a jubilant crowd. I can only say that it was quieter than a funeral while she drove through the roads of Kampala. There was a big crowd; but only a couple of people held up their hands to greet her. I thought by myself that the reception of Prof. Heuss, Germany’s first President after the World War II, who recently was on his first visit to England, could not have been cooler. The Queen Mother opened the new library of Makerere University. When the she arrived there it again was very quiet. When the Kabaka arrived with his wife, the crowd exploded to welcome them.
We had been looking around for a house for some time. It then happened that Cooper Motors was trying to get rid of a house on Buziga Hill, which was used as staff housing but was in a rather desolate condition. We had been on those premises shortly after our arrival in Uganda, on the occasion of a wedding party and I remember thinking how this was the most beautiful view overlooking Lake Victoria with its islands. Hubert now developed an idea of how we could acquire the house. He talked to the directors of Cooper Motors and recommended to them to put our monthly housing allowance towards paying off the price they had asked and we would pay off the rest also in monthly instalments. I did not believe that this would work, but they agreed. Until the agreement was sealed we played a game of patience every day, now better known as Solitaire. Whenever the game was won, we said: “Yes, yes, we will get it.” Like children! It was fun! This happened shortly before we went on long leave. We now, once again, had to pack our household in boxes. Fortunately we could store everything in the flat in which Mr. and Mrs. Seefelder from Bavaria, a new German mechanic and his wife, were moving.
On April 9th, 1959 I wrote home to Germany:
In Kampala great changes are taking place at the moment. Great numbers of Africans now march through Kampala. Demonstrations take place. Nobody knows, what will happen next. I am very much in favour of the Africans getting self-government and I am convinced that we will get on very well afterwards. But until this goal is reached, there will be a lot of things going “upside down”. The big brewery in Uganda, “Bell Brewery” had to close down already, because the Africans don’t buy beer anymore. Many Asians, who own” dukas” (little shops) in the villages, have already closed down, because the Africans don’t buy anything from them anymore. A “Currency Commission” has been established, as the Ugandans want their own currency as soon as they get self-government. One African yesterday said that within 3 weeks they would have self-government. One just does not know. The bad thing is that the Africans are not united. One fraction wants to deal with the Eastern Countries, one fraction wants to be friends with the West and still another fraction is of the opinion that they can do without any help at all. I wish they were more united. It is not only Uganda; all of Africa is on fire! There is no doubt in my mind, that very soon the whole of Africa will be governed by Africans. I am convinced that everything will work quite well. Only we have to get there first.
View from our house in Buziga.
We went up to Buziga many times now and enjoyed the beautiful view. But my doubts, if this house would be liveable at all were becoming bigger and bigger. But Hubert was very optimistic and assured me, that he will make it liveable for us.
The house in Buziga as we bought it.
On April 9th, 1959 I wrote home about the house:
You cannot call “our house” a ruin. It is a building that is about 8 years old and has been more than neglected. Out of every wall lamp, for instance, one can take a handful of dead flies. With some buckets of water and some insecticides one should be able to improve the house. The biggest thing is the roof. We will probably have to wait another year, before we can start with the repairs, as we will also need some money for furniture. During Hubert’s vacation next year, we want to add a third bedroom und bring everything under a new roof. We will also have to do some changes to the kitchen, which I like the least of the whole house. The plot is the private property of the Kabaka and it is on a 49 years lease. I consider it the nicest place around Kampala. The garden, too, has been much neglected, just like the house. But that is the lesser problem. There are quite a number of very nice old trees on that plot and one could say that it is more of a park than a garden. Michy will be very happy there. For me, compared to the rather dangerous upstairs flat we had, it will be far easier.
On Easter of 1959 we were already hiding the Easter eggs for Michy in “our new garden”.
April 28th, 1959:
We were informed today that we are definitely leaving Kampala by air in the evening of May 3rd, 1959.
We left on a BOAC flight on board a Bristol Britannia TurboProp aircraft and landed in Rome the next morning. From there we flew in our first Lufthansa flight on board a Super Constellation. The “new” Lufthansa started flying again after World War II on the 1st of April 1955. We were very enthusiastic, that we could fly with our National Airline and we were very pleased. It was a super service compared to the service on the Bristol Britannia, which was very poor. Our English friends were so proud of their modern aircraft. We had been quite unlucky as the overhead water tanks were leaking. Every time the aircraft started or landed, we had to move our seats and had to take Michy on our lap, as everything was getting wet. We got a blanket then to cover up the wet spots, but that blanket was more or less one big hole. The bathroom was also overflowing into the passenger cabin. Also the food of cabbage was very poor. But we had landed safely in Rome. Everything else was just a temporary inconvenience!
Michy in a stroller after the operation.
The most important program during this vacation was the second operation of Michy. We took Michy into hospital. At that time the treatment in hospitals was very cruel. Michy was stripped of all his clothes. His beloved Teddy was taken from him. Everything was handed to us and we had to leave and could only see Michy again on the day we could collect him from hospital. Fortunately the operation went well. Michy was very weak after the operation and could not stand or walk by himself. We had to put him in a stroller for some time. But at the house of my parents he picked up very fast again. In later years he told us what he felt after we left him. He was absolutely sure that he would never see us again. This was a very dramatic experience for him.
Michy holding his beloved Teddy that was later taken from him in the hospital. Michy still has this Teddy. It has travelled all over the world with him.
In spite of Michy’s operation and our shortage of money, we had a nice vacation. I was so glad to be at home with my parents and brother. My stepmother really spoiled Michy very much. He loved her.
As everything comes to an end, we were flying back to Kampala from Munich on July 25th, 1959. Even on the return trip we could not travel by sea as planned, as the Italians were on strike. We had the use of a company car while in Europe. That car had to stay behind and was shipped to Mombasa later.
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First published: September 9, 2005