Letters from Sonja: Walking Sideways
Part of the sitting room showing the fire place with the beautiful Toro vase.
And the new curtains.

Letters from Sonja: Walking Sideways


Sonja continues to translate her letters from Uganda in the year 1961.

By Sonja Winklmaier
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First published: February 19, 2006


Click Here: Previously on "Letters from Sonja: Off to Kindergarten"


February 21st, 1961

Only God knows how the situation further develops here. It is not only a matter of Uganda or Kenya or the Congo, but a matter of the whole of Africa or even a matter of the world leadership. Thats why we see no reason to leave Africa. In fact there is no spot on the globe, where it is safe and quiet. We cannot do anything but wait and hope for the best.

The conditions in the former Belgian Congo are horrific. Gerd just talked to some of the refugees. That it is the Congo where everything degenerated does not come from nothing. The Congolese people in my opinion cannot be made responsible. No matter what their names are or were: Lumumba, Tschombe or Mobutu they all are puppets with the one exception that their strings are pulled by different groups of interest.

Geier has denounced his contract. The Geiers are flying home either this or next week. They are attracted by the German Wirtschaftswunder. Seefelders are leaving around April. Mrs. Seefelder is very homesick. They both are not very happy here for personal reasons. Whether they will be replaced by someone from Germany is not yet sure. Business is rather slow at the moment. Hubert at long last could move into the new workshop.

April 11th, 196l

I cannot judge if Uganda is the nicest country in Africa. Uganda, however, is very, very nice and specially very varied, because there are various different climatic zones in Uganda. From temperate to subtropical and tropical vegetation you can find everything here and of course Lake Victoria. I am sure, however, that other parts of Africa have their attractions too. The Congo, for instance, in her way must be very beautiful too. But this is a matter of opinion. Somalia I expect to be rather dry. But steppe and desert also can have their charm. The people of Somalia are very beautiful. I sometimes was driven by a Somali while in Nairobi. When sitting next to him in the car I always looked at his beautiful hands.

Barbara crawling
Barbara crawling.

May 9th, 196l -

What do you think about Gagarin? Wasnt that an outstanding achievement!

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin
Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin.

Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin ( March 9, 1934 March 27, 1968), was a Soviet cosmonaut who in 1961 became the first human to travel into space[ 1 hour and 48 minutes April 12, 1961]. Garagin lost his life in a training accident on March 27, 1968.

Gerd has bought himself a car in the meantime. Actually he is still waiting for the confirmation. But he already had the paintwork of the car renewed and at the moment the inside of the car including the upholstery is being done new. Apart from that he has bought a boat from our neighbour, which he will have to finish. It is a mahogany boat. The framework is more or less ready but he has to finish the skin. Gerd can use the tools of our neighbour who will be coming back from a tour of Europe and Hong Kong soon. Mr. Hitchens, our neighbour, then wants to build another boat. I was very much against buying the boat, but I had nothing to say. Hubert and Gerd now wont have any time for anything but for the building of the boat. Once they are ready I can watch them on the lake with the binoculars and enjoy the noise they are making on the lake.

Michy is back at school. Wutzi will be a year old next month and already is no baby anymore. Time is passing very fast! Since some time she is sitting up by herself und is also crawling. But she is not standing up yet and does not even try to stand up. She is rather heavy and therefore somewhat slow. But she is always in a very good mood and is going to be a real beauty. Everybody admires her. She, however, does not like strange people. She is laughing like Aunt Elle. Whenever you see her you will have to tell her.

On April 30th, Hubert got a year older. We moved into the sitting-room at long last on his birthday. We are now ready, except for a few smaller things, for which we still have to wait on. Everything turned out really well and Hubert and Gerd admire their work not mine of course - constantly. The ceiling has been painted in a pale yellow and divided in squares by mvule ledges. That looks really nice. Two of the walls have been painted in a pale pink and two in a grey with a tint of purple. All the woodwork (doors and window-frames) is yellow and the floor is red. The mantelpiece and the ventilation-pipes above the sliding door will be painted black, as soon as we have got the paint. Hubert will finish the support for the curtains and the indirect lighting above the sliding door this week and by the end of this month the material for the curtains from Austria should arrive. I only will have to sew them then. (Mr. Stern has actually airmailed all that material for the curtains to us.)

I am very glad that we are that far now. But I will be even happier once our extension is ready. So far some miracles will have to happen; that we get the necessary money. We try to find buyers for an emergency-generator, for the aluminium boat and for the engine. Two bedrooms definitely are not enough for our large family. Michy has got a big bed now, because Wutzi does not fit in the pram anymore and is urgently waiting for Michys cot. Gerd and Michy are still sharing a room, which is not ideal and Wutzis cot is in our bedroom, which is not a good solution, as the bedrooms are not very big.

May 25th, 1961 -

Wutzi now tries to stand up. She is still rather wobbly on her legs, but, at last she is standing. Gerd has invented a new name for her. She is now Wacki! (Wacki derives from the German word wackeln, which means to wobble.)

Michy can ride his bicycle since yesterday. A couple of days ago he said to me: Mami, I know what you will say when I can ride the bicycle. You will say: For heavens sake!. In deed it is rather frightening when Michy juggles through the garden on his bicycle. I rather dont look at him.

Over the weekend Gerd and Hubert have been working at Gerds boat. It will be a motorboat with an outboard engine. It looks quite good already.

Since last week Gerd has got a Uganda drivers licence. His car is ready, new paintwork, newly upholstered and so on. He will have it registered by July 1st.

We have had a rather dull and rainy day or rather a rainy afternoon. This morning the weather was still very nice. I am always grateful for every drop of water. Our house is now tight everywhere and therefore as far as I am concerned it may rain as much as it wants, as the garden needs water desperately and our water-tank already is empty again.

We now have two ducks. They are very nice. Michy can hardly wait until we get ducklings. Last Sunday he took some eggs from the refrigerator and put them in the garden between the flowers and thought ducklings would hatch from them.

We had to pay 45 Shs. Customs duty for the bed-covers. That cant be helped. The customs duty went up again together with some other items. Every year when the new budget is announced, the prices rise. This year it was mainly the customs duty, which has a great effect, as almost everything here is imported. Also income tax, gas and so on went up. Since I am in Africa, the budget has the same effect every year. Not once did something get cheaper.

June 10th, 1961 -

We have now started digging a water-tank. Once the water-tank is ready I can even afford to water the garden. The tank is supposed to hold 80,000 ltr. If at least the digging would be done.

Yesterday evening Hubert and myself had been invited by one of the four kings for dinner. A Royal Highness can afford to just forget such an invitation. When we arrived for the appointment, his car departed. (The Royal Highness in question was the Omukama of Bunyoro. Well, he was an elderly man already and we excused the incident. He had been to our house recently. He wanted me to type something for him. I could not do it however, because it was such a lot and he needed it instantly. I just did not have the time, to do it at once. ) We did not let this disturb us but decided to go out for dinner in great style for a change. A young German, von Schulzendorff has got a restaurant in Kampala. He has got a German chef. The food was excellent and it was a very welcome change for me. Gerd watched the children and fried some eggs for himself. Sometimes he can stay at home.

I have made a fancy butter-cream cake with strawberries for Gerds birthday. I can hardly await the cutting of the cake!

Barbara on her 1st birthday
Barbara on her 1st birthday.

June 18th, 1961

Hubert and Gerd are working at the boat again the whole day to-day. I can enjoy the noise of the band-saw.

I enclose a photo of Wacki, which was taken on her first birthday. Isnt she cute? In the meantime she is standing and walking, still holding on, however.

Michy is well, too. He is growing a lot. If only you could see him riding his bicycle!

The water-tank now is about 2m deep and has a diameter of 5m. This is quite a big hole already. But it is only 1/3 so far and the digging gets slower the deeper it is. I am constantly worried that Michy will fall into the hole. He just cannot listen and does not stay away from it. I have locked up the bicycle since Saturday. Phylax went into the hole yesterday with Hubert. Phylax jumped the 2m very easily.

Gerd- Just before coming to East Africa
Gerd- Just before coming to East Africa.

Please dont send any pipe tobacco for Gerd anymore. Either he has to get used to the local tobacco or he will have to stop smoking. The duty on imported tobacco is very high. It was recommended to Gerd, not to have any more tobacco sent to him.

In the meantime there was a very bad train accident near Esslingen. We are waiting to hear from you every day since then. As an exception we did not listen to the German news from Cologne that evening. The next day and the day after the Uganda Argus reported about that accident.

On June 13th, 1961 a crash of two suburban trains at Esslingen-Mettingen claimed 35 lives and 36 badly injured people. As I knew that my dad was using these trains every day, we were quite worried. In fact he was on one of the trains and sustained a head injury.

August 1st, 1961 -

The tank is 6 m deep now. Hopefully we can start laying the bricks next week. (It was planned to dig down 6 m and exactly then we hit rock.)

We are expecting chicks and ducklings this month. The duck is sitting on 10 eggs and the hen on 12. I am anxious what happens. From the hens, so far, we have not gotten any eggs for a couple of days.

In the meantime we had quite some agitation: On Saturday Gerds extension-bandage has been removed. He had a car accident on July 10th, ten miles away from Kampala on the return trip from his last safari. Gerd did not drive but a Goan mechanic. Nothing happened to the driver, but Gerd had his collar-bone broken. They had driven the Landrover into a ditch. Thanks God that nothing worse happened. Gerd at once has been driven to a doctor, who is a friend of ours. He works at Nsambya Hospital. He did fix up Gerd and we could collect him from the hospital in the evening.

Many thanks for the leather pants for Michy. As we told him, that he wont be able to break these pants, he wanted to dare me and tried to cut them with a pair of scissors. Fortunately I noticed that before anything happened.

For a short while now we can get the Stern (a German magazine) here. So there is no need anymore to send it to us. We can now get almost all German magazines here and even German books.

Wacki is thriving and is a real splendid specimen. It does not take much now and she will be walking really. Someone has asked Michy the other day, whether his sister is walking already. Michy said: Yes, she is walking sideways. (She is always walking in her playpen along the bars.)

Michy now has a vacation of 1 months. Unfortunately the children of the neighbourhood are in Europe at the moment, so that he has nobody to play with.

On Sunday Hubert and Gerd took Michy to a circus. It is the first African circus, partly with artists from Europe. Michy was very excited!

Click here to continue to "The Floods of 1961"

By Sonja Winklmaier
more from author >>
First published: February 19, 2006
Sonja Winklmaier moved to Uganda in the 1950s to follow her husband, Hubert Winklmaier, as the German Volkswagen Factory sent him to work with their agent, Cooper Motor Corporation.

Go to: Letters from Sonja