horses. In life he had blown in and out of their lives with the unpredictability of a storm. His outlook on life had been simple, -it was that known motto for Gypsies, travelers and vagabonds – ‘the dog that travels will find the bone’. And most of his children, turned painters and writers, spread out across Europe and the U.S. Eccentric and original in both their lives and their art, four of the seven had succeeded by marrying rich. So now my mother was taken under my godmother’s wing, whereas I, with the help of my cousin, was hauled off to the one who had found the biggest bone of all, the aunt in Italy.
Overnight I landed in a world of wealth, servants, a chauffeur and multiple homes. Surrounded by artists and famous scientists, I listened to conversations that had switched from mere survival to quality in the arts and the making of atom bombs. My life now spread out from Italy to major and minor cities in Europe, mostly those in possession of museums containing the greatest art. And last but not least, the United States because of her excellent institutions of higher learning. Again my hair was an issue. My aunt simply had it cropped short, like the actress Audrey Hepburn, then much in fashion both in Europe and abroad. I was furthermore subjected to a crash course in comportment and the art of good taste, most of all to eat as if I had never known hunger before. In other words, given my own penniless circumstances, I was being groomed to marry rich.
The pick candidate was a runty man with money and a title. There I was, as far removed from anything Gypsy as the earth is from the sky, yet it was one of their sayings that kept reverberating through my mind: Money in hand, bride on horse. Not this bride. I, at age sixteen, returned to my mother, where almost immediately I was courted by a young French man, with whom I made a deal. I would marry him on paper under condition that at age twenty-one he would let me go free. Without a moment’s hesitation he took me away from the ambitions of my family and the misery of my past. We had a combined age of forty, when we set off for Europe’s High North. Finland. My journey had begun.
Cont.: Rescued by the Clan . . .
Entered some of those I had only heard about or rarely seen: my mother’s siblings. Most striking among them my godmother, a dark-haired, black-eyed German-born Pilar, who had hidden many on the run in caves along the river Ahr. Her older brother, a landscape painter and giant with a hearing aid, who although drafted into the German army, had rushed to save a French mother and child from a Stuka attack, and was hidden after by the French for the duration of the war. A second brother, who upon entering Russia had defected and made it back by walking solely in the dark of night. The eldest sister, a painter and writer, married to an Italian Jew, who had fled Italy for the United States. Back by then in Italy, she had sent her eldest son. He spoke no German. He actually had his own car.
The clan was clearly dominated by someone who died long before the war. My mother’s father. His photograph showed a slender, dark skinned man, known for his talent as a stand-up comedian and circus performer with