Thursday, December 20, 2007

Unexpected Gifts




When we arrived in the refugee camp in Austria, after fleeing our war-torn country Hungary
just a few weeks before Christmas of 1947, I was 11 and had become resigned to not having much.

The refugee camp, with its wooden barracks, and dusty lanes, was pretty drab. But we had a warm place to sleep, warm food to eat, and were outfitted with warm clothes donated towards the refugee effort from various generous-minded countries like the United States, Canada and Great Britain. So we considered ourselves pretty fortunate. Plus we had some of the most beautiful views available, free to anyone who wished to look, since the camp was located in one of the most scenic areas of Austria-Carinthia.

As Christmas approached, the refugee camp school I attended made plans to help us celebrate the holiday as a group. In the barracks where we lived, our private spaces were tiny cubicles, where we slept. There was no room for individual celebrations. But the school had a large auditorium, where a donated Christmas tree was set up. We children created hand made ornaments, which we used to decorate the tree. There were even candles on the tree, to be lit on Christmas Eve–just like in Hungary, before the war. We stayed busy rehearsing a school play that was to be presented on Christmas Eve. I had a small part as the angel who announces the birth of the Savior to the shepherds. I was very pleased and excited about the part.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, my grandparents and I decided to take a walk to the small town of Spittal, just a few miles away from the camp. Grandfather felt that even though we had no money to buy anything, taking in the Christmas sights and smells would be worth the walk. The town's cobbled streets, with its many small shops were decorated with fir branches, and small trees in shop windows glowed with lit candles. People were hustling and bustling, getting last-minute things for the holiday, and wishing each other "Froliche Weinachten."


We stopped in front of the bakery, and inhaled the delicious smells coming out of it each time someone opened the door. I gazed at the napoleons, displayed in the window, my mouth watering. "Oh, they must taste so delicious," I said wistfully.



"And that poppy-seed cake looks wonderful, too," Grandmother sighed.



"Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea," Grandfather said sadly. "Now everyone is hungry for something they can not have."

"But who is to say that you can not have a napoleon, or some of that poppy-seed cake?" a voice behind us asked. As I turned around, a woman in a fur coat and hat took my hand.



"Come on, let us all go into the bakery."

"Oh, no!" I protested, trying to pull my hand out of hers. But she wouldn’t let go, and inside the bakery, bought a large napoleon square and a horseshoe-shaped cake just for us.

"Froliche Weinachten," she called out merrily, then disappeared into a crowd of people. A Christmas angel in a fur coat!



On the way back to the refugee camp, as I sank my teeth into that delicious, custard-filled napoleon and got powdered sugar all over myself, I felt very blessed. Although we lived in a refugee camp, my grandparents and I had much to be thankful for.

That evening, Christmas Eve, the candles on the community Christmas tree were lit, and all the adults came to watch our Christmas play. Everyone remembered their lines, and the choir sang some beautiful, Hungarian Christmas songs. Many people had tears in their eyes. And if that wasn’t enough, each of the children were given a present from underneath the tree.

When I opened mine, I found a pair of pink, fuzzy mittens and matching scarf in the box, and inside one of the mittens, there was a little note, written in English: "Merry Christmas from Mary Anne in Buffalo, New York, United States of America." Imagine that! A gift from a girl all the way in America! I wondered how old she was, what she looked like, and what she liked to do. I couldn’t help but think of her as I drifted off to sleep that night.

When I awoke on Christmas morning, the sun was shining brightly. I heard noises coming through the thin wooden boards of the barrack.

"Good morning, sweetheart. Merry Christmas," Grandmother said cheerily.

"Why is there so much noise out there already?" I asked sleepily, rubbing my eyes.

"Well, I guess some early rising children are enjoying all the newly fallen snow."

"Oh, did it snow?" I asked, leaping from the cot and reaching for some warm clothes to put on. "How wonderful! Where is Grandfather?"



"He and some of the other men are shoveling some paths, so people can go for their breakfast, and then to church."

Within seconds, I was out there, too, marveling at nature’s power to turn a drab refugee camp into a pristine, winter wonderland!

Soon, the surrounding, snow-covered hills were filled with squealing Austrian children, sledding down those hills in their new Christmas sleds, or flying down on their new skis. Meanwhile, refugee camp children built snow men, had snowball fights, and made snow angels, squealing with just as much delight. Nature's gift of snow was free for everyone to enjoy!

As I stood there and gazed at the beautiful snow covered mountains, my heart filled with joy and I said a quick prayer of thanks. For those few days in 1947, it didn’t matter that we were in a refugee camp. From the angel in the fur coat who bought us pastries, to the candles on the Christmas tree, the joyful school play, the unexpected presents, and the fluffy white snow, God had made our holiday extra special.

...........

Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas, everyone! Thank you for visiting and reading my little story. God bless you!



"Unexpected Gifts" was first published in, Whispers from Heaven Magazine, in 2002. Copyright by Renie Burghardt




The picture of the snow covered mountains is of a mountain range in Carinthia, Austria, courtesy of FreeFoto.com

44 comments:

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Such a wonderful story. Angels seem to come in all forms, even a woman in a fur coat and hat.

Blessings, Renie!

Pauline said...

You restore my faith in mankind - and angels!

Renie Burghardt said...

Mr. Nick,

Thank you kindly for the nice comment. Yes, angels come in all forms.

Love the photo of you in the Santa hat, holding Alex.

Have a wonderful holiday. Merry Christmas!

Renie









Pauline,

Thanks so much for reading the story and your lovely comment.

Christmas blessings,

Renie

Patty said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. Yes, I believe you had an Angel in a fur coat. Merry Christmas to you, all of your house buddies and outdoor friends.

Renie Burghardt said...

Hi Patty,

Thanks so much for the kind words on my little story. My younger son is arriving Sunday. I'm looking forward to a nice Christmas. And a very Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Your friend,

Renie

GardenGoose said...

an absolutely wonderful story..it brought tears to my eyes.
here's wishing you a wonderful Christmas. I know that you have many wonderful memories and may this years Christmas add yet more lovely memories for you.
hugs,
Tina

Renie Burghardt said...

Tina,

Thank you very much for your kind comments on the story. Those Christmases long ago, when we lost everything we had, except our love for each other, were the most memorable. The hard times were hard, but they taught me that love is the greatest of all blessings!

Have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones. Merry Christmas, dear Tina!

Renie

deborah wilson said...

Beautiful story, Renie. Kristen and David will be here on Sunday, I'm going to read to them your Christmas stories.

Have a wonderful and Merry Christmas!

Renie Burghardt said...

Oh, thank you, Deborah! I hope Kristen and David enjoy the stories.

Have a wonderful holiday. Merry Christmas, Deborah!

Hugs,

Renie

Karen H. said...

Good Evening Renie,
I know I'm late in visiting, but we all slept late today. I did get in a post for today. I don't know if I will get to post over the next few days or not. I have so much to do and very little time to get it done. Me and hubby went Christmas shopping for the girls tonight. Now, I have to get it all wrapped before they get home tomorrow afternoon. This is such a beautiful story Renie. It just brought tears to my eyes. I so love reading your stories of days gone by. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Well, I better go, it's getting late. Take care my friend and have a great evening. May God Bless You and Yours. "MERRY CHRISTMAS" to you and yours from our Family.

Love & Hugs,
Karen H.

audrey` said...

Dearest Renie

Wishing you and your loved ones a Very Blessed Christmas =)

(((HUGS))) and love!

Renie Burghardt said...

Dear Karen,

I know it's a busy time now for everyone. Me, too! Thank you for taking the time to read my little story. Have a wonderful holiday with your family. Merry Christmas, Karen!

Hugs and blessings,

Renie

Renie Burghardt said...

Dear Audrey,

Thank you for your Christmas wishes. A Very Merry and Blessed Christmas to you, my friend!

Love and HUGS,

Renie

Changes in the wind is said...

Hi there, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I hope you will come back soon:)

Renie Burghardt said...

Changes in the wind,

And thank you for the return visit. Hope you visit again soon, too. Marry Christmas!

Renie

michele tune said...

Aw, Renie, when the lady tapped you on the shoulder and bought you those treats tears filled my eyes! And, when you got the gift from the girl in America... Very touching story, Renie! Very touching! I loved every word and the snow covered mountain photo just adds an extra touch that is so nice :-)

Merry Christmas!
Michele

Renie Burghardt said...

Aww, thank you, Michele. Your kind comment is so sweet. Hope you feel much better. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Hugs,

Renie

Nonna said...

There are definitely angels among us!

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I enjoyed your recollections of your experience as a young refugee.
Children are so adaptable. It must have been very hard on the adults in your family. You remind us that it is the simple gifts that cam be the most precious.

I also think of the thousands of refugees around the World today, waiting, hoping. for the kindness of strangers and a chance to make a life for themselves in a new country. May the New Year be the year for them.

Renie Burghardt said...

Philip,

Thank you for your visit and comment. Yes, may the New Year bring hope to the thousands without it.

Merry Christmas.

Renie







Hi Nonna,

Merry Christmas!

Mary said...

Renie,

Though I've read this story before, it still brings tears to my eyes. You are an inspiration.

Merry Christmas, my dear friend and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Love and blessings,
Mary

Renie Burghardt said...

Mary,

You're a sweetheart! Thank you for the beautiful comment. I read your "angel" story before as well, in one of the books we were both in from Guideposts. Have a wonderful Christmas, and a New Year full of blessings, oh, and have FUN in Florida.

Love and Hugs,

Renie

michele tune said...

Popping back in to thank you for your kind words on my Christmas post :-)

Thanks!

Christmas Smiles,
Michele

Renie Burghardt said...

It was my pleasure, Michele. Your Christmas post was very inspirational and lovely. Just like you are.

Blessings and Love,

Renie

Karen H. said...

Good Evening Renie,
I'm just dropping by again to wish you and yours a "MERRY CHRISTMAS" from our Family. JESUS IS THE REASON FOR THE SEASON!!!! Hope things are going well for you today. It sure turned cold again huh? The wind was really blowing last night. I could hear it on the outside while I was in bed. I did get my villages up today. I'm going to wait and do all my cooking tomorrow. Take care my friend and have a great evening. May God Bless You and Yours.

Love & Hugs,
Karen H.

Renie Burghardt said...

Hi Karen!

I just got back from visiting you! Lol. Yes, the wind was cold even though the sun was shining. But hey, they say sunny and 50's for Christmas Day, and that's not bad.

Have a wonderful holiday, my friend. Yes, Jesus is the Reason for the Season! Merry Christmas, Karen!

Love and Hugs,

Renie

Mountain Mama said...

Thank you Renie for the beautiful story. You made me smile and you made me cry. I don't usually cry at things I read, but your story was written from the heart of a little girl living in a very difficult time.
God bless you always dear and I pray you have all the Napoleons you want forever more.
Hugs and a very Merry Christmas!

Renie Burghardt said...

Dear Bev,

I'm touched by your kind comment. Thank you so much.
Have a Merry Christmas with your loved ones.

Blessings and Hugs,

Renie

Tina Coruth said...

Renie,

This is what Christmas and the Christmas spirit is all about. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

Merry Christmas and God bless you and your family!

hugs,
Tina

Renie Burghardt said...

Thank you, Tina. Merry Christmas!

Love and Hugs,

Renie

Writing the Cyber Highway said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Holiday Smiles,
Michele

audrey` said...

Wishing you a very Blessed Christmas, dear Renie.

(((HUGS)))

ancient one said...

That was such a touching story.. I'm so glad the woman/angel got you the sweets. God is so good to us!! On Addie's blog today she has pictures of herself giving some of the Iraq children gifts.

Merry Christmas!!

Renie Burghardt said...

Hi Michele,

My Christmas was lovely. I enjoyed it. You are so thoughtful. Thank you! Have a great day.

Love and Hugs,

Renie









Dear Audrey,

So nice to see you here with your sweet wishes. My Christmas was most blessed. I hope yours was as well.

Blessings and Love,

Renie







Thank you for stopping by, Ann. I will visit Addie's blog to see her pictures. I hope your Christmas was beautiful!

Renie

Karen H. said...

Good Morning Renie,
I'm just dropping by to see how you are doing. I hope you had a great Christmas. We did. Yesterday, I didn't do nothing but sleep and eat. LOL. I was worn out from getting everything ready for our Christmas Eve Dinner. I guess I needed the sleep. I have been redoing my blog. I'm still learning things, but hopefully in a few days I will have it the way I want it. Take care my friend and have a great day. May God Bless You and Yours.

Love & Hugs,
Karen H.

Renie Burghardt said...

Hi Karen,

We had a wonderful Christmas as well. And the weather cooperated nicely, with temperatures of 55 abd bright sunshine. I couldn't have asked for a nicer day. Today, my son took me shopping some of the after Christmas sales. I enjoyed it; he didn't. LOL. But I walked off some of the pounds I put on from eating so much yesterday. LOL.

I'm glad you had a nice Christmas. Since I'm getting New Year's Day company as well, I won't have too much time for working on my blog. But will have to reluctantly take off the Christmas decorations, and rearrange things a bit, soon.

Thank you so much for stopping by. Have a great day, and God bless you and yours as well!

Blessings and Hugs,

Renie

I'm glad you had a nice Chris

Pia said...

hi renie. hope you had a merry christmas. (((HUGS)))

Renie Burghardt said...

Hi Pia!

Nice to see you! Yes, I had a wonderful Christmas. I hope you did as well. Happy New Year!

Hugs,

Renie

Karen H. said...

Good Morning Renie,
I'm just dropping by to see if yall got any snow yesterday? All we got here was some rain. There was some places just to the Northwest of us that got about an inch of snow. They showed some pictures of it last night on our local weather segment. I was so jealous. LOL. It sure was pretty. In Franklin, AR, they had some big Snowflakes. Rain is back in our forecast for later tonight and for tomorrow also. Take care my friend and have a great Thursday. May God Bless You and Yours.

Love & Hugs,
Karen H.

Renie Burghardt said...

Good Morning, Karen,

So nice of you to drop in this morning. We had mostly rain as well, but for a little while, there were huge snow flakes falling. Then it turned into rain again, so no snow around here.

Got to run. Going out today, so have to finish a few things and get ready. Have a great day, my friend. I'll be over to visit tonight.

Hugs,

Renie

2 LMZ FARMS said...

Ms Renie, I hope that you and yours have a very blessed Merry Christmas. Just wanted to drop by and check in on you. Loved the story. Thank you for allowing us to read about your life. Hope you and yours have a blessed day.
Laura

Renie Burghardt said...

Dear Laura,

Our Christmas was merry and bright and blessed with family and friends. Not all my family could be here, but they were with us in our hearts, and by phone as well.

Thank you for coming by and the nice comment. I hope your Christmas was wonderful!

Many blessings to you and yours for the New Year!

Renie

Merle said...

Dear Renie ~~ Thank you for sharing that lovely story with us and how nice was the fur coated lady And how great you and your family were to suvive the camp and settle in a safer country, where I hope you are very happy. Glad your Christmas was nice with some family. Have a wonderful
2008 with health, happiness and prosperity and joys galore. Take caremy friend, Love, Merle.

Renie Burghardt said...

Dear Merle,

How nice to see you here again! Yes, we were very fortunate to get a chance at a new life.

Christmas was lovely, and I know from reading your blog, that yours was as well. Thank you for coming by and for the good wishes. May your new year be filled with many blessings. Happy New Year, dear Merle!

Love and Hugs,

Renie