Marlene at Midnight

Photo by Dovima_is_devine_ll

One particular cold night I joined the dining car “entertainments.”  Although the menu showed a long list of items, there was not much to eat except Mattjes herring, grits, and sardines.  But that night I came for the vodka.  As soon as some passengers noticed my German accent, I pretended to be from East Berlin.  They started to tell WWII stories like who in their families had been killed by the German army.  I was starting to get worried.  The more stories that were told, the more vodka was drunk. It was more like vodka with tea instead of tea with vodka.  The men asked me to sing a song since they had been singing all night.  The only song that came to mind was Marlene Dietrich’s famous Lili Marlene: “Vor der Kaserne, vor dem grossen Tor, steht eine Laterne und steht sie noch davor, so wollen wir uns wieder sehn, vor der Kaserne woll’n wir stehn …” Everyone knew the song.  It brought back many sentimental memories, and luckily everyone loved Marlene.  Soon I had them crying in my lap and I had a hard time getting out of the growling, crying group of men in the dining car.  These were men who were traveling from one labor camp to the next.  Thanks to the size and power of the babushka (compartment officer) who pulled me out of the  fangs of these moody drunken Russian men, I escaped.  That night she not only locked the door of my compartment but also stayed put in front of the door.


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