From doomed East Prussia to Tunbridge Wells
A young boy's escape across war-torn Europe
Dieter Teubler was just nine years old when he and his family left their farm in Memelland for the last time. Along with thousands of other terrified refugees from East Prussia, their only aim was to head west as Stalin’s vengeful Red Army forces surged in from the east. The perilous journey, which included a thirty-hour trek across cracking ice on a frozen lagoon, took five months and left the young boy with horrific images of death and suffering which would haunt him for the rest of his life.
With their mother Erna, Dieter and his younger brother and three sisters eventually found refuge in the quiet seaside town of Laboe on the German Baltic Coast. But their day-to-day struggle to survive in a country still reeling from the impact of war continued long after the war ended in 1945. Food was scarce, many local people resented the huge influx of refugees and the family was almost penniless.
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However the persistent dream of a fresh start in America would change the young man’s life in a way he could never have envisaged. He had intended to spend time in England simply to learn the language, but the appearance of a young national tennis player from Tunbridge Wells would turn his world upsidedown. In 1960, he and Susan Waters were married, and the country boy from East Prussia began a new life in the heart of middle England.
Now a father of four and with twelve grandchildren, Dieter Teubler’s dramatic story of loss and renewal continues to resound amid the human challenges of a new century.