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The story behind Petra's photos

In her own words

I grew up in two different households, the first one, I can remember was the messy household of my mother and her husband, my father, who was abusing alcohol. I suppose in that time he was still not dependant on that stuff, but I'm not sure.

At first, I'm the sandwich girl of two mentally handicapped sisters, one one year older, the other one one year jounger. Our first part of life we were at our parents'. Mother was a housewife at first and my memory starts perhaps with the age of three or four. There are pictures in my brain, that show a messy flat - piles of dirty clothes, underwear, cooking pots with food in, where the mold was just growing up and getting green hair. The colour of the floor wasn't recognizable, so much dust was in the flat. It was divided in two pieces. On one side of the first floor were the kitchen and the kids room, where most of our life took place. On the other side were the parents' bedroom and the living room, in that time still used very little, because it was the "good room". Actually, the kitchen was big enough, but full of that stuff, I have been describing. Our grandmother had been talking to the youth office because of that mess, she didn't know anything, how to wake her daughter up and the description and name messie was still unknown even in the former German Democratic Republic behind the Iron curtain. We had only one name for that - the household was slovenly or sloppy and the women who lived in that state were called: "That's a lazy slut!"

Okay, my mother had had an unexpected helper. Her MIL picked up our laundry and washed it, so that we could have clean clothes and dresses and looked nice and neat. Also some food granny gave, they had two gardens. So we got apples, pears, plums, strawberries and various kinds of veggies, but regularly my mother let them rot. We grew up with slices of bread - margarine and a teaspoon of sugar or some artifical honey - because we wanted that and a pediatrician gave the advice to follow our wishes. Our taste would change sometimes. But, then you should give a special care for your tooth hygiene - mother never checked out, if we did and did not even teach us. The first time, when I saw a tooth brush was when I came to school and could stay at our grandparents' during the winter season. Grandmother was very different to our mother, she was neat and a cleanie, she had fixed days for every chore of the household - so laundry day was on Tuesday, dusting and cleaning the single rooms in the house started on Friday and ended Saturday morning. So almost all the work was done on Saturday afternoon and we had an almost work-free weekend. Only sewing and repairing clothes or darning socks were done Saturday afternoon or on Sunday - that was her freetime job. I must still tell, my grandparents had two garden places, one close to the house, the other one a little farther away, they had pets like, some chickens, a pig and a female goat. Those creatures wanted to be fed, cleaned and the goat had to be milked every evening. So there was work for my grandmother all around the day, no lazy second for her.

In 1973 my parents went to court for their divorce. Both sisters were living in a home around the week at that time, they came home only for the weekend. Mother had taken a new job and anyway, it was hard to educate two mentally handicapped children. From there the staff sent them to a house of diacony (pastoral care), very far from our place. We were allowed to visit them only half an hour, when we drove there and mother could pick them up for some holidays at Pentecost and Christmas. So the judge made a decision. Although she didn't like to divide sisters, she gave the right and responsibility for the education of my sisters to my mother, knowing there wouldn't be much that would go wrong. I was given to my father and my grandparents would overtake the responibility for the rest of my youth.

So I came from a messie to a cleanie. At first this was very hard, at our mother's we had no rule, like doing the morning routine every day, only, when we went somewhere we were put into a bathtub and scrubbed from parting to sole. Now I was woken up every morning, had to go to the kitchen sink (my grandparents lived very simply, no bathroom and the toilet outside in the yard), to do my morning routine, brushing teeth - the first time in my life - and do all those other things, that neat persons have no struggle with doing.

So, somehow I came through my childhood, boys of our class were teasing me, just in a way that you would call mobbing today, and the girls, so-called best friends, stood aside and watched them, instead of trying to stop them. I sometimes used a detour, because I could see they were waiting for me and having their pleasure with me like dragging me from the bike.

Then the school time was over, I had a good result and could start my apprenticeship. That happened in Wolfen and we had to stay in a home over the week. The first time I felt somehow freed from the pressure of my grandmother, I could do what I wanted and my colleagues who lived in the same room (we had a room for three) were very nice. The furniture was simple and poor, a double bed and a single and the inhabitants were two from the same class and one from the 2d. I had got the profession of a chemical industrial worker, actually I wanted to become a secretary, but that wasn't allowed, I'm suffering with a round back and scoliosis and the doctor proposed that profession because of my mark 1 in chemistry. So I learned something, I didn't want to learn, but you had to do the best.

I became a PVC-bristle maker. Some of the apprentices in the former classes learned in Wolfen and changed then to a pharmacy factory in Bernburg, but when I finished my education, I stayed there. I was far enough from my grandmother, lived with her, but my work was outside. Later, in 1985 I announced I wanted a flat in Wolfen, I was too tired to drive every morning, leaving the house at 3:30 AM and coming back not before 3:30 PM, when we had morning shift. We had been working 8 hours, but the way from Bernburg to Wolfen was 1 hour.

Finally, in February 1988 there was the chance to get a flat - until then I had got a room of my mother's flat - the kitchen was used together and my mother had two rooms, I had one. Housework was no problem for me in that time, I took also the kitchen from my mother, because the other rooms were messy.

Now the move! Already then I had to notice, I had a little problem with organizing the packing. I had time enough for it from February to April, when I moved, but I hadn't finished everything, when the truck came. Also I had a boyfriend, he had promised to help with the move, he didn't come at the time. So we were only the driver, my father, my mother and I. My father came with me to Wolfen and he was the only one who could help. My boyfriend came late in the afternoon and some weeks later one of our colleagues told me, he had a second "girlfriend". I threw him out of my flat and my life and from then my household started being neglected. At first the kitchen mess piled up. Then one room after the other the others were filled with clutter too, I could still move my body, but it was like described in the first thread, that special squaloree dance.

From time to time, when there was a new chance to get a partner for my life or another event, I tried to declutter and clean the flat and keep it neat and clutter free, but it never worked. Soon it was as worse as before and when my aunt announced she and our grandmother were coming I had to work hard all the night to bring everything to a presentable state. It wasn't enough for my aunt! I had been scrubbing and cleaning the kitchen sink almost the whole night and she came, pulled the kitchen towel out of my hands and scrubbed it again! My first thought was throwing her out of my flat and having coffee only with my grandmother and the mother - granny said too, she had been disappointed, but that was the only time, she mentioned. Aunt Erika again and again complained and complained, till they left for going home.

When they went, I kept that neatness for two or three weeks, then the mess came back.

The next trouble came, when I had some problems to pay my rent. Our quarterly inspection came by; I had tried to get my flat a little bit in a presentable shape, but only the corridor and the half kitchen was able to be shown and he told me in an arrogant way: "What do you think, how quickly we can get rid of you, how quickly you will have to move out! We will talk to your employer, in which conditions you're living here!" (Is that legal and a matter of the company, how their employees are living? I have no profession in public life, so they haven't do be informed!" Oh, I was so upset with that and so helpless, I couldn't do anything against him other than mentioning about the treatment in my homepage! I don't still like that fellow, always, when someone mentions his name, I'm getting in rage!

Later I could get some money from my grandmother and pay the bill, but I never gave the allowance to let that guy in - when he stood in front of my door, I wasn't at home, even when it was somehow neat!

It was just about that time that we got problems at work. We had very bad basic material, we had to make our PVC-bristles of and so you were burned out, when you came home. The freetime there did not give you recovery enough and 2000 the company decided to close the house in Wolfen and move the machines to another place here in Stuetzengruen. So we were asked to move too and I did. It was a nice little flat with a living- and a bedroom now, the same size like the old one but with two rooms to live in. A lot of stuff I transported with my little car, when I shuttled from my old to my new flat, bought a new furniture for the living room here and took the rest of furniture of the lady who lived here before.

I thought, I could make a new start, but soon the stuff piled up here too and when I found someone that wanted to come visiting me, I had to do a lot of work, but it went on! He was committed, but he came every second day and unexpectedly and in that period it worked, that I could keep my house clean. Then more and more the thing came up, his .... asked him about us (at a birthday party, in front of all the other guests) and he denied it. So his visits became rare, I fell back to my old state.

Now, a few weeks ago I started getting tired of looking for everything I need and all that is hidden somewhere under a pile of clothes clutter or paper clutter, like the clutter that still lays on the seat of my chair, my living room table and the couch there. I almost lost my nerves, because I needed that document. From then I recognized, I have to change something in my life. The bedroom is already clutter free and now the rest of the flat must follow. It is hard, when you have gossiping neighbours living next door, but I try everything to get my flat presentable again!

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