The search ended simply enough when the telephone rang in Inge Calvert's Brooklyn Park home last Jan. 25. Her younger brother was callingfrom Germany, alive, well and anxious to know how she was doing.
It had taken her 47 years to find him. The next day her older brothercalled, 47 years after she last saw him as a 7-year-old boy in theirhometown on the German-Polish border, the day she waved goodbye and moved to western Germany in search of work.
"They were just in shock as much as I was," said Calvert, 63. "They thought I had passed away."
Calvert never lost faith that they were alive, but for years she despaired of ever hearing their voices again. She assumed they were lost to her somewhere in East Germany, beyond the Cold War border that split their country in 1948. She wouldmake efforts to find them, then abandon the quest, then try again.
Finally, through an international tracing system run by the American Red Cross, Calvert made the connection. And next week, Calvert and her son and daughter and one of her two granddaughters will board a plane at Dulles International Airport and make the nine-hour flight toHanover, Germany, where they will be met by her brothers, Horst Schilling, 50, and Gunter Schilling, 54. They'll stay with their German relatives in Bad Harzburg, about 70 miles south of Hanover.
"I tellyou I can't wait to get over there," said Calvert. "I'll want to know the whole history since we parted."
Much of that history is not clear yet to Calvert. She was 17 when the war ended in 1945. "There was nothing there," in her town of Stettin, she said. "No jobs, nothing. So I just went over."
She moved to Badtolt, a town in western Germany, where she worked as a housekeeper. She assumed she would be able to return to visit her brothers and mother in the east. She couldnot know that the Soviet Union and the United States, World War II allies, would soon turn against each other and divide her country intohostile camps. She could not foresee the Iron Curtain or the Berlin Wall.
Calvert assumed her brothers had remained in Stettin. Through the German Red Cross, she made several unsuccessful attempts to find them while she was living in Germany. In 1948, she met U.S. Army serviceman Gordon Calvert in a restaurant in Badtolt. In 1954, they were married and moved to the United States, to Gordon Calvert's home state of Maryland.
For years, she made no further effort to find herfamily, she said, "because my husband said, 'They're behind the IronCurtain, you're never going to find them.' "
As it turns out, they weren't. In the five letters she has received from her brothers since January, she learned that the family made a hasty exodus from Stettin to western Germany before the country was divided. It was not clear to Calvert exactly when they moved, or how they happened to settlein Bad Harzburg, but it appears that after 1948 they were all on thesame side of the wire.
In November 1990, after the Berlin Wall had fallen and East and West Germany were united, Calvert went to the office of the American Red Cross in Baltimore and filled out the formsto begin a new search for her brother Gunter. In August 1991, the German Red Cross notified the Baltimore office that it could not find him.
In October 1991, Calvert read in the newspaper that the Red Cross opened the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center in Baltimore. She thought she'd make another attempt to find her brothers. This time, Calvert's request went to the International Tracing Center in Erolsen, Germany, and the Red Cross tracked her brothersto Bad Harzburg.
"Why they were able to find them this time is not clear," said Kay Hunley, the director of emergency services at the Red Cross Baltimore office.
Calvert's enthusiasm about the reunionis dimmed a bit by the fact that she cannot share the celebration with her husband, who was there when the search began. Gordon Calvert, a 60-year-old construction foreman, died in 1987 when he was struck by a truck while he was working on a bridge in Charles County. And shelearned through her brothers that her mother died two years ago at 84.
Her father left the family shortly after returning from military service in World War II.
Her brothers promise her a grand welcome, though.
"My brother (Horst) says we're going to treat you so good you won't want to go back to the United States. We're going to spoil you."