Our next meeting is in:
ABOUT MY LIFE, WHAT I REMEMBER
American Medical College of Homeopathy
by Virginia Reyer, (June 17, 1925 - November 25, 2008)
History Project Interview
(Additional notes by Lesley Hesselmann)
I was born on June 17, 1925 in a little beautiful village called Medernach, in Luxembourg, a little beautiful country, which way back was the cradle of the royalties in Europe. Medernach is located about 30 miles SE of the city of Diekirch which is the county-seat. I grew up on a farm on the outskirts of town up the mountain near the woods. I had four brothers and two sisters; one brother died of tetanus at age seven and one sister died of pneumonia at age four, which left me the oldest. I come from a large family all living in Luxembourg, which at the time of the 2nd World War had about 300,000 inhabitants; it has been called the Rose-garden of Europe. From my home we could see into Germany on the far hills on two sides.
I was 14 years old when the war started; Germany occupied Luxembourg and Western Europe on May 10, 1940, a day I will never forget. There were horrible grenades exploding, they had some new kind that spewed fire all around, there was lots of bombing, gunfire and aircraft fighting, airplanes swooped over the rooftops shooting at each other. The Germans were shot down by French airplanes. The planes exploded, caught fire and burned everything around; bodies of the pilots were hanging in the trees. The Germans crossed over the border into Luxembourg; when the French also crossed the border the first fight was on. The southern part of the country was hit the most then. Germans occupied the west, robbed people, and stole everything - food, clothing - then introduced food and clothing stamps. People lost a lot of possessions and took to hiding things in the ground. They took the cars, trucks, motorcycles, tractors; anything that contained a motor was taken and the Germans wrote in their newspapers that the people from my country had donated it to Hitler as a gift. There was no money, the government of Luxembourg got away with the gold, after the Germans introduced the occupational Mark, not the German Mark, and later when they were booted out, people again had no money, till the government came back with new money and everyone's money was exchanged; they were given 10 (Marks?) per person to start out with again.
During the war, there was no sugar, no coffee; we only had a small piece of soap per month which was made from the grease-pits from the concentration camps. The soap looked a lot like "Vial" which I have never been able to use even now as it reminds me of it. People tried to get by; we hardly had any shoes, just a wooden board with straps. Clothing was very rough; farmers had to turn in potato-leaves which were used as fibers. They took farm animals, which they kept count of, took the horses, only left the old or young animals. They counted the farmer's chickens and every so often a certain number had to be slaughtered and delivered to a special place to feed their Army, farmers had to turn in the eggs, milk etc. People had to turn in anything made out of copper, brass or heavy metal. They took the church-bells, melted them down, took anything they wanted.
The last things they took were the dogs. This was in August 1944, anything that was called a dog had to be brought to a special place for examination. They didn't want lapdogs, they let their owners take them home. Big dogs were mustered, some Nazis were at the gate with heavy mitts and tried to attack the dog, if the dog fought back he had to go with about a dozen other dogs, to where they exploded something that made a loud noise with lots of smoke, if the dog run away they didn't want him, otherwise the dog was theirs. People were saying, boy, the rally got to the dogs....
They also took the young men of the country into the German Army; many ran away and went into hiding, families of any who did would be deported.
Luxembourg was ruled by the Grand-Duchess Charlotte prior to this time; she and her family went into exile during the war. Luxembourg never had an army, only a military band which would play at functions. Now the country belongs to the Marshal Plan (an economic aid to Europe), which started June 5 1947, and young men now have to join the military, with the rest of Europe. During World War II the militia appeared right away at the beginning and became bigger and stronger as the war went on. Many people went into hiding in caves in the woods; they were digging out places to hide in, like under or inside heavy rocks. My father with some other militiamen had made two caves, one not far from our home, the rock had a hidden split where one could squeeze through to get inside, it had cider and nuts inside for survival. Another cave was some distance away and was very big, hidden inside a huge rock. A ladder had to be lowered to get inside it and on the day of the liberation there were 628 people inside.
Many people were hidden away, including US soldiers who were shot down crossing the Siegfried line on their bombing mission. The militia had a password, which soldiers knew, was "Charlie friendly" if they could get to them first before the Germans did, were hidden away. The militia who took them to the unoccupied part of France through the woods at night and helped many. From there they could get into Spain and Portugal, were picked up by U-Boats and taken back to England. We heard from some after the war that they were flying across again not long after. The militia would help anyone who wanted to get away from the Gestapo; they had people of many nationalities and religions in caves. It was bad for them in the wintertime when there was snow; they could not leave any tracks and had to stay in the hiding place.
Jewish people hid in these hiding places too, they had to wear a yellow star on their left shoulders, which said "Jude" for Jew, to be easily recognized. We had 14 Jewish families in town, only one man made it out after the war. First they took the Jewish children, then the grown ups and lastly the old people. Anyone being deported could carry 30 pounds of anything - no more - and were loaded into trucks or trains and taken away. Every 7th person in the country was in a concentration camp. In the beginning the militia would attack German convoys, and take everything they had, the Germans retaliated by killing so many civilians in return, young or old, just lined them up and shot them, then the militia could not do that anymore, they had to become more selective.
My Dad spent a fortune buying food for them on the black market - he would get a cow, bring it into our big kitchen and the militia would kill it and take it to the woods, a short time later one would not see anything of it, every scrap had been disposed of. My Dad would buy grain, which we took to the miller for grinding. The hull had to remain in, in case the Germans would check. I was the one who usually went to the miller's, it was about 45 miles away; me being a teenager, singing German songs when they were around, I was never checked. My mother had made a sifter out of curtains to get most of the hull out and she would constantly bake bread for the people in the woods. The neighborhood would continually smell of baking bread, and it was nice living on the outskirts of town on account of it. My family had a hidden oven, which could bake 15 big, round loaves of bread at one time.
My father raised horses, the Germans took most of them, leaving him five, one was kind of old which I used to pull the cart when I went to the miller. Each time I only took two sacks of grain and I would sit on top of it in an old cart. Things were done always very fast. During the night the planes would fly across with bombs into Germany. Sometimes a train or a German convoy would be attacked close by. I was in an explosion once, and lost my hearing.
Young people were forced to join the Hitler-youth movement, since I had little hearing and big swollen, infected tonsils, I was spared. I had my tonsils taken out later sitting on a chair, holding on to it with someone holding my forehead, holding my mouth open and my tonsils were removed without any kind of anesthetic, as there was nothing available. A Doctor who was a friend of my uncle, who was also a doctor, they took my tonsils out, he cut a vein with the first one, I was bleeding so much he couldn't see to take the second one until a couple of hours later. He had to stitch the vein up to get the other one.
I also belonged to a rescue mission during the war which was helpful for me for other reasons.
The German occupation was brutal. Everyone had to obtain their family records to prove that there were no Gypsies or Jewish people in the family background; we had to go four generations back. If there were any, the whole family-group would be taken away to a concentration camp. My mother was arrested by the Gestapo; a neighbor who was German had turned her in. My mother was alone at home when they came, after that we were all afraid that they would come for the whole family sooner or later. Every morning we were up at about 3 o'clock, listening to trucks if they would come to take us, we were ready to run away to the cave if they did. My mother was experimented on; she had her pituitary gland removed through her eyes, for them to check about diabetes. She was blind afterwards and very sick. An uncle of mine paid a lot of money to a collaborator, who then removed her name from a list when they were going to move her to another place, and got her out. Some people had become collaborators; everyone had to be very, very careful. Eventually things got bad in Russia, and the German cities were bombed heavily so they were busy with other things.
Also at the beginning of the war most teachers were Nuns, they were taken away and replaced by teachers from East Germany who would ask children, what do your parents say about Hitler, the war, or what do they talk about? If anyone said anything against or not greet the swastika, they were taken away. Also names had to be changed into a German-style name; for instance, my father's name was Nicolas on his birth certificate which had to be changed to Nickolaus. Many towns had French names, which also had to be changed. In schools the crucifix was up front which had to be taken down and replaced with Hitler's picture, from the beginning.
V 1's, (German flying bombs) were used and directed toward England, they did a lot of damage, they introduced the "Volksturm" which consisted of Hitler-youth, women and old people, who used anything to fight with toward the end. They would go to the Front taking things there, then they picked up the dead, and would rob and steal on the way back. The Volksturm used anything on wheels to go to the Front bringing stuff - they even used baby carts to do it.
The invasion in Normandy happened on June 6, 1944 at five beaches. Allied planes pounded the Nazi defenders and dropped thousands of paratroopers behind German lines and there was heavy resistance. A lot of troops died on both sides. All beachheads were linked by June 12th and allied forces started attacking towards Germany and its Headquarters by late 1944. The German Army was nearing defeat. We could hear the shooting, the bombing come closer every day. When the shooting came closer, there were hoards of rats, driven ahead of the army, they got into everything; there would be hundreds in a pack. German troops tried to get back behind the Siegfried line and were attacked with machine guns from airplanes with two tails. People were hiding in the woods, because the Germans used the civilians to help them carry stuff across the border. Hitler was not finished, they stabilized along the Siegfried line with 18,000 bunkers, tunnels and tank-traps. They went on the offensive through the Ardennes Forest of Luxembourg in the hope of them retaking the port of Antwerp, Belgium. Luxembourg and Germany are divided by rivers that join the Rhine, between them is the Eifel (territory). The Germans had left one bridge, had the white flags out on October 10, 1944, so the US soldiers crossed into Germany, when they had enough of them there, the Volksturm destroyed the bridge and killed the soldiers who had crossed over, with anything they had. The allied soldiers pulled back and leveled the town with their grenades. After that there was fighting between both sides. The Germans launched an offensive at 5.30 am on December 16, 1944, at the onset of the coldest winter in anyone's memory. Germans were very cruel; if they caught any militia members they would burn them alive.
People had to run away toward the south, I didn't know where my family was for over four months, but we were all alive after. My family had run away in the morning, I was the last one to leave. I had to cross the entire town, it was very dark and very cold, couldn't see anything but shooting. I left with the dog and came across a neighbor lady outside of town who was sick and paralyzed from fright, with her 10 year old daughter holding her crying, she couldn't do anything. Someone trying to get away had abandoned a 4-wheel cart nearby. We put her mother into the cart and pulled her all night long, toward the south, with the shooting following us from behind. We were able to save her - something I will never forget.
The Germans forced a 50-mile bulge into the line with many English-speaking soldiers who wore allied uniforms to commit acts of sabotage, they were found out by the allies. It was very cold 12o below zero and 12 inches of snow, some places the snow reached over our knees. During this time, I had to run away from home to escape and because of the cold and lack of protective boots or shoes, my feet froze. I had no warm shoes or clothing; I took a pair of shoes from a dead French soldier, which almost fit. My feet were full of deep ugly ulcers, there was no doctor available, but because I was young and healthy I kept my feet. The ulcers would come back every winter for 10 years; until many years later I lived on the Mexican border in Texas where it was warmer, the ulcers did not come back anymore. I have had bad feet all my life on account of it.
My body suffered a lot during the battle of the bulge. Many soldiers also had frozen feet. The first American soldiers that appeared after the bulge were from the Sing-Sing prison , condemned to life imprisonment. A Skull with an X through it was drawn on their helmets, they had beady eyes, they looked awful; they scared me. Our house had no windows, it was damaged from the war, there were a bunch of them in my home, who came in the morning...they volunteered back in jail to remove the hidden land-mines and throw bridges across rivers, the most dangerous jobs in the war. If they survived they would be set free, that was why they volunteered. Anyway from the whole bunch of them when they came into my home in the morning, they went out and late in the evening only one came back and they took him away in a straight-jacket, he was mad.
Outside Bastogne, Belgium. On a corner stands an American tank as a memory, with the inscription that reads "Nuts" Germans wanted the American soldiers to surrender there, so the answer was "Nuts" which the Germans couldn't understand. Bastogne was hit very badly. There is a huge star up on a hill with the names of the US states all around engraved with the names of those who lost their lives there. Bastogne was one of the worst places during the bulge. Planes could not attack when it snowed, they could not see, till the day past Christmas when the clouds cleared up. The battle ended January 25, 1945. German surrender came May 8, 1945.
The militia saved many lives. There was a lot of destruction in Luxembourg, the northern part got heavily destroyed during the Bulge and people had no money; the occupational Mark was not worth anything. There were many dead soldiers on both sides. Outside Luxembourg City are huge cemeteries. One holds German soldiers that no one visits, the other has Allied soldiers buried there including General Patton who wanted to be buried near his men, he said. Every grave there has been adopted by people from Luxembourg who put flowers on the graves.
After the war I decided to go to Switzerland. It was very difficult to get into that country at that time, but I got a Visa and a job in Bienne as a cook. My mother was a terrific cook and cooking in Switzerland is simple. They cook a lot of "Eintopf" they cook a meal in one pot, first you put in the meat then add vegetables and potatoes, voila. I had to cook for about 100 people each day. Foreigners had to turn in their passports and could not leave the country without first paying tax to get the passport back. I found out that if one went to the place on a Friday late, before closing, and requested your passport for the weekend to go skiing in the Vogese Mountains they would give you the passport, they wanted to go home for the weekend. You had to return with your passport first thing on Monday morning. Once I had my passport, I went to Geneva they didn't know where I was. I met American Diplomats who could not speak the language, they had adopted a 3 year old German girl through the Red Cross, also could not talk to her, so I became their interpreter. The Miles family were from Alexandria, VA, through them I got the idea to come to the US. Mr. Miles was the Director of the Diplomatic Corps. I applied for a Visa, went to live in Bruxelles, Belgium to be near Antwerp where the Visa would be issued from.
In three months time I had my Visa. I left my family at the end of July 1950, went to Paris to go to Cherbourg for sailing. In Paris I found out that the "Ile de France" the boat I was to take, had to be repaired and my trip was delayed for a couple of weeks. I did a lot of sightseeing in and around Paris, especially in Versailles. When I visited the Chateau, I was struck that it had its 280 bedrooms and not a one bathroom. I traveled a lot all over Europe, even Ireland. I got to Cherbourg, and as I was sailing through the English Channel I saw the white cliffs (of Dover), after that I started to get seasick. The trip took 8 days on the ocean and I thought that I was going to die. We arrived in New York on August 20 and as I was going through immigration I found out that a railroad strike was to be on. I got the last train out of New York for South Dakota. All I had in my pocket at that point was $65, no job and no place to stay.
I had been so seasick that I needed injections on the boat, each one cost me $85. I had never been that sick in my life. I had to go through Chicago, then on a Northern Pacific train through St. Paul from where I sent a Telegram that I was coming. I got to South Dakota before the Telegram which would only be delivered when the mailman had to go the same way with something else. I had to go to Hankinson, North Dakota, from there was a train once a week, every Wednesday hauling grain and cattle.
The train had one coach, I was the only passenger. It was a rather slow train. I was going to New Effington, South Dakota as my final destination. The train stopped in a field, there was no station and the town was up ahead; it was a town of about ten houses. There was no taxi, no motel or hotel only a small country store. I walked in and inquired but the girl behind the counter, who was maybe 16 or 17 couldn't help me. I started leaving when a cowboy or cowman walked in, wearing coveralls. I asked him, he scratched his head saying that they lived a good distance away like about 50 miles or more. I asked him if he could take me, he said no, that he had chores to do. Tears started running down my cheeks, he looked at me and I told him that I had just got off the boat. He said "OK I take you".
He had an old car with a rumble-seat in the back and we drove through fields churning up lots of dust behind us. He asked me if I knew these people. I said no. He said, "well people in these parts don't go to a barber very often, they may have long hair etc." I, of course, didn't believe him thinking that this was a civilized country. Eventually we got there it was dark already, no one was home. By the back door there was a big heap of egg shells and empty cans, cats going through them and between the windows and the screens were lots of spider-webs. The man came with my suitcase and I begged him not to leave me there to take me to some town.
He took me to Sisseton, South Dakota. There were loads of Indians walking outside a tavern up and down, they were not allowed to go in. The man talked to a few people and before I knew it, half the town had gathered to see the greenhorn who just got off the boat. Some lady walked up to me and told me that the police had found the old lady, who was my grandfather's sister, who was about 105 yrs old, wandering in the fields, they put her in an Old Folks' home a couple of streets away. I went to see her, talked to her in our mother tongue. Her eyes were closed, she listened like a baby listening to the sound of bells. She repeated my grandfather's name three times, "Jang, Jang, Jang". Jang is for John in my home language. She died the same day. She had run away from home when she was about 15-16, got on the boat for the US met a man much older than her, married him and settled in Louisville, KY. They then went by covered wagon to the Dakotas, she never learned to speak English; there were no people around where she lived. One could not see another residence.
I got stuck in South Dakota because my trunk had been lost, I didn't get it back till the end of November. I felt that I had to get away from there; I did not want to end up like my grandfather's sister. She had had three sons, of whom one was married and had three children. Two sons lived on the farm. They came to the funeral and I met them. I then knew what that man tried to tell me. They were not well kempt and had clothes that looked like they were washed in the pis-pot and dried in the chimney.
There was an Indian school and camp for children outside of Sisseton which was run by six nuns, Sister Ursula, the one who did the cooking, was very old and had a hard time lifting the cooking pots filled with food to feed all those kids, they had about 800 boys and girls to take care of. The Indians would drop off the kids at the door and leave them. Their hair would move around being full of lice. There was a Chinese nun who would soak the children in a laundry tub and tried to get rid of their lice. I volunteered to help in the kitchen which gave Sister Ursula (the poor old nun) some rest. I was waiting for my trunk and then I planned to leave. She cried when I left, I did too.
Going through the middle west, Nebraska looked like South Dakota; and the oil smell in
Colorado made me sick; anyway I ended up on the Mexican border in Texas. There I met doctors who were running a new hospital. After six months I went to St. Louis and worked at Saint Jerome's hospital and took courses at the University on Grand Avenue.
When I got done with that, I went to Chicago, took a job at Columbus Hospital, at Norwegian American Hospital and at American Hospital one after the other. I worked with body parts taken out in surgery and from the morgue. The old hospital had poor ventilation; I had to work with Formaldehyde and Xylol. I had inflamed air-passages and had to leave that job. Each time I changed hospitals I made more money as it increased my experiences in hospitals. They did not pay much those days.
I married in Chicago and had three sons; one of my sons and my husband passed away. I moved to New Jersey when my two sons had to go to school and I had to stay put and worked at two hospitals there that were connected to each other, the Mountainside hospital in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and Community Hospital in Montclair
I always worked with a lot of bad chemicals and mercury; I had pneumonia several times. When my health started to fail I moved to Arizona. I had contracted cancer and a malignant melanoma. They removed my lymph nodes from the groin, I had to be lanced 3 times a week to remove the fluids. This was in July 1960. I had bad thyroid problems after that and doctors thought that my cancer had spread, so they removed it. What I had was a viral infection that scarred the thyroid, it didn't work any more. I had picked up the virus working at the hospitals, the virus then also infected my heart and I was taken to Presbyterian Hospital intensive care unit in New York and was there a long time. I was sick, and had no income to support my two young sons for 3 years. Eventually, I got sick benefits which wasn't much. The hospitals paid very little those days.
I buried my head into astrology to save my mind and the more I got into it, the more sense it made. I got deeper and deeper in to it. I had already been interested in astrology back in Switzerland. Anyway I became an expert at it, I started to write articles in Journals and have recently written a book on the Vertex (2004), which has to do with the people we attract in life through astrology. We only attract the people that fit the scheme, we do not attract anyone else. I have to find a printer; there is no other book on it.
Anyway back in New Jersey after my surgery and pain. My husband and son had died, I had to get out. There was an astrological meeting at Rutgers University, I decided to attend. When I got there I found a big room full of people - I could hardly walk but I had seen an empty chair in the 1st row and dragged myself toward it. The woman sitting next to me said "you look like you are in pain." She said that she didn't drive a car anymore and if I wanted to go some place for a drive to call her and she would accompany me, but I did not want to bother anyone. She wrote her name and phone number on a piece of paper and put it into my handbag. Each time she asked me something, I would say "yes" because I wanted to listen to Dr Negus, the professor who gave the talk, not particularly that I wanted her company
I found her address in my bag a couple weeks later, and I called her, because I had said "yes". I asked her if she wanted to go out the following Thursday, and she told me to come early, like 6.00 AM, so I did. I drove where she said - she gave me directions to the Ashram in Monroe, NY. She had me meet Doctor Mishra, which was a life changing experience for me.
Dr Mishra was a Swami and a healer, he touched the sores that had to be lanced three times a week to remove fluid and several days later they had healed completely. I then worked and studied with him for 15 years, I learned a lot. If I had not met him, I feel that I would not be here anymore. I learned acupuncture, acupressure, the energy paths, meditating and Yoga. He was a little Indian man (from India) but was a giant in his field. People would come from all over to see him and he would get them well.
For me this is a long time ago.
Virginia learned Dr. Mishra's techniques, and treated people for many years. She had an active business at home and traveled all over the Phoenix metropolitan area to treat people who were not well enough to come to her. She did such deep healing on some of her patients that it turned their lives around, or enabled them to live when otherwise they would not.
I don't have a good description of her work, but as an occasional patient, it seemed to me that her skill was in opening or clearing the energy paths of the body, so that your body could operate at optimum levels. We referred to her work as Therapeutic Massage, but she did so much more than that. At her memorial service, we all laughed as we talked about the way she would admonish each of us to "stand up straight", or "tuck in your chin". She would see me casually at a meeting and grab my elbow, and say "you have a blockage", squeeze my arm just right, and it would be better. I'd had, perhaps, a low level headache, or pain in my shoulder, and she would be able to sense that, and fix it with just the right touch.
She was a wonderful healer.
- Lesley Hesselmann
Virginia was a long time member of the Arizona Society of Astrologers. They published this memorial in their December 2008 newsletter, which tells a little bit about Virginia's astrology accomplishments.
Virginia A. Reyer, a long-time member of ASA, died Thanksgiving week. She was 83 years old. She had many friends in ASA and contributed greatly to our organization. Virginia spent over 60 years in the study of astrology, and amassed a huge library of information on thousands of people, famous, infamous, and unknown. She was meticulous in her research. She was especially interested in lesser-known planets and points, such as Trans-Pluto, Vulcan, and the Equatorial Ascendant. Her book on the Vertex has been accepted for publication by the American Federation of Astrologers. Virginia also published articles in the AFA Newsletter and other astrological publications, including Considerations. You can find several of her articles in the Archives section of the ASA website: www.azastrologers.org.
Virginia's birth chart and chart for her death are shown [linked] below.
Chart of Virginia's birth
Chart of Virginia's death
Virginia was one of the charter members of the Phoenix Homeopathy Study Group, when it was started in 1991. She has been a constant attendee since then. For many years she provided a service of recording the lectures, which were then made available to other members of the group. Her collection of homeopathic remedies will be donated to Homeopaths without Borders, for use in their missions overseas.
Virginia wrote these notes herself. I have left them largely unedited because I believe her style and words express the mood and story better than any correcting I can do. I did add a few notes about her work, her astrology interests, and homeopathy involvement, so as to have a more complete picture of her life, even though my notes barely touch on her contributions.
Virginia passed away on November 25, 2008
LH December, 2008