More Facebook exchanges: —
I believe this is a photo of me and my brother Horst. He died sometime in 1944-45 in Holtzgarten, on the outskirts of Berlin.
My father had a sort of resort, restaurant and entertainment business there. In 1945, when the Russian army poured into Berlin, my mother (Ida) my little sister (Heidi Marie) and myself, Hans Jurgen, left that place and walked away with only the things we could carry in our hands. For some time, we were refugees, “Flüchtling.” Eventually we found refuge with some relatives who had a farm in Massenbachausen, a small Dorf, somehere near Heilbron.
In 1950, I came to America, growing up in New York City, Manhattan, and a year later we moved to Astoria, Queens, New York. I joined the US Navy in 1959. I was only 17 years old, discharged 1962 during the Cuban missle crisis, went to art school for a year, lived on the Lower East Side, NY City, lived in Hoboken, New Jersey till 1967, when I came in contact with Srila Prabhupada, “the Swami ” as he was then called by the 10 or 15 devotees at 26 2nd Ave.
I came to the temple on Lord Chaitanya’s Appearance Day. The devotees took me upstairs to Prabhupada’s apartment, where they were recording a message to be sent to him in San Francisco. They asked me to say something, which I did. As I was leaving, I noticed Achyutananda haphazardly trying to clean the stove in a small kitchen. I said, “You have to remove the top of the stove to really get it clean.” He replied, rather irritated, “If you can do this so well, why don’t YOU do it?” I was happy to get into it, and wound up cleaning the whole kitchen from top to bottom. It was my first foray into hands-on devotional service. I loved it!
A few days later I drove to Montreal, Canada in a car I managed to commandeer from a lawyer friend. The rest is history. On May 11th 1967, I was initiated by Prabhupada, “The Swami” in his little apartment on 26 2nd Ave, New York. My karmi name was Hans J. Kary, so I was a little disappointed when Prabhupada simply added “Dutta” and prefixed “Adi” to my last name Kary, making it Hansa-dutta das Adi-Kary. Of course, in time, I have come to love my name, because we have come to love Prabhupada, so when you love someone, as we love Prabhupada, you automatically love everything they say, do, eat or anything and everything about them — everything! That is love.
I did not know or remember my brother well, but I remember how he died, and what my mother had to do to bury him properly. With great difficulty she managed to find a carpenter to make a casket for his burial, but the casket was too small for his size, so reluctantly she broke his legs (on the advice of the carpenter) to make him fit into the little casket. It was a heartbreaking thing for her to have to do. When she finally returned home, I was down with high fever of 103 – 104, and Nona collapsed in despair. Later she told me it was the first time she sincerely wept and prayed from her heart to God’s help. In this way, after traumas and trial, we abruptly were forced to leave our home and restaurant and entertainment business, taking only what could be carried in two hands and a baby carriage to walk away from everything, never looking back, no hope of ever returning.
For some time — a year or so — we were refugees, eating oatmeal boiled in water. No sugar, no milk, no butter — just water and something like farina or oatmeal, sometimes potatoes. There was nothing to eat. We lived like this for some time, a year — I don’t know. Eventually we found refuge at a relative’s farm and settled in a small Dorf (village) with some family relations. Gradually things normalized. At school we would find discarded machine gun bullets, in the woods we would find unexploded bombs. And when the Americans came to our Dorf as occupation troops with their trucks and machine guns, we saw for the first time negros, black people. As little children, we innocent children speculated that they were black because they must have eaten too much chocolate candy; otherwise how could someone be black? In this way we were growing in the material world without a clue as to how we go there, what is to be done, nothing.
After meeting Prabhupada, he sent me back there. And I know now that I was born for serving his mission. All the other years were just down time of no consequence.
Yaduvendu Das: What an utterly amazing story. Puts me in mind of the saying, that the finest steel is cast in the hottest furnace. This should be recorded, if it hasn’t been already. Devotees will always be interested in the lives of Srila Prabhupada’s leading disciples. There’s no downtime, it all contributed, it’s all significant.
Hansadutta Das: Thank you, Yaduvendu.
Susan Webster Shutler: Thanks for sharing your story. No one knows what you have been through. I admire you for being able to come back out the other side.
Hansadutta Das: I thank all the beautiful devotees who take time to be affectionate towards me. I don’t deserve it, still it touches my hard heart. I hope someday I can be a real humble devotee.
Hrimati Dasi: Thank you, Hansadutta Prabhu. This picture of Horst and you (it is in my photo album at Raghu’s house) has always amazed me, and it never ceases to amaze me what sharp memory you have. Hare Krishna