In 1948, a dark-haired girl posed for a picture in the small town of Kulmbach, Germany. Julianna had witnessed much, both horrors and blessings, during her 17 years. Her homeland and family had been ripped apart by the terrible world war. Yet, as she sat for her picture, her mind pondered an event from only two weeks before.
Julianna’s hometown was a small one, resting among foothills in Western Germany. Like many German towns, an old castle resided on the outskirts. In post-war Kulmbach, this castle served as a shelter for Czech refugees. Julianna visited them often and became friends with a young Czech woman, Marta, and her baby daughter, Anetka. On a bright, chilly, spring day, Julianna walked the winding path up to the castle. She clutched a bundle in her arms: a gift for Anetka. The crocheted dress and booties were created with love and care by Julianna, and she anticipated a warm acceptance for the gift.
After spending some time with Marta and Anetka and receiving a great amount of thanks for the gift, Julianna strolled down the castle corridor towards an exit. She passed by a large room, empty but for a sole figure sitting on the stone floor. She paused to look at this lone occupant.
Fred Mark was nineteen years old, born in Southern Georgia, and a soldier in the U.S. Army. While stationed at a nearby base in Germany, he and his fellow Army buddies decided to spend their weekend hiatus in Kulmbach. However, while touring this little town, F.M. somehow ended up alone in a castle room. He preferred it this way: solitude and a bottle of beer in hand. He was immensely introverted and comfortable in quiet moments like these.
But his solitude was interrupted at this moment. He glanced up as a young lady stopped by the doorway and stared at him, and his bottle, with much curiosity and a little disgust. F.M. stared back at the beautiful, wavy-haired, dark-eyed girl. Within an instant, he pushed aside all introversion, and announced decidedly to her, “I’m gonna marry you!”
Julianna eyed this skinny, auburn-haired man with his strange accent and U.S. Army uniform. After hearing his words, she decided they came straight from the empty bottle in his hands. Her response was a quick, “Ha!” Its interpretation: “Yeah, right! Who do you think you are?”
She walked away in slight amusement and continued in leaving the castle. But F.M. would not give up. He stood up from the cold castle floor, left his solitude, and followed her all the way to her house. When he reached the front door, she gave him her name and, with some hesitation, invited him inside.
The rest of the memory was a bit blurry to Julianna two weeks later as she sat having her picture taken. She and F.M. were dating. Her parents loved him as their own son. Her mother explained, “If my son were in a foreign country, I would want a kind family to take him in and care for him.”
As the flash of the camera lit up her face, Julianna’s eyes were bright with the hope of a new future.
“I’m gonna marry you!” he said.
And four years later, he did.