Phyllis McGuire | View from The Village: Author sharing memories of wartime childhood


WILLIAMSTOWN — Local author Adriana Millenaar Brown will go from her home in Williamstown to the Unicorn Theatre in Stockbridge on Sunday for a two-fold purpose: to attend a performance of "Bakelite Masterpiece" by Kate Cayley and to be guest speaker at a post-show event.

Co-produced by Berkshire Theatre Group and Women's Action Movement Theatre (WAM), "Bakelite Masterpiece" is set at the end of World War II. Holland is in chaos. Artist Han van Meegeren has been arrested because he sold a painting by the Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer to Hermann Goering, a Nazi leader.

At the end of World War II, Adriana Brown was living in Sweden with her mother and two siblings, having fled from Berlin in 1944. Her father was not allowed to go with his family.

"My father was posted to the Netherlands embassy in Berlin in the late 1920's as an agricultural assistant. I was born in Germany in 1938," Brown said when we spoke recently.

"When Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, my father stayed on 'in the lion's den' in Berlin working under the protection of the Swedish delegation, to save Dutch compatriots. When Father was named state enemy of Nazi Germany, Mother and we three children got out of Berlin in November 1944. We went to Stockholm, but Father was not allowed to leave Germany."

Brown shares her memories of her father in her debut book, "An Unlikely Hero Andrianus Millenaar From Farmer to Diplomat," which is available through Amazon, and at Water Street Books in Williamstown and Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vt.

"Now it's also published in Poland, Denmark and the Netherlands," said the author, who will soon make her annual visit to the Netherlands, together with her son Andrew Millenaar Brown. "We'll stay with my brother Hank. He lives in the province where Father was a farmer. We'll drive around and go to the teensy village where my father went to school. And we'll do a lot of biking."

Then her memories of her family's misery in the war years surfaced.

"Hank was born in 1944 under terrible conditions," she said, and then revealed that to this day, she is frightened when a plane flies low.

"During the war, a Dutch woman told my parents to go to a little village northeast of Berlin with the family if bombing got bad," Brown said. "But there was still bombing and a concentration camp there."

Later, I asked the vibrant 78-year old why she waited so long to write about what had happened in World War II.

"I couldn't come to terms to being born and living in Germany when they were at war with the Allies," she replied. "I couldn't talk about my childhood. Finally, I realized writers write about their lives."

When Brown started writing the book, she returned to Sweden to find a woman who could help her reconstruct the past: Where had we lived? What places had Mother taken us?

Now, as Sunday fast approaches, Brown has no qualms about speaking in front of an audience at Unicorn Theatre. "I've given talks about my book and done book signings," she said.

Brown will be featured in a "post-show conversation" after the 2 p.m. matinee about what Truth and Reconciliation — issues embedded in the play — mean to us today, and how they relate to our responsibility as citizens.

"Bakelite Masterpiece' runs from Oct. 2-23.

Tickets are $50 and may be purchased at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to organizations that benefit women and girls.

Said Kristen von Ginhaven, co-founder and artistic director of the nonprofit organization, "The last day of every fall production, when we make the check presentation to the beneficiary, that is an incredible moment _ when we donate money from doing a play, from being theater artists, that is incredibly satisfying."

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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