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Gerde was smaller than her parents and siblings, but incredibly strong. Amazing the way she carried the milk buckets at her family's farm above Zermatt. "I don't need help," she'd say, brushing me away.

No, I was the one who needed help and succor after being dropped here, away from the fighting. Every week I was getting stronger, walking more and trying to assist with the chores. Soon, I'd be able to say goodbye to these good Samaritans and continue home.

I'd miss Gerde singing while doing her chores, her soft, plaintive voice, "Edelweiss blanketed the mountainside, her hair covered her tiny shoulders..."

I realized a cow had gotten out during the snowstorm the week after my arrival. The barn door had been blown open. The others were still asleep as I set off down the hillside, calling Kommen Sie nach Hause, but the damn cow was taking a treacherous path down the rocks.

And then I slipped. Knowing my leg was broken was bad. Hearing it break was horrifying. I lay there, biting down the pain and, curiously, staring at a patch of edelweiss. The little flower characterizes the remote beauty of the Alps. Its ability to survive.

Time passed. One hour, two and I began to lose hope until I heard her calling, "Wo bist du?"

I said she was strong. That strength helped us hobble home on three legs. The cow was found two days later. But as I lay back in bed, I knew I'd found my home and wasn't leaving.

Story by:

Walt Giersbach

12 January 2018