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Forget yellow brick roads. Ex-POW's granddaughter is on a quest for a red brick silo of bittersweet memories

Staff writer

You never know what a day can bring, and that certainly was true for Vickie Jirak last week.

Jirak was sitting on the front porch of her farmhouse south of Ramona and enjoying a warm sunny afternoon when an unexpected visitor drove into her driveway.

The visitor introduced herself as Sabine Bauer, 47, and said she was prompted to stop when she saw a silo on the farm.

As it turned out, she was an Austrian exploring the area to see whether she could find a red brick silo that her grandfather, Alois Arter Bauer, built while he was a prisoner-of-war from 1944 to 1946.

She did not know where he was held, but a postcard he saved had the name Junction City written on it, which indicated he had been somewhere between Fort Riley and Concordia on the north and Emporia on the south.

Alois Arter was an Austrian who was conscripted into the German army after Adolf Hitler overran Austria.

While serving under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in northern Africa, he was captured by British forces and taken to Great Britain and then to the United States.

Alois Arter spent his years as a POW working for an older farmer who had a wife but no children.

When, after three years, the war ended, the 86-year-old farmer wanted to pass the farm on to Alois Arter, but Alois Arter’s wife, Marie, back in Austria didn’t want to come to America, so he returned home.

“We don’t know what happened to this farm or the one feed silo he built on this farm,” Sabine said.

She came to America on Feb. 11 with her father, Arter Peter Bauer, 70, but the father returned home after a few weeks.

Arter Peter had dreamed of coming to the United States and eating a steak, which he did during a stop at Council Grove, Sabine said.

He was interested in learning about Native Americans, cowboys, and Coca-Cola.

To the Austrian visitors, everything in America seemed big — big cars, long streets, and big glasses of Coca-Cola cooled with crushed ice.

Sabine, who was hungry for information about her grandfather, was thrilled when she spotted a brick silo a few weeks ago near Diamond Springs, east of Burdick.

The landowner let her examine the silo. She said it was an amazing experience that made her feel connected to the work her grandfather did.

Her search for answers continues.

Last modified March 13, 2024

 

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