The movie, "Letters to Juliet", came out in 2010. Like most men I didn't care much about romantic movies at the time and if it wasn't for me liking Vanessa Redgrave's old movies and thinking Amanda Seyfried was cute I wouldn't have watched it. For those who haven't seen it, those are the two lead actresses in the movie and are greatly appreciated for making a movie so good I decided to check into it for an article on moviepilot. I was surprised to find out that there is actually an organization called the Club Di Giulietta (Italian for Club of Juliet) in Verona that answers actual Letters to Juliet just like in the movie. I decided to see for myself if this was true and wrote my own 3-page letter to Juliet telling her about the love of my life that was taken from me in Germany back in 1989. It is a tale worthy of a book or movie if I were to tell it all, but it hurts to much so I will just write about part of it here and print Juliet's reply. Here is part of my letter to Juliet:
Dear Juliet, My name is James and I just watched Letters to Juliet and was moved to write and tell you my story. I am an American and my Juliet was a Polish Immigrant to Germany. I was told her name was Yolanda Zastonka (and it was what her ID said as well), but because of the time period in which we met it is entirely possible that she was a spy or undercover soldier since the Berlin Wall was fixing to fall and I was in Air Defense Intelligence at the time. I was 22 years old when I met her at a local club in Ingelheim called Funsels Discotheque. She was sitting with three other young ladies when I first saw her. I bought them all a drink and was asked to join them by one of her friends (they were all from eastern block countries-Russia, Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, and Poland). I found out Yolanda didn't speak English at all, so you spoke German to each other or had her friend translate until I taught her to speak & understand English herself. We had a great night until a Turkish man tried to drag her away (literally) from me to dance. He punched me and got thrown out, but waited in the bushes outside the club to stab me when we left. Fortunately, his friend told the owner of the club and he made sure everyone left the club at the same time. After that, She would still sneak out and meet me for an entire year. We were in love and I wanted to see her place, which was when we went to the relocation camp where they all lived. It looked like a prison or concentration camp to me. I found out that they were supposed to stay there five years and then would have a job, apartment, and all the wages they earned waiting for them minus fifty euros a week expenses. They would sneak out on the weekends because the regular guards weren't there. They sneaked me into their room and I spent the night, but someone told on them and we were caught the next day. I was turned over to the MP's and forbidden from going there again. After that my Chain of Command told me I couldn't see her again and kept me confined to the base for two months, eventually sending me back to the states. She told me she wanted to see me before I left because she had something important to tell me and needed to do it in person. I tried to meet her, but wasn't allowed to and to this day don't know if she was carrying my child (I never had any since) or not. I was told by one of her roommates that she was a Political Refuge and that she may have been returned to Poland (in which case, she was probably killed). I returned to Germany in 2005-2007 and after my wife left me there I decided to see if I could find out what happened to Yolanda. I was told by the Polish, German, and American Embassies that there was no such person in any of their records and insisted that there wasn't and never had been a relocation camp in Ingelheim or anywhere else in Germany for that matter. I just can't accept that a place I went by several times and actually stayed in overnight never existed, much less that a woman who I knew over a year that may have been carrying my only child never existed. As is stated in the movie Letters to Juliet, "What and if are two words as non-threatening as words can be, but put them together side by side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life." After 25 years that is where I am, Juliet. Can you give me any advice on dealing with the daily pain and sorrow associated with loving a person who for all intents and purposes is and may have always been a ghost?
I sent the above letter to Verona Italy, not knowing what to expect. I had about given up on receiving a reply when the following letter arrived in the mail:
Dear James, You tell a powerful story. One must embrace our memories in such a love and terrible hardship. It is so told, "better to have loved & lost then to never have loved at all." It is even harder to accept with such an unknown. Love comes in many forms & one must also embrace the love in ourselves, cherishing all experiences of love we are blessed to encounter. Your love sounds to have been a beautiful & real love, and you sound to be a beautiful person, don't give up hope. We do not know what the future shall bring, but also do what makes you happy & live life & love life. Love, Giulietta.
After reading that letter, I decided to ask some of my lady friends I had known all those years what they thought about me as other then a friend and found out I had let many opportunities for love & happiness pass me by while chasing a ghost. I am now trying to get back out there and enjoy life without fear or sorrow and I have to thank Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave for making such a great movie that it helped me to rejoin the rest of humanity in actually living again instead of merely existing.
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