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The moving story of three generations of women that unfolds from an umbrella

Fastidiously wrapped in paper, tucked in a chest of drawers in a home in Malvern East, is the skeleton of presumably the primary ever retractable umbrella.

Its story unfolds to disclose the outstanding lives of three generations of ladies: a proficient artist who fled the Nazis, a tennis star whose earliest recollections are of an Australian wartime internment camp and who performed a Wimbledon last, and a soprano who commissioned a musical to have fun this extraordinary, unlikely story.

Tania and Eva de Jong. Driftwood is a new musical, produced by Tania de Jong, based on her mother’s memoir of her family.

Tania and Eva de Jong. Driftwood is a brand new musical, produced by Tania de Jong, primarily based on her mom’s memoir of her household.Credit score:Simon Schluter

However first: the umbrella. After her mom died in 1975, Eva de Jong-Duldig discovered an train e-book on a shelf, along with her mom’s two-page description of her eureka second within the Nineteen Twenties.

Slawa Horowitz was learning at Vienna’s Academy of High quality Arts and being courted by sculptor Karl Duldig: they might go for walks collectively on Sundays. One chilly, wet morning she “armed myself with a big umbrella and muttered to myself, ‘why on earth must I carry this utterly clumsy thing?’”

Over sleepless nights she got here up with an intricate, metallic contraption that would slot in her bag, consulting the town’s watchmakers for recommendation (telling them it was a lampshade). Lastly, the prototype was prepared. Worldwide patents had been filed in October 1928 and accepted the 12 months after: quickly the Flirt, because it was dubbed, was rolling off manufacturing strains in Austria and Germany.

However her identify is never connected to it. German competitor Knirps, which appeared about the identical time however patented 5 years later, got here to dominate the market (although some sources have the Knirps showing in 1927, invented independently by German mining official Hans Haupt).

It’s simply one among this household’s many historic rabbit holes, compiled into Eva’s 2017 e-book Driftwood. Of their previous dwelling, now transformed to a museum stuffed with the artwork and furnishings of her dad and mom (a lot of it snuck out beneath the Nazis’ noses), Eva says plenty of what she found in her dad and mom’ archive after Slawa’s demise had been a shock to her.

“I couldn’t believe what I found,” she says. “I didn’t know what was hidden. Half of it Mum didn’t even show Dad: her early drawings, some of her paintings. I began to search through documents and letters and began to read them.”

She discovered private secrets and techniques: unrequited love letters from Slawa’s artwork trainer in Vienna within the Nineteen Twenties. She pieced collectively the rising realisation {that a} revered, blissful Jewish household could be in critical hazard in Thirties Austria. And she or he even discovered detailed directions from her mom on the way to write her story right into a e-book.

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