14 June 1935 – 25 December 2021
In the book of Colossians (3:12), the Bible tells us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. For us, this is how we see Lydia Kraus touching the lives of all who knew her.
Born on 14 June 1935 in Wilhelminenort, in a fertile agricultural region of east Germany, she came into the world as a blue baby, born in the hay, during the busy summer harvest.
Mum was the third of 5 children born to Gustav and Johanna Mulitze, the others being Gerhard, Ruth, Gustav and Elisabeth. She also grew up with her half-brother Hans and his grandmother in the childhood home. Mums’ early life was very happy. The Mulitze parents and grandparents were loving Christians and the siblings were very close. Mum loved to visit her grandma (Oma) Anna Mulitze to see her smiling face and listen to Bible stories. Mum’s father Gustav operated a successful woodworking business making all sorts of furniture, tools, and toys. Even skis and violins were part of his skill set. Mum fondly remembered going into the forest with her father to knock on trees and select the right one that would be crafted into a violin with the right acoustics.
Her father was also a gifted musician, and the love for music pervaded the Mulitze home and remained an important part of Mum’s life to the very end. She enjoyed church music best. We loved to hear her sing, play piano and guitar with feeling, and we children also took the time to learn and enjoy music. The lessons of precision Mum learned from her father she applied to all things she did, whether it was cooking, sewing, or ensuring the design and construction of the family home were just right. Mum’s mother Johanna was a woman of strong faith and many talents. She spent much of her pre-marriage life attending to the affairs of a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin and yet was able to quickly transition back to farm work when she came home for visits. The ability to connect with people and provide emotional support were all part of the example she set for her family while her enterprising skills were particularly valuable during the difficult war days and post war period when food and safe shelter were not easily obtained. We believe Mum valued and carried with her that same resourcefulness and the ability to understand and empathise with people.
Mum realised as a young girl that faith and love were important. The family experienced persecution because her parents felt it was not right to enroll the children into the Hitler Youth or allow them to attend school on God’s day of rest. Furthermore, they did not fly the Nazi flag despite pressure from neighbours to do so given their proximity to a local war memorial. Mum said that she learned the importance of living by conviction because of this.
Mum also believed that God protected her and spared her life many times. One of her tasks was to collect the mail from the post office, a 2km round trip by foot. Mum took great care to time her trip to avoid being outside when the air raid sirens were on; however, on one occasion just after she emptied the mailbox and started for home, an aeroplane suddenly appeared from nowhere and opened fire. Mum fell flat to the ground as the bullets flew all around her wounding and killing people and destroying homes, but she was untouched. Mum believed that God spared her life during that unexpected air raid.
Life changed dramatically on the night of 20 January 1945. Mum’s parents were woken by a knock on their window at midnight and told to leave home immediately. They did so, later finding out that a Nazi raid had been planned for the following day which would have annihilated the family. After a short stay with relatives, the family again had to flee by train due to the approaching battle front. As the extended family approached the station the scene before them was one of chaos with the station overflowing with desperate people all trying to get a train out before the area would be besieged. As they joined the frenzied crowd, Mum, who was nine years old at the time, lost grip of her mother’s skirt and was separated from her family by the pushing and shoving. In terror she saw the pram carried above her mother’s head going further away as unfamiliar faces pushed past her. Paralysed with fear and crying bitterly, a man picked her up, asked what platform she needed and pushed his way through the crowd, miraculously delivering her into the arms of her crying mother, just as the train started leaving the platform. Mum always thought God had sent an angel to save her from being a “lost child” of the war.
The family eventually found refuge in Kelheim, Bavaria near the Danube River. They remained there after the war as the family home was now no longer in Germany – the borders had been changed. Post war life was hard with strict rationing, but Mum’s mother was resourceful, taking the children with her to pick berries and mushrooms in the forest to supplement their diet and taking on farm work in exchange for wheat and potatoes. Mum would say “Though we were sometimes hungry, we never starved – God was good to us.”
Mum had an adventurous spirit. At the age of 13, she accepted an offer from the Red Cross to have a working farm stay in Switzerland to build up her nutrition. Her six-month planned stay was extended multiple times because she was so helpful to the host family! Her duties included milking cows, delivering the milk to the dairy and caring for the infant children. Mum stayed three and a half years!
Upon returning to Germany, Mum took up a sewing course and then the canvassing work under the guidance of an older lady (Sr Humple). Initially they went together, and then they did a trial where they would split up and meet again at the next street. Though only 17 years old, Mum was confident enough to visit the American army barracks and offer the books there. She got talking with a soldier who showed an interest in the literature. He called his friends over, and soon they bought everything she had which left both Mum and her mentor amazed. They canvassed many German towns together and had more wonderful experiences but also some confronting ones. Having been taught never to pass a door, Mum met a lady who dealt with the occult. She had been invited inside and given a special stone to hold to “feel the power.” Mum honestly said that she felt “nothing at all” and safely left the home, thanking God for His power and protection.
Mum attended a Youth Convention in Austria in 1956 where she met a young man called John who had a camera and offered to send photos to those who wanted copies. Lots of the youth requested photos, but only Mum received a letter along with the photos asking her to write again. A correspondence started, and Mum learned that John was planning to emigrate to Australia. Their time together had made a favourable impression on them both so Mum continued to correspond with Dad for the next two years after he sailed to Australia in 1957. When she received a letter from Australia inviting her to marry him, she prayerfully considered the matter and consulted her parents. Her mother looked at the globe to locate where Australia was and almost fainted when she realised it was literally on the opposite side of the world. They asked if she felt it was God’s will to go so far away—to which she said, “Yes.” “Then go and praying hands will be behind you,” was their reply. She bravely left family and friends on a journey to the other side of the world to a country she knew little about, which spoke a language she did not know, and to marry a man she only met on one occasion with the knowledge it was likely they would never see her family again – international travel being so limited and expensive at the time.
Mum arrived in Australia on 26 January 1960 and married on 29 May 1960. Ever since they were married Mum and Dad were a team, and we children also felt included in everything. In the early years Mum and Dad shared their home with Dad’s sisters, cousins and other migrants until they could find their feet. They learned the language and got to work. Mum worked as a sewing machinist at Anthony Squires – men’s apparel – until just before Garry was born. When we children were teenagers, Mum returned to work as a petrol station attendant. The relationship with the petrol station owner developed to allow all of us to be involved in some way which provided valuable work experience as teenagers. If needed, Mum would put her own money into the till to ensure her shift balanced at the end as she felt that was the faithful thing to do.
Mum and Dad made home life simple and happy. Home and garden activities became part of our weekly routine; though we were not always willing workers on their organic patch, we did enjoy the fruits of our combined efforts and learned that good things take time and bring satisfaction.
Church activities and regular family holidays made growing up together a joy and blessing. Mum and all the family made lifelong friendships with people met during these trips throughout New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. Mum and Sonya also shared a special mother/daughter trip to Western Australia to see the wildflowers in bloom and reconnect with family and friends. Then, after nearly 30 years, a trip to Europe was possible—a wonderful time to see Mum’s father and siblings and extended family as well as old friends. New friendships blossomed too during more overseas trips to Europe, North and South America and South Africa.
Every birthday brought us together in a special way, and Mum’s sponge cakes are a tradition we will miss. Mum was a wonderful cook and baker. Her green bean soup is still a family favourite, but all meals were delicious. We all took turns choosing the special Sabbath meal and dessert which Mum would prepare every Friday afternoon.
Mum’s kindness and hospitality was appreciated by many visitors to our home. Often interstate and overseas visitors would stay after camp meetings, and groups of youth would come for dinner and a sleepover before or after their outings.
Mum was at her best in her role as a caring mother. Truly the work of a mother is greater than that of a king, and our mum holds a special place in our hearts. The births of the three of us were difficult experiences. Garry was very premature, the pregnancy with Sonya was complicated and Harold unexpectedly came along 14 months after Sonya as an oversized child. All of this took a toll on her body.
Mum had an endearing leadership style. A balance of firmness and love. She moulded our faith and sense of responsibility. Mum’s heartfelt prayers were something we will never forget—we went from wishing they were shorter when we were children to cherishing the comfort and strength her prayers brought. Her church family were also included in her circle of love and prayers. Many people have shared how she encouraged them with her kindness and wisdom.
Mum thoroughly enjoyed being a grandmother. She liked to see and hear the grandchildren doing presentations at church and spending time together enjoying their lives, even when it was just to sit and watch them playing in the pool. She was always ready to answer their questions and hear their stories. Days before passing away, Mum found a ripe passionfruit on a vine in the garden of the rehabilitation hospital, and instead of enjoying it herself, she insisted on giving it to the grandchildren to share. It was to be one of her last selfless acts.
Mum’s health journey has not been an easy one. In her mid-40’s she developed asthma and suffered from many bad asthma attacks which resulted in several emergency visits to hospital. This triggered our move to a rural setting away from traffic and fumes which significantly improved her breathing.
Many additional health challenges were to come her way over the years. Mum developed osteoarthritis and later experienced a mild stroke in October 2014. During this time, it was identified that she also had heart problems. Mum came under the care of a cardiologist who treated her and organised surgery in 2017. She recovered well but in late April she had a heart attack. God worked a miracle to restore Mum to us after she went into multi-organ failure, and she continued to praise and thank Him each day for the “bonus time” granted. She bravely rose above increasing frailty and frequent pain, remaining strong in spirit and love. Dad and Mum became particularly close during this time as he selflessly cared for her, and they reminisced about their lives together. It was sweet and precious time for them and all the family.
In November 2021, Mum had surgery to remove two skin cancers which were very painful. The surgery went well, but during her recovery in rehab, she developed a chest infection. Mum continued with rehab, but her body weakened to the point that she was unable to overcome infection anymore. She passed away peacefully with her mind clear and her faith as strong as ever. Her parting words to us were, “Be faithful.”
What do we continue to cherish from Mum’s life? We will always cherish the example that she set on what it means to be a Christian. She embodied compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. We will also cherish the lessons learned at her knee – the importance of being hardworking, resourceful, and being faithful in the little things. But most of all, we will continue to cherish her example in praising God throughout all circumstances of life, no matter how difficult life may get. We know that through faith and prayer, God will help us bravely meet life’s challenges. And finally, because of our mother, we will always know that the greatest power on Earth and in Heaven is Love.
~ The Kraus family