Day 23: Tribute to Sonja – ‘These remain strange times both in which to live, and to die’

Contributor: Tony:

A few weeks before this all began, I went to see the Dissent and Displacement exhibition at New Walk Museum. 

This exhibition was mainly collages detailing the flight of Jews from Nazi Germany; a number who subsequently came to Leicester and made their homes here contributing to our economic, civic and cultural life.

The exhibition also featured (mainly from the museum’s own existing collection) the sculptures of Communist Margarete Klopfleisch, one of those who fled to the UK with her husband, Peter and whose daughter, Sonja, has died (12th April) after a long illness.  

Sonja was born in Maidenhead in 1942, but in 1960 mother and daughter made a trip to Dresden, then part of the Eastern Bloc, for a holiday.

They were not allowed to leave to return back to their UK home, and Sonja did not leave East Germany until 1984. 

I got to know Sonja (now Grossner) and her own daughter, Lorna, in the late-1990’s when both joined the Socialist Party. 

I always found Sonja’s involvement with the party quite puzzling since whilst it seemed she had become a Trotskyist, she always associated it with what she (and indeed many in society) termed the communism of East Germany, which she detested. 

It was no surprise, therefore, when she left the Socialist Party, but it raised many eyebrows that she did so for the equally proclaimed Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. 

Sonja, pictured, like her mother, was a talented artist, but was internationally known as a musician and a composer.

She (and Lorna) played for many years in a local cèilidh band, together with Michael Gerard, who was one of the first local victims of C-19.

Sonja’s death, however, does not appear attributed to the virus. 

Whilst I often found Sonja difficult (we artists often are), I am very saddened by her passing, not least because I had been thinking about contacting her to discuss her mother’s work of which Sonja was very proud and could talk about for hours. 

Her death also reminds me that the exhibition that I hoped to visit again is closed, together with the museum, because of the lockdown. 

These remain strange times both in which to live, and also, it would seem, to die.  

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