When Vincent resident Friedel Barrett cast her ballot in the election this month, the 76-year-old said as always she recognized that the ability to vote is a right that is not simply afforded to everyone.
Usually that right is hard-won, attained through sacrifice and courage, said Barrett, who grew up in Germany during World War II.
"Voting is my privilege. Plus my husband would have had a fit if I didn't vote," joked Barrett, whose late husband David was the superintendent of the Washington County Career Center and a member of the Warren Local Board of Education.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Vincent resident Friedel Barrett shows a picture of her mother, Engelina, whose fiery determinism helped Barrett and her brothers and sisters escape East Germany during World War II.
Though Barrett's five German siblings now have the right to cast a ballot, that certainly was not the case during or immediately following the war, said Barrett.
"The war years were bad. We lost our freedom and we were sent to East Germany," she recalled.
Even more devastating, Barrett's father, a police officer in the town of Goch, Germany, was forced to stay behind and police the city. Under a Nazi government, her father, Matthias Reintjens, had no choice as far as his political position was concerned.
Born in Germany in 1936; was relocated to East Germany during the Second World War.
Escaped back to her hometown of Goch, shortly before the war ended.
Traveled to America in 1953 as an exchange student, where she met David, her future husband.
Married David in 1954 and applied for an American visa.
Has four children and 12 grandchildren.
Has five siblings who still live in Germany.
"He had to be a Nazi. He was a policeman and that was a state job, so you had to be one," said Barrett.
Though Reintjens disagreed with the party ideologically, losing his job as a policeman would have been devastating to him. Moreover, there were worse consequences for those who disavowed the party, said Barrett.
Barrett's mother was another story. Feisty and God-fearing, she fended for Barrett and her two sisters in Russian-controlled East Berlin, Barrett said. Her mother, Engelina, once told a German officer that Hitler would not win the war, an act of defiance that could have landed her in prison.
"We wanted to go back to the west side and get our freedoms back from the Americans," said Barrett.
Engelina began to orchestrate escape attempts. The first time, Barrett's family was turned around at The Elbe, the river which divided the eastern and western parts of Germany.
"They said go back or we'll shoot you. It was the middle of a battlefield," recalled Barrett.
The next time, Engelina hired a guide. But when one woman in the group of escapees fell and began shouting for help, she garnered the attention of Russian soldiers who began firing on the group.
Finally, on their third attempt, Barrett's family escaped East Germany, hoping to put the horrors behind them.
But even back in Goch, time were hard. After the Nazis lost the war, the Allied forces would not let Reintjens keep his job as a policeman. The war had leveled entire towns and farms.
"Simply finding enough food was a struggle," Barrett said.
But her family was resourceful and managed to recover.
In fact, when Barrett first visited America as an exchange student in 1953, she was homesick and considered returning to Germany. Only after being moved to a different host family and meeting the love of her life did she realize she wanted to stay.
"For 50 years, I've kept it as a secret," she said about her experiences during the war.
But slowly Barrett began sharing with her story with her children. And now, with the help of local historians Janice McGregor and Ernie Thode, Barrett is chronicling her story on paper.
"Since my husband passed away, it has given me purpose," said Barrett.
Barrett may be the only remaining Washington County resident who experienced wartime Germany, said Thode. Therefore it is important that she is able to share her unique perspective with others, he said.
"She still has this background that she needs to share, that she needs to let her children and grandchildren and future generations know about," said Thode.
Barrett writes down her memories as they come to her and has them scattered about her house, but is hoping for a more modern way to scribe her experiences.
"I need to buy a computer, but I'm afraid I couldn't use it," she said.