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Thea O’Brien: A Story of Compassion

November 26, 2009 by Sandra Hindson

CAG_6575During the week of the release of the Charter for Compassion I spoke with several residents and Karma Yogis  about their experience of compassion.  Thea O’Brien, a senior resident who has lived at the Ashram since 2000, came to me one morning in Shakti, home to Lightwaves, to say she had a story. I was immediately intrigued.  Listening to her story was bearing witness to Divine Mother’s protection which is present in potentially life-threatening moments. Here is her story…

•                           •                          •

It is January, 1945 my family and I were living near the Baltic Sea in Germany. The Communist armies were approaching, getting so close that all transport, buses and trains had shut down. We had heard of the atrocities and decided to leave the town where we were living.  Through some unusual circumstances we were able to get a ride on a German army truck that took us to an area where there was, as yet, no fighting. My mother, brother and I had one suitcase and a roll of bedding. This area in a few months would be occupied by the Communists as outlined in the treaty that ended the war.

It is May, 1945 and the Communists shipped out all the food that was available; we barely had enough to survive. On one occasion we boiled the red berries of a mountain ash and discovered that this mixture tasted too awful to swallow.  So my mother and a friend of hers, a Jewish woman with three children, decided to cross the border into the American occupied Western zone, whose borders were nearby.  It seemed that officially, the border between the East and the West was open, but the Russians didn’t want everyone to leave and go to the Western Zone, because people knew that their life would be much better. My mother acquired the necessary papers for crossing but they were not a guarantee.  So my mother and her friend hiked up to the border located on a low mountain range in hopes to secure a crossing with the offer of a bottle of wine and a sweet cake.  My mother’s friend had acquired these culinary treasures as compensation to the Jewish people for the brutal persecution they had experienced.

The guards accepted and said to come the following morning before their shift ended.  We set out very early the next day with our wagon laden with the belongings of both families.  We hiked up to the border, all seven of us taking turns to pull our heavy wagon. Suddenly a tall Russian soldier, wearing a thick felt coat, with a long rifle slung over his shoulder emerged from behind a tree.  We froze. I had been living with so much fear of the Communists that I thought this was going to be the end of my life.

The soldier didn’t say a word. He walked towards us, reached for the wagon and took hold of the handle and pulled! He pulled this heavy wagon up the hill within the confines of the border, as close as he could get without getting close enough to be seen by the other guards. Then he pointed in the direction of the guards and disappeared as magically as he had appeared.

Thea-1We were astonished and relieved at the same time  and hurried on until we reached the border crossing. My mother and this Jewish woman gave the guards the cake and the bottle of wine and they let us through.  This incident happened many years ago, but I shall never forget the helpful, compassionate gesture of this Russian soldier, who showed us that his heart was with us. This event for me was what helped me to develop compassion towards the soldiers who killed or interned my relatives into concentration camps.

Losing my home and not being able to return was a blessing for me in disguise. Being totally uprooted brought me to Canada and eventually to Yasodhara Ashram.

Om Siva

•                        •                      •

Thea was 15 years old at the end of the Second World War when she and her family struggled to survive.  After the war she worked as a secretary with the 12th US Air Force because she spoke and wrote in English and short hand.  In 1952, at 23 she left Germany by herself for Canada and stayed because of a clear message in a dream.  Her greatest love is Divine Mother, who watched over her with love and care for many years, particularly during the war.



  1. Thank you for sharing this story Thea. Many blessings to you!!

    Comment by Michael McCarthy — November 28, 2009 @ 11:04 am

  2. Wow, that is a beautiful story of compassion in action!
    Thank for sharing and inspiring Thea.

    Comment by Sairah — December 1, 2009 @ 8:17 pm

  3. Thank you Thea for sharing this inspiring example of compassion. It reminds me of the Kuan Yin stories, where she appears to her devotees in times of danger.

    Comment by Satya — December 2, 2009 @ 7:52 am

  4. Thank you Thea for bringing this act of compassion forward. It is so nice to hear inspiring stories come out of such a devastating situation. It also helps us to get a perspective on the whole trauma of that time.

    Comment by Janet Brown — December 3, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

  5. Thanks for sharing this Thea. I’m grateful to have people like you in my life, who have lived through experiences that I can only imagine. It brings a feeling of compassion to my heart for all that I don’t know about what someone has experienced.

    Comment by Luke — December 10, 2009 @ 3:49 pm

  6. Thea, I was touched by your story of compassion in such a difficult time. Thanks for sharing it.

    Comment by Sharon Haave — December 16, 2009 @ 6:33 pm

  7. my name is aslo thea o’brien, i hope i can be as strong as you and live up to your name

    Comment by thea o'brien — June 7, 2011 @ 10:36 am

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