27 Dec The Life of Christa Sybilla (1927-2022)
Christa Sybilla was born on August 15th, 1927 in Dornach, Switzerland. She was the third child of four siblings, born to Adam Bernhard Guenther and his spouse, Frieda Öschker Guenther. In Dornach she grew up in a very sheltered upbringing and went to the Waldorf school in Basel. Both her parents were
anthroposophists. Her Father was a worker at the Goetheanum and had come to Dornach from Germany to help build the first Goetheanum.
There he met Frieda Öschker, a swiss girl, who was 15 years younger than him. His dedication to his work at the Goetheanum was intensive and Christa often mentioned how involved her father was and how much it influenced their family. As children they participated in the Faust or the Mystery plays, large theater performances at the Goetheanum, wherever little people were needed in the roles of elementary beings, dwarfs and the likes. For my mother, acting was a part of her childhood which she enjoyed tremendously. The Oberufer Christmas play was a yearly event at the Goetheanum and as my Mother became a young adult, she got to know all the actors, actresses and personalities who were active at that time. She often told amusing stories about those that she had met, i.e. she did an excellent imitation of Albert Steffen with his strong swiss accent.
Her mother took care of the guests that lived in the boarding rooms within their house, cared for the garden, maintained the house and looked after the children. She was always busy and therefore it was often the housekeeper who stayed with the children when necessary. Summer holidays were spent with her father and the housekeeper in the alps, giving her mother a much needed break from the family.
In all the memories that our mother related to us about her childhood, it was clear that she had been very nurtured, protected and loved, living in a very small but rich world filled with high aspirations.
In 1944 she decided that she no longer wanted to continue high school at the Waldorf school, she was bored and wanted to experience life.
She began working in a toy production business, then moved on to work in Weleda, all which kept her attention only for a short span of time. With 18 years of age she began her eurythmy training with Lea Van der Pals but only because her father suggested it and because her best friend was also going.
She had many stories to tell about her training, especially how strict the teachers were and how much the students creatively found ways to be playful and nonsensical.
Eurythmy was not her favorite subject as a child and yet in the training she discovered a world of movement which came natural to her. She never had to struggle, had a good musical perception and was always an inspiration for her colleagues in her artistic creativity. She never really had any questions about what she was doing and often said that the questions related to Eurythmy and Anthroposophy came to her later on in life as a mature adult. In 1949 she went as an Au-paire to Kent, England to stay with a family. She told many stories about her visits to London where she enjoyed cultural events, even having seen “A streetcar named desire” with Vivian Leigh and Marlon Brando! She also had the opportunity to see the Queen Elisabeth in a parade.
Upon returning to Dornach she joined the Eurythmy stage group, experiencing all the leading eurythmists of that time. She was impassioned about her work. In 1951 she met my Father who was working as a stage hand at the Goetheanum and was boarding, along with his brother, at her parents house. They fell deeply in love and in 1952 they were engaged. Actually, her youngest sister fell in love with my fathers brother, so two sisters were engaged to two brothers.
My father, having been a prisoner of war in America, had applied to enter Canada and in the fall of 1952, him and his brother sailed off to Montreal, Canada spending a year there, working and preparing for their brides-to-be who were to arrive in 1953. My mother naively prepared for her big trip across the ocean, not at all aware of what was awaiting her. Both families were not in agreement with the young people`s decisions but they were not to be daunted and determined to realize their adventure. In the spring of 1953 my mother and her sister Elisabeth sailed off to Canada and were married in a double wedding on August 15 the 1953. For my mother, it was a culture shock which made her increasingly homesick despite the presence of her sister and husband with whom they shared an apartment. In 1954 her first daughter Gabriela was born, as was her sister`s son Michael. In 1959 her second daughter, Christina was born, to be followed by her third daughter, Michaela, in 1960.
In 1956 she returned to Dornach for a visit, so great was her homesickness. Upon returning she took up contact with Dr. Grossheinz, an anthroposophist from Dornach who was residing in Montreal. Thus began the founding of the anthroposophical society in Montreal and the regular meetings of the branch which she faithfully attended right up to her 85th year of life. There she met other Europeans who were dedicated to the impulse of R. Steiner and friendships developed that would remain for the rest of her life.
She began giving Eurythmy courses which inspired people of all ages. There were lay courses where the participants joined for over 20 years! As children we joined in Eurythmy courses for young people and it was inspiring for all of us! My mother was very warm, artistic and joyous and I know that I certainly had aspirations to become a eurythmist! Later on, she started a small eurythmy group which did performances on a regular basis.
Out of this work within the society, the Christian Community arose, taking place at the residence of Mrs. Simon, a leading anthroposophist as well as the first Waldorf Kindergarten in Montreal. At the Christian Community Christa took over the activities for the children and was involved in the festivities and that gave us the opportunity to participate in the children`s services which led us to our respective confirmation years later. Christa had found a new “home” in Montreal and yet despite everything, our mother was homesick and in 1962, our parents made the decision to return to Switzerland. Her sister`s family had returned a few years earlier. For six months she stayed with her family only to realize after a few months, that life there had changed, that she had changed and that she wasn`t ready to give up her new found life for which she had worked so hard to establish. So, to the absolute joy of my father, we returned in October of 1962 and settled in for good. And so, life began in Canada and our mother stayed home to take care of the children but also continuing her activities as a eurythmist.
When thinking about our time as children, the fitting word to describe it, is magical! Magical, nurturing, creative, filled with love and respect. We played endlessly, discovered and experienced the world in a rich way. It was a world she and our father created, of fairy tales and enchantment. It always amazed us how she joined in, whether for water or pillow fights, bed hopping, magical theaters, paper doll making, sewing clothes for our dollies, baking Christmas cookies, story telling as she ironed the clothes and much more. She was always cheerful, bubbly, never showing us the challenges she faced in her life. For us, she was beautiful, flexible, spontaneous, non judgmental, always well dressed and somehow, never sick.
As we grew older she joined in our discussions, understood our critical views with her instinctive wisdom and was simply there for us. That and much more is all part of the fundament that creates searching, trusting, caring, interested adults, for that and more, we thank her!
When we had all left home, Christa began her activities in the newly founded waldorf school in Montreal and worked as a eurythmy teacher for all the classes and taught adults in the waldorf seminar. This she did right up to her 70th year of life. She also became part of the Canadian Council and wherever she went, she inspired and connected people with her warmth, humour, enthusiasm, her humble wisdom and her humanness. After the death of our father, she moved to Vancouver to live with her daughter, Michaela. Like moving an old tree, this change was not easy for her. But since family was the most important thing for her, she was happy when she could be helpful and part of her family. While living in Vancouver she travelled to Germany, Florence, Paris, Venice and Brazil to be with her other daughters and her four grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Today we realize that that what we experienced through her, is the artistic in itself, which we received throughout our childhood and are now able to cultivate in our lives, that creative potential that is inexhaustible, regardless of what we do. Of course, what we also learned from her is that there is more to life than what we see with our eyes. Values like freedom, authenticity, empathy, love, curiosity and reflectiveness and the sense that we are never alone on this voyage which we call life, that yes we are vulnerable, that yes, we can fall, but that we can trust in something that is bigger and greater than ourselves. That we can encompass all that comes our way and know that it is an integral part of the threads that make us the tapestry of who we are in all its rich and varied colours. Again and again we look back on our lives and are thankful for the guidance and love that we received as children and the support she gave us throughout our lives. When one enters life with such a strong base, the jump off the “diving board”, doesn`t seem as scary, at least we had the sense that jumping and taking a risk, was part of what one had to do!
This was something that we learned from both our parents: that there is no such thing as complete security, that life is about climbing stairs, taking risks, not knowing how you will land, swimming and about surfacing, again and again, never giving up. This has become an integral part of our lives, the immense trust in life and all that destiny brings towards us.