/ 14 June 2019

Slice of life: The day I met my first friend

Slice of life: The day I met my first friend
Gundi Weinek (Paul Botes/M&G)

It was a normal day for me, sometime in the 1960s. I left my flat in Hillbrow and headed for the park, pushing the pram with my son as I went. We settled in the play area. I relaxed on a bench and he went about busying himself with whatever caught his attention.

This was my routine — a nice way to get some fresh air and not be stuck inside all day.

Despite being out in public, this was a solitary experience for me. I was still new to South Africa and didn’t know anybody apart from my husband. We met in Vienna. He asked me to marry him and, even though the only way was to uproot my life, I didn’t hesitate before I said, “Sure.”

I didn’t speak a word of English when I arrived in Hillbrow. I didn’t have many complaints, but not having anyone to talk to did make me feel cold sometimes.

Then, that day, a woman came and sat next to me, while her child played. We started talking, and realised that we were both from Vienna!

We talked and talked, instantly becoming friends. Meeting in the park, our children tackling the jungle gym, we would chat the afternoons away.

Our husbands met and we began hosting each other for dinners and parties — their place was best because it had a small garden the kids could play in.

We stayed close until the day they returned to Austria. But I will always remember the day we met in the park.Gundi Weinek, owner of L’ Elephant Terrible bookstore, as told to Luke Feltham