Meeting my ancestor

It’s a very small world, in a sometimes strange sort of way. A year or two ago I was standing at a check-in counter in an American airport. Because the woman behind the counter had some difficulty saying my name (not an unusual occurrence for me), I said it for her. And as I did so, I noticed that the man in line behind me got very agitated. When I had finished, and as it was his turn, he asked me could I just wait a moment until he had also checked in.

I waited, and when he was finished he asked me whether I was related to the 19th century Prussian general, Ferdinand von Prondzynski. I am not a huge expert in my family history (though I am learning), but I did know the answer to this one. Yes, I said, he was my great great great grandfather. My new friend was now beside himself with excitement, and told me: ‘I played him!’

It turns out that this gentleman was a member of a war games society, who regularly re-enacted famous historical battles. One they had recently tackled was the battle of Königgrätz, fought in 1866, in which my ancestor had played a decisive role. My American friend had ‘been’ Ferdinand von Prondzynski in this re-enactment, and had taken a significant interest in the life, times and views of my great great great grandfather.

The battle brought about some decisive political changes in Europe, and entrenched the growing power of Prussia as a political and military power, and ultimately through Prussia of the soon to be united Germany. It is of course a matter of debate as to how we should evaluate that in the light of events in the 20th century, but it was an important battle. And it was a most unlikely, one-in-a-million chance encounter in an American airport. 

I have done a little more research on my ancestor – but maybe that is for another time.

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