Updated: Feb 21
Born in November 1887, in Breslau, Sorina’s given name on her birth record was Gertrud Maria Margarethe Kuchendorff.
Beyond this birth record, I can find out little about her early life. However, when Dick is at Bletchley Park, he gives some background information whilst looking through a collection of photographs that he has of Sorina. In 1943, he writes,
“I was tired, but did not want to go to bed immediately with my mind still excited from writing, for I have had much trouble with sleep in this connection and have to take precautions. To rest my mind for a while, I therefore took out a large packet of photographs of Sorina that I have, and spent some little while looking through them again. These photographs show Sorina at all the stages of her life, from her late teens onwards and they are, indeed, a record of a woman’s life. The earliest ones are infinitely charming in their way - with Sorina as a young girl dressed in the quaint Victorian costume of the period. She looks very pretty and her face reflects a sweet youthful innocence. Rather like a young heroine in a Russian novel, I think. There seem to be no signs that her life would be such as it has been, or that this girl would develop into this woman. Above all, there are no signs of those traces of harshness which experience seems to have brought into Sorina’s life and of which she does, I think, give evidence at times. There follow pictures of Sorina in the earliest days of her marriage, as the lovable, unsophisticated young wife.*
In the next one, she is holding her first baby in her arms - a very proud and happy mother. Soon there is a second child, and then the third. On the back of these photographs are written such lines as “Horst 3 months old” – “Wolf 2 years” – “Gunther at 5 years” and the like. Life seems to be full of fun and happiness with this joyous young mother and her children, even though the dates on the back show that most of them were taken during the years of the last war. Horst is suddenly no longer a baby, but he has become a manly, smiling little boy in a bathing costume, proudly clutching a bucket and wooden spade. Gunther has already begun to wear glasses. And Wolf Is perhaps already conscious of that unique devotion to his mother that he will always feel henceforth, to a far greater extent even than his brothers.
All the earlier pictures have Breslau as their main background, apart from the trips to the seaside. Sorina’s sisters appear in some of them but never her husband, although I remember her showing me at least one snapshot of him. (Incidentally, he died in 1941, about two months before Horst).
Suddenly, however, the scene changes to England - the Isle of Wight, where Sorina stayed on her first visit, and London. Sorina has changed too. The young girl of the early Breslau days has developed into a modern femme du monde - very elegant and fashionably dressed, very beautiful, despite the badness of many of the photos, and still unbelievably youthful. Most of the London snapshots were taken by me, and one or two are of me.
There are photographs of Fritz**, a little bewildered perhaps to find himself as Sorina’s husband. There is the snapshot in which Sorina, Fritz and I are taken together in the woodland district of Wannsee. And there are others in which Sorina and I are alone in Wannsee woods. One particularly of us standing arm in arm under a tree, which we got a stranger to take for us. I am especially fond of this photograph – for Sorina was in love with me too, in those days. I think the photo even shows it. Perhaps she’s still is - in her way or to some extent?
Then comes, at last, the whole album of pictures taken in Malaya - but these cannot recall such happy memories as the earlier ones. Finally, standing in their little frame on the mantelpiece of my room here, facing me as I write, are two of many, but never sufficient, snapshots that’s Sorina has sent me from Switzerland during these war years.” January 1943. Bletchley.
* Sorina's first husband was Dr Erich Karl Anton Eicke, with whom she had her three sons. Horst and Gunther were killed in the war, whilst Wolf came to live in London at some point, and became a regular (and not always welcome) visitor to Dick and his second wife Sheila.
** Sorina's second husband was Fritz Erbes, whom she married in 1935. The marriage cannot have last much longer than a year, as Sorina and Dick were married in 1936. I can find no records of either her marriage, or divorce from Fritz.