Another chapter in the unusual story of Saarland pianist and composer Rudolf Strassner was written this week.
At the age of 17, Rudolf Strassner was taken prisoner by the Russians in 1945 and was forced into hard labour in a prisoner-of-war camp in Bryansk, an industrial town south of Moscow, pulling tree trunks every day in the valley of the river Desna. "The only way I could survive this was by living internally in my beloved music," says Strassner today. He sang and hummed melodies that came into his mind during this enforced labour.
He so came to the attention of the female commander of the camp and he was allowed to play the piano at the camp. Those in charge of the prison camp were so delighted by his playing that, unlike his fellow prisoners, he was not sent to Siberia and was allowed to stay in the camp. Strassner no longer had to pull tree trunks but gave piano lessons and tuned pianos. He was even commissioned to assemble an orchestra and choir for the camp who often gave concerts.
As part of a film documentary about his life, Rudolf Strassner returned in the autumn of 2010 for the first time to the place where he had been held prisoner for nearly 4 years the city of Bryansk-Beshiza in southern Russian. There on the site of the former prison camp he found the "Desna" piano, which had saved his life. The piano was still standing in the building of the former camp commander. Strassner was brought to tears as he stood before his old piano.
Helen Patton was so fascinated by this story that she made every effort to bring the piano (as a symbol of peace) to the Patton Foundation in Saarbrücken. Together with the film team of Voltmer, Erika Freund and a car from „Aktion Hilfe für Kinder e.V." from Bremen, Helen Patton went to Russia personally to get the piano transported to Saarbrücken. Since Tuesday 17th April 2012, the piano has found its new place at the Patton Foundation in Saargemünder Strasse 70 in Saarbrücken. Rudolf Strassner can now once again play his "Desna" - here in his home town of Saarbrücken, after more than 65 years.