Helga Gertrud Strey was born on 4th August 1933 in Rehoboth, South West Africa, the middle child to Johanna and Rudolf Strey. She grew up with her siblings on Farm ‘Büllsport’ near the Naukluft Mountains South of Windhoek, in South West Africa.During 1936 the family visited the Grandparents (fathers’ parents) in Potsdam, Germany. The family returned to SWA just before the Second World War erupted. As from 1940 Helga and her older sister attended school in Swakopmund where they had to stay in the boarding school hostel for 6 years. At first they attended a German school and later were forced to switch to an English school. In December 1940 their father was taken away to a Concentration Camp along with all German men of “fighting age” and was only allowed to return 6 and 1/2 years later.
In the meantime, Helga’s mother managed the farm with her grandmother, aunt and uncle.
In 1945 Helga's father was released from the Concentration Camp, but was forced to stay in South Africa for another three months. He started working at the Botanical Institute of Stellenbosch University, so the family joined him in Stellenbosch, where the children continued their schooling. When the parents divorced, her mother stayed on in Stellenbosch until they and finished their schooling. The girls went to Bloemhof Girls High, and the brother went to Paul Ross College.
After school, Helga went to Grootte Schuur Hospital in Cape Town to study nursing.
During 1957 she returned to South West Africa to help her sister and brother-in-law look after their 3 children, while her sister was in hospital for 3.5 months. Then her brother Rolf came to visit from Northern Rhodesia and Helga went back to Northern Rhodesia (today Zambia) with him. After her holiday in Rhodesia, Helga went to Johannesburg for further studies in the field of Maternity, after which she moved to Lüderitz, SWA, to work. She was then stationed in Windhoek , where she worked for the State and did Community Health work all over South West Africa. She worked as part of an aeronautical Emergency Response team.
After 4 years, Helga moved back to South Africa where she lived and worked in Cape Town, Somerset West and surrounding areas. She was the head Matron in the Maternity wards of Springbok, Calvinia and Malmesbury. In 2006, Helga joined the Reformation Society and Livingstone Fellowship, in Rondebosch, where she was involved in research of World History, something she thoroughly enjoyed.
During 2020 she moved to Pinelands Place where she continued to stay abreast on current affairs, read voraciously and visit friends, until she ended up spending the final weeks in Gordons Bay.
We have a letter Helga wrote to her nieces of her experiences during the war, which gives some good insights to her early life: "My knowledge of WW2 started just before we returned to South West Africa after a year’s visit to our grandparents in Berlin. We left Hamburg by ship via South Hampton in England. However, because of the pre-war atmosphere our German ship Usambara was guided onto a sandbank. (The harbour Captain of the country has to guide a ship in and out of a harbour anywhere in the world, it is practised even today).