At the age of 4 or perhaps 5 I greatly admired Gerhard’s ring – a large glowing amber stone, shiny like gold but what I found amazing was that trapped in the stone was an insect – a mosquito.
How does an insect get into a stone? He explained it to me patiently:
“Resin oozes out of the tree bark. It’s sticky. Any insect which settles on it will be stuck and cannot fly away. More resin will flow over it and harden in the air. It will take many years to turn it to stone. That’s what they call a fossil.”
“How long does it take?” I asked.
“Millions of years, I think.”
I was impressed.
War came and for years I saw neither Gerhard nor his ring. We met again years later and one of the first things I asked was “Have you still got that amber ring?”
No, he hadn’t. It must have been left behind at Gleiwitz when they fled from the advancing Russians. “Perhaps some old veteran in Siberia is wearing it now, or his wife.”
In those last weeks of the war, as the Red Army broke through into Germany, they brought troops long held in reserve in Siberia. Only then, at this late stage, could Stalin feel confident that the Japanese would not enter the war and attack him from the rear.
I decided that if ever I could find a ring like it, I would buy it for him. There was a boutique in the Hotel Monopol at Breslau – now called Wroclaw and in Poland. It had a good selection of amber from the Baltic, but I never found a ring that resembled the one I remembered.
Gerhard has now been dead a good few years and I am very old and must expect to die before very long and, as the Bible says, “return to dust”.
But that mosquito, petrified in amber, appears well preserved – after more than a million years.