We learnt in a roundabout way how our smoked salmon contributed to bring this story to light. David, a long-term customer of the Burren Smokehouse, who is originally from the United Kingdom and now lives in Germany, placed his order of smoked salmon as he always does before Christmas. There was a special request, however, which led to the most amazing revelation. He wanted us to put certain packs of the cold smoked salmon on top of one of the boxes and mark the box accordingly.
The reason was simple: For years he meant to give his courier driver a pack, but never had the time to root through all the boxes fast enough to find the right pack. So this time, he reckoned, he'd be more organised and would finally be able to thank the lovely driver by giving him a bit of salmon.
The plan worked - the courier driver came to his house, David quickly found the right box and gave the driver his pack of salmon. The giftee was overjoyed and very happy about this gesture, and the two got talking. And this is his amazing story.
In October 1980, during his time in the German army, he and his company were sent to El Asnam in Algeria on a rescue mission after the city was hit by the worst earthquakes in 50 years. The quake of a magnitude of 7.5 on the Richter scale destroyed the whole city, killed 3,000 people and injured another 8,000. 400,000 people ended up homeless. The destruction was so bad that the city was abandoned and built up anew at another location.
Our driver saved two children and gave them his own ration of food which in army circles is called EPA (Einmann-Packung, or "one man ration"). It is a small cardboard box with lots of foods that can easily be hydrated, heated and consumed when on the move. On these boxes, the name of the soldier and his garrison are printed.
Fast-forward 25 years. The two children - now adults - arrived in Paris on a trip. In the train station, they happened to see the departure of a train to Mannheim advertised. They looked at each other and said, "Wasn't our rescuer from Mannheim?!" They then spontaneously abandoned their initial plans and jumped into the train to Mannheim.
Once there, they went to the police to ask them for help to find the soldier. The police were very accommodating and phoned everybody of his name listed in the phone directory, until they found the right man! They put them in contact with each other so that the soldier and the rescued "kids" could meet up. The former soldier even visited them in Algeria. In spite of the rocky start to their lives, both of them had made a successful career, one of them became a doctor.
So the next time we look at somebody we don't know, we might remember that everyday heroes come in all kinds of disguises...