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Emma Friedauer: 'Loved to have stayed where I was'

Friedauer 3_Emily Spink_small

In a modest room at Burwood Hospital, a group of elderly men and women sit quietly focused on a game of scrabble. The small group gathers from across Christchurch one day a week to catch up and socialise. Today, Emma Friedauer joins the group, bringing a warm smile and distinct Swiss accent.

The regular gathering at Burwood’s Club 304 is a welcome escape from all that has happened in post-quake Christchurch, not least the upheaval of moving.

Having moved from Switzerland to Denmark and eventually to New Zealand, Emma Friedauer is no stranger to shifting, but the soon-to-be 84-year-old says the last shift was the hardest. She had no choice but to move when she was displaced after the February 22 earthquake.

“That was the worst,” she says.

Before the quake, a friendly gentleman had helped Emma with her grocery shop every fortnight. They had just driven up the driveway of her Deville Place townhouse when the ground bucked.

“He never swore, but he did that day,” she says.

His wife was in the centre of town, so he dropped Emma and her groceries at her front door, alone, and rushed in search of his wife.

Emma was unable to get into her kitchen for the mess. All that remained of her beloved crystal collection was the sherry glass that had belonged to her late husband. She received compensation for the items she lost, but it was not enough to replace her collectables, including Japanese hand-painted cups and saucers passed on to her by an aunt.

With no power and a backyard full of liquefaction, Emma moved from her townhouse and in with her oldest son for a month. She moved back to Deville Place temporarily, before moving into a new home on Gardiners Road in September 2011.


“I would have loved to have stayed where I was.”

The townhouse on Deville Place has since been demolished, but Emma has snuck back a couple of times to pick lemons from her tree.

“I missed that. I always gave lots away, too, and in marmalade.”

While her garden is now much smaller, it is her pride and joy. Emma spends every day pottering in it, picking off dead camellias, weeding, or watering the vegetable garden where beetroot and silverbeet flourish. She says she inherited her love of gardening from her own father who was a “really good gardener”.

She is more jumpy in her new home than she used to be. It is down a long driveway on a back section. She can no longer sleep very well and the radio has become a comforting sound during the nights.

A classical music enthusiast, she used to enjoy listening to her music through the television every day but her new home does not allow for the same set up.

“I’m not listening to music anymore and I would like to.”

Emma recalls fond memories listening to music with her late husband who liked “more easy listening” music and so they met in the middle. “We listened to blues when he was alive and we did a lot of dancing,” she says, laughing.

“Even when he was already very ill we would have the music on and dance in the morning and I would say to him, ‘If somebody comes they would think we are crazy’. You see, I don’t do that anymore and I miss that.”


Seeing the city as it is and counting what has gone makes her feel sad, so Emma avoids it.

Instead, she comes to Club 304. She has come full circle in some ways. Almost 25 years ago, she was a volunteer at the club. Now she is a devoted regular.

“I would very much miss it if I couldn’t come here because I really look forward to coming here and meeting a lot of people. You hear about the people and how they live, and I like that.”

Emma and her friends at the club enjoy their weekly card games, rummikub and scrabble sessions, and lunches, but the quizzes are Emma’s favourite.

“I like the quizzes but I’m not so good at them,” she says.

She lives a considerable distance from the Club, and relies on Club organisers to collect her and drop her off each Club day. Yet Emma makes the trip across town each week for one simple reason.

“The same people are there and they’re your friends.”

_As told to Emily Spink

This story is part of a UC Journalism project to trial a new form of community journalism by recording and sharing people’s everyday stories about the Canterbury earthquakes and recovery. You can read more about the Connecting our Stories project here.