Maria was born into a farming family in Burgenland in Austria. After she completed her education, she became a postal worker, but as she explains "I didn't enjoy it very much. I wanted to work with people.” She re-trained as a parish assistant in Pfunds, a village in the heart of the Tyrolean Mountains. Whilst working here, she heard about the SOS Children's Village in Imst for the first time. She even made a donation to the charity’s first ever SOS Village "I bought a 'brick' for 3.60 shillings, for the 'Christmas House'. A year later, I moved into the very same house as its SOS mother."
When Maria arrived in the Village as an SOS mother, eight boys and girls made up her SOS family. She admits that it was not always easy caring for such a large family "Each day presented a challenge: cooking, washing, cleaning, and ironing for nine people. I went to the doctor's with the children, to see their teachers, supervised homework, and held their hands when they were sick."
For 25 years, Maria bought up a total of 20 children to adults. She affectionately recalls Franz, or "little Franzie" as Maria called him, who "was not one of the most well-behaved, but one of the sweetest." (see photo of Maria and Franz, right). Franz has now reached the ripe old age of 71. After losing his parents in the war, he came to live at the SOS Village with Maria. Maria bought him up for 10 years until he reached independence. He went on to become an engineer, travelling the world before starting a large family of his own. Maria is very proud of him.
Maria recently celebrated her 90th birthday, and still lives with SOS Children today. She lives in the Village in Hinterbrühl, in what is known as the 'Mothers' House' for retired SOS mothers. She enjoys being surrounded by the next generation of SOS Children "I am content", she says. Maria is happy about the way her life has turned out "It was a good path to take", she says with complete conviction, "and as far as I was concerned, the children were always my own children." The children see it the same way; for them, Maria is their mother. As Maria explains, it is one of the greatest compliments when one of her children says, "I want to bring up my children just like you did." Then she really knows "that I can't have done such a bad job."
Give the Gift of Motherhood this Mother's Day
Find out how you can help SOS Children and mothers like Maria, by buying a gift for your own mother for Mother's Day.