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He loved unconditionally, was always there for me. “Dörtes’ two grown children also liked the newcomer right away.

He loved unconditionally, was always there for me. “Dörtes’ two grown children also liked the newcomer right away.

“I fell in love with you straight away,” said Dörte, were his first words. Sure, at first it was just a slightly illuminated exaggeration. But still one that revealed part of his being. “He loved unconditionally, was always there for me.” Dörtes’ two grown children also liked the new guy straight away. “You could have everything from him, he helped where he could, was a kind-hearted person.”

Your compressed happiness

She and Rudi, two people with a lot of routine relationship, suddenly felt like two teenagers, talked for hours on the phone every day because of their separate homes, talked about the stories and problems of everyday life during the week and then enjoyed the weekend together to the full. At least three times a year they went on vacation together, again and again in Ischgl. “The best slopes and wellness practically on the edge of the slopes – yes, we liked that, we felt good here,” says Dörte. That was at a time when Ischgl was still considered the “Ibiza of the Alps”, not a Corona hotbed.

On March 13 – immediately before the Paznaun Valley was quarantined – Rudi and his friends started their journey home one day earlier than planned. The following Monday they all drove to the office to be tested, having been pricked up by media reports. All were positive, Rudi was the only one negative. A snapshot, fatally belittling, lethally deceptive.

In the days that followed, Rudinach registered the symptoms of a flu-like infection, swallowed Aspro, drank tea and scuffed, as an entrepreneur, as far as possible his business. Dörte was in Bremen these days, where she runs a shop. “Even if he didn’t want to show anything on the phone so as not to worry me, I noticed that he was getting worse and worse.” The fever rose and rose. And also Dörtes fear. “What are you doing now?” He asked her during a phone call. “The laundry,” she said. And then he: “You have to take that out of my suitcase, too.” My God, the suitcase? The dirty laundry? At this point in time Rudi’s return from Ischgl had already been nine days! Dörte: “It was clear to me that he was fantasizing.”

The next day she called a doctor friend of hers, Rudi was immediately admitted to the Marien Hospital in Erfstadt, where he was immediately taken to the intensive care unit. “Frau Sittig, we no longer have any illusions with your husband,” one of the doctors soon said. You said “your husband” and Dörte suddenly took it for granted, even without a marriage license. Two days later Rudi was transferred to Cologne University Hospital. And there the doctors tried everything again: His blood, which infected, was completely exchanged and replaced by blood with corona antibodies.

Hope flickered briefly again. “Patient opens his eyes, specific reaction” is noted in the medical record. Dörte was allowed to see him, he was not available, but she talked, talked, talked. But days later the kidneys failed and the lungs were bleeding. Dörte was allowed to see him again. “I kept my hand on his stomach, on his heart, until the end,” she says. “That feeling of suddenly not hearing it beating was terrible.”

The sun was shining, it was already a bit too warm for the season. Corona had the land firmly under control, and so the gently sloping village street that Sieglinde Schopf walked alone from her house to the cemetery was completely empty. A total of twelve people, all masked, had gathered at the open grave on April 16 to pay their last respects to their husband Hannes. More were not allowed these days.

Sieglinde Schopf had previously taken something to calm her down, and so she managed to read an intercession for him. After the short ceremony, she made her way home alone, back to the garden-framed bungalow on the outskirts of the small Weinviertel community. “To be alone, without being him, to have to see that he doesn’t come back every moment as if nothing had happened – that is what I cannot and cannot understand,” she says today, two and a half months later.

A death without parting

What exacerbated the grief of the 73-year-old widow: “I no longer had the opportunity to say goodbye to him, that was no longer possible after the autopsy.” Because Hannes Schopf had died of Covid-19, there were and still are very special regulations. In stark contrast to Ischgl, where he went as a tourist on March 7th – because in the days before and after pretty much everything applied there, just no binding regulations.

Like Rudi Lempik, Hannes Schopf had also arrived and welcomed with open arms on the very day on which the “Kitzloch” barman found out about his corona disease; and where a contest between medical reason and tourism began to rage behind the picturesque alpine backdrop: the criminal investigation department and the public prosecutor’s office have long been investigating, and consumer advocate Peter Kolba is preparing a class action. 3,200 people, he confirmed to “Spiegel”, are said to have been infected directly in Ischgl or through contact with returnees, 27 are said to have died. Hannes Schopf, a devout Catholic, died on Good Friday.

Even during his lifetime, the gifted Forumlierer had been considered a kind of journalist legend, he had been editor-in-chief of “Furche” and spokesman for the Association of Austrian Newspapers. And actually someone like him didn’t really fit into this world of après-ski excesses and high-speed refreshments. On March 16, his fourth day in Ischgl, he wrote an SMS to his wife: “I don’t need men’s skiing laps any more.” And: “In the evening I don’t want to stand at the bar and drink round after round.” And: “So, now I look at the ‘ZiB’ on the tray, and then I go to sleep.”

Actually, says Sieglinde Schopf, her husband didn’t even want to go to Ischgl. However, a potential winter holidaymaker was absent from a group of friends, and so he stepped in at short notice, also to avoid cancellation costs in the main season. “At first he didn’t really want to, but I persuaded him – also because he, who grew up in St. Anton, was an avid skier and didn’t even know the slopes in and around Ischgl,” says the retired secondary school teacher. And then she talks about the one, omnipresent thought that became the tormenting leitmotif of her grief: “Was it I who sent him to his death?”

It wasn’t, of course not. But whoever asks why in his pain, like her, cannot be satisfied with a succinct “coincidence” as an answer.

In the middle of the escape caravan

No one can say with certainty how and where exactly Hannes Schopf was infected, but the assumption is that it might only have happened in the course of the hasty mass exodus from the Paznaun Valley. “Hurry up, you can still get out with your guest card,” advised Schopf and his four companions, who were still on the slopes at noon, on the afternoon of March 13th. The men sat and stood in the shuttle bus that took them to the train station in Landeck, close together, like in a subway at rush hour. Sieglinde Schopf tells us that the trip took two hours, and there were two controls during which seasonal workers who also wanted to leave were filtered out. A woman standing right next to Schopf was terribly upset about it, and raised her voice excitedly. And droplet infusion, as is well known, is one of the most common causes of infection.

A letter like an indictment

In the Tyrolean Alps, efforts are now being made to limit the damage. And so the Ischgl Tourism Association approached Sieglinde Schopf with a short letter of condolence: “We wish you a lot of strength to endure fate,” it says. The widow couldn’t help but sat down and wrote back. Her letter became a kind of silent accusation, and in her words, one can confidently assume that all the bereaved will find themselves again.

“Nothing can comfort me because this stroke of fate would not have been necessary”, Sieglinde Schopf answered the official Ischgl. “If you had taken the warnings and dangers seriously, the tourists would not have been allowed to arrive on March 7th, 2020 at all.” And further: “It was better to accept the spread of the coronavirus and the death of people than to forego income.” And then the final paragraph: “Stereo type the statements of the Tyrolean politicians: ‘We did everything right.’ Such words do not help me in my grief. “

Shortly after his retirement eight years ago, Hannes Schopf broke his twelfth thoracic vertebra while working in the garden; it was filled with titanium and reinforced. He was allowed to continue skiing, the doctor said at the time, but never again on black slopes. On March 13th, still in Ischgl, he dared to do it and came down safe and sound. Shortly afterwards he got on the bus to Landeck.

On March 26th, Hannes Kopf was brought to the clinic in Hollabrunn, he had a temperature of 39.8 degrees. It was late in the evening and Sieglinde Schopf was still about to put it on when the paramedics picked him up. But they put him on the stretcher in his pajamas, covered him up, lifted him into the ambulance and disappeared into the darkness. After that Sieglinde Schopf never saw her husband again.

This article originally appeared in the current issue of News (No. 31/2020)!

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The St. Wolfgang corona cluster is currently dominating the media. The human drama of Ischgl has by no means been dealt with yet. This is testified by two courageous women who now deliberately dare to go public. Her men went on vacation to the Paznaun Valley on March 7 and were warmly welcomed – at a time when it had long been known that the Covid situation would worsen dramatically. Now both are dead. And their wives are completely alone with their tormenting thoughts.

It was March 7th, around two in the morning, when Dörte Sittig saw her Rudi for the last time. His friends from the ski circuit were already waiting downstairs in the car, and from a suburb in Cologne they went to Ischgl. Like every year in calendar week eleven, after the end of the carnival. As a rule, Dörte had packed his suitcase the night before, accompanied him to the car, hugged him again, waved to him. But that year she stayed in bed, slightly annoyed and very worried.

Dörte, 55, the interior designer who travels a lot at international trade fairs, felt that something was about to happen, something was wrong. “All the events that I normally attend had already been canceled,” she says. And so she asked him not to drive. But her Rudi, who had no concerns, was full of anticipation: If it were really dangerous in the Tyrolean Alps, he and his friends, as old regulars, would have been warned in advance.

But Dörte did not mislead her feelings. They cruelly confirmed themselves. So cruel that processing it without therapeutic help would be unthinkable to this day.

She spoke, he was breathing heavily

It was on March 24th, sometime in the afternoon, when Dörte Sittig telephoned her Rudi one last time. But what does telephoning mean, she spoke, he could no longer answer, she could only hear him breathing with difficulty. A nurse had put the cell phone to his ear and advised Dörte to say a few more words to him after all, immediately afterwards Rudi was intubated. Rudolf Lempik died on April 16 at 4:05 p.m. in Cologne University Hospital. Original diagnosis: Covid 19.

“Ischgl has stolen my life, my treasure,” says Dörte. But there is no lust for revenge, but anger. And the need for the public to know about all of this. “And that the responsible Tyrolean politicians might sleep badly for one or two nights.” And yes, she would like a personal apology. “They’ve been taking our money for years. And now they don’t even find it worth asking how I am.”

Why, that is the question that circles her grief everywhere. “Why did a healthy man like Rudi have to die?” And: “Why did you let out all the guests from Ischgl, drive them out even though you knew what was happening?”

The alarm went unheard

On March 7th in the early afternoon, Rudi and his group checked into a hotel in Ischgl. That was three days after Iceland raised the alarm at the European health authority about numerous Ischgl returnees suffering from Covid, and two days after the Ministry of Health in Vienna informed the Tyrolean authorities of this. “Everything is fine here”, Rudi reassured his Dörte over and over again in countless phone calls these days. He didn’t know any better because there was nobody around to let him know.

The-7. March, Rudi’s arrival day, was the day on which the barman of the infamous bar “Kitzloch” found out that he had tested positive. But Rudi and his buddies were still allowed to celebrate without hesitation. And Rudi, Senator of the Cologne carnival society “Löstige-Paulaner”, who knew how to celebrate, just as he usually knew how to work.

Two days later, 16 more positive tests with Kitz loch cover should be available. And Rudi still unsuspectingly calmed his Dörte. “Come home,” she asked him. But he tried to dispel their worries with fun: “Don’t worry, I haven’t spent that much money until now.”

That’s just how he was, her Rudi. 52 years old, operator of a truck workshop, full, red cheeks, stubbly beard, a bear from a man who could not easily be knocked down. A daredevil – right from the start. They met five years ago on the East Frisian North Sea island of Norderney. That was in the rustic dance bar “Fischerkante”, a bar with the motto “Let the floorboard cracks”. And Rudi let it crack. Without further ado, he headed from the dance floor to Dörte, who was sitting with a friend, no, a little apart.

“I fell in love with you straight away,” said Dörte, were his first words. Sure, at first it was just a slightly illuminated exaggeration. But still one that revealed part of his being. “He loved unconditionally, was always there for me.” Dörtes’ two grown children also liked the new guy straight away. “You could have everything from him, he helped where he could, was a kind-hearted person.”