Woman finds peace in horses
For more information on Meadowsweet Ranch, visit: www.meadowsweetranch.com
Updated: October 21, 2012 1:18PM
GLENVIEW — World War II air raid sirens are a memory calling to the teenager in Gitta Matsoukas, 86, of Glenview, who must pause to collect her thoughts.
Susie, the 28-year old Fleabitten Gray quarterhorse that Gitta rides two to three times a week at Meadowsweet Ranch in Spring Grove, helps to quell post-traumatic emotion.
“Don’t ask,” said Gitta, of the wa, which ended when she was 18. “It’s hard to describe. Once the bombs started to fall, sometimes we weren’t able to get out of the air raid shelters. We were like gypsies being shoveled around from safety spot to safety spot.”
Perhaps this is why Gitta Matsoukas fearlessly refuses to wear a helmet, to the chagrin of Kathy Boettcher, Meadowsweet Ranch owner.
“I think she‘s awesome,” Boettcher said with a smile. “She’s been an inspiration to so many people.”
Gitta, who commutes alone from Glenview, would have liked to ridden as a child, but it was impossible to leisurely ride horses during the war. Horses get spooked with sudden noises. When there are horses, that is.
“There was constantly an alarm. It was awful. The army, they came and just took them (horses from German farms).”
Cavalry horses hauled cannons, and many animals were killed in combat. Gitta witnessed piles of dead horses covered in lye.
She lost loved ones too, leaving empty chairs at supper tables.
“Loss … death … the tables were empty and all for what?” she asked. “Nothing is achieved by rotting corpses.”
Gitta, who spent 19 years in Evanston with her husband Sotos (a chemist who died 20 years ago), has two children, John and Yvonne, plus four great grandchildren. She also has “three little cats” and two dogs.
But those equine eyes.
“It doesn’t have to be horses,” said Gitta, who groomed Susie inside the pole barn before a grand ride out.
“People shouldn’t give up their dreams…I’d rather live myself to death than bore myself to death. Riding for me is pure joy.”
Gitta uses a ladder to mount the saddle and had no problem getting off Susie by herself.
“I cannot complain,” said Gitta. “Life has turned out for me to be very good. I have a good life, yes … But you know, you don’t come by the good things too easily, there was a lot of tragedy in between.”
So, if not now, when?
“It’s been a dream for me,” said Gitta, of riding horses. “Now is the best time, always. Tomorrow is promised to nobody, right?”