By Almeda Girod
Christa Griffin’s parents moved from Germany to Tianjin in North China in the mid 1930s, where her adventurous mother had traveled to work as a governess and her father to lead a German school. In 1937, imperial Japan invaded China and established a cruel and inhumane occupation. However, since Germany and Japan were allies, Christa, born in 1939, and her family lived a “fairly privileged life isolated from the local population as if in a cocoon.”
Following Japan’s surrender in 1945, Christa and her family were sent in 1946 as U.S. civilian prisoners of war on an American troop transporter to war-torn occupied Germany, where they were housed in camps with separate facilities for men and women. Arriving with only the clothes on their backs, they endured considerable hardship as their father was temporarily forbidden to teach and had to perform manual labor.
However, as the post-war economic recovery of West Germany unfolded, and conditions improved, her father accepted a teaching assignment in Afghanistan in 1958. The family joined him there a year later.
In 1965 Christa met her husband, Robert (Bob) Griffin, (a native of Tulsa, OK) in Afghanistan where he was serving with the U.S. Foreign Service. They married in 1967 and moved to the U.S. so Christa could secure U.S. citizenship. Christa and her two sons were safe-havened in Bangkok while Bob, who was stationed in the U.S. embassy in South Vietnam, was on the last helicopter to leave Saigon before the North Vietnamese assumed power.
His later assignments were in the Soviet Union and Liberia. Deeming it important to acclimate the sons to life in the US, the family served a tour in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, this created some ugly incidences for the bi-racial family such as difficulty securing housing, refusal of services, acceptance in private kindergartens, and more.
Christa became a Foreign Service officer in 1984, and her husband subsequently retired from his last assignment in Egypt after 29 total years of service. The postings during her 20-year career took the couple to Greece, Nigeria, Qatar, and Burundi. Christa describes her service as “an opportunity to serve, as well as fascinating, colorful, and at times dangerous.”
In 2006, Bob passed away after a long illness. Photos and certificates bedeck the walls of Christa’s Hampton Square apartment a tribute the couple’s long career of dedication to the Foreign Service.