The Aftermath (1920-1955)
By the age of 45, Mileva had survived the loss of her daughter, her husband and her professional dreams. She had some cash from the divorce settlement, and earned a little more by taking in boarders and giving lessons in math and music. Life was tolerable.
But at the start of 1920, Mileva was called to Novi Sad. Her aging parents couldn't deal with Zorka's growing paranoia and hostility. Mileva stayed for three months. The autumn of 1922 found Mileva back in Serbia again: Zorka had incinerated a large sum of cash hidden in an empty stove. Events followed in rapid succession: Zorka suffered another psychotic break; Mileva's father, Milos, died of a stroke; Mileva had her sister legally certified as an incompetent - and Albert won the Nobel Prize.
Albert was on a lecture tour in the Far East when news of the Nobel Prize reached him. He couldn't attend the December ceremony. It was 1923 before a Swedish ambassador personally delivered the 1921 prize. Albert quietly routed the cash to Mileva. It was the smallest sum the Nobel Foundation had ever distributed, just 121,572 Swedish kronor (worth about $348,000 U.S. in 2003). Mileva invested in three properties, including an apartment house on Huttenstrasse, where she lived with her teenage sons.
The next year, Albert fell in love with a friend's niece. To keep her in Berlin, he hired her as a "secretary." Elsa permitted Albert to see his mistress twice a week, in exchange for keeping a low profile. Albert grew bored within a year. In April 1928, he hired a genuine secretary, Helen Dukas. She remained with Einstein until his death.
In 1929, Mileva was 53. Over the next 10 years, she would lose everything that mattered. First, Eduard was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Then Albert escaped the anti-Semitism of Nazi Berlin by emigrating to America with Elsa and his secretary. The following New Year's Day, Mileva's mother died. Three years later, Mileva went home for the last time, to bury Zorka. Then Hans Albert, his wife, and Mileva's two grandsons moved to the U.S., and within months her youngest grandchild was dead. By 1939, the world was in economic collapse, teetering on the brink of war.
Mileva asked Albert for help. She had sold two buildings, and faced foreclosure on the third. She couldn't pay for Eduard's care and maintain the Huttenstrasse apartments too. Albert took ownership of the property. After eight years, he abruptly sold it for 85,000 Swiss francs, on the condition that Mileva could stay. But on New Year's Eve, she received official notice that her lease was up. A friend attempted to get an extension and during the bureaucratic confusion, the buyer's 85,000 Swiss francs were accidentally paid to Mileva. Albert was livid. He threatened to cut Eduard out of his will if she didn't send the money to him instantly. But Mileva had a legal advantage: she held Albert's power of attorney in Switzerland, and she kept the money.
The following spring, Mileva collapsed during one of Eduard's violent episodes. She died in the hospital three months later and was buried in Zurich's Nordheim Cemetery. Her newspaper obituary didn't mention Albert. He was now a retired widower of 69. Johnny would outlive Dollie by seven years.
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