The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

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The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – ChapterXLI

14

Chapter 41

One more Painful Twist

 

IMG_3558Rose

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.

Nelson Mandela

Biene’s Father Gets a Stroke

March 17th, 1966 Velbert

My dear Peter,

Today in anticipation of spring the sun was shining its warm rays into our office and distracted me from my work. Herr Richter, a very understanding and capable department head remarked that I was in my thoughts already in Canada. But as brightly the sun may be shining and as much I long to be happy and light-hearted, it does not look as cheerful inside me. My father is very sick. He had suffered a stroke and must get rest for a very long time. I am sure that the excitement about me contributed to his illness, but the main cause was clearly his unhealthy life style. Dear Peter, you can imagine how things are now with me. Now that I can come to you, I cannot stand it here at home anymore. Also the barely concealed accusations that I am responsible for my father’s illness are tormenting me. I had been so happy after my trip to Cologne. Now I feel the full force of despair all over again. After an encouraging and conciliatory talk with my mother I had immediately booked my flight with the travel agency for April 6 to be with you already for Easter. Everything appeared to be so promising and now …  If my father quickly recovers, I will not postpone my flight; for I believe that the tension caused by my planned departure is harming him more than the certainty that I will be going away soon. I believe that it will be a relief for all of us, as hard as it sounds.

You are right, Peter. In England I was much stronger and also much happier. I could concentrate on myself and attempt to be myself, whereas here I am being torn apart by people, who love me, but wish to decide over my life according to their own ideas of happiness. Nobody can imagine that I wish for myself a totally different life and everybody tries to keep me away from my impending disaster. But they have no inkling that this way they make me and themselves unhappy. I know that it is right to come to you, even though many people think it is cruel.

I am looking forward to seeing you and spending the evenings with you in the tiny apartment. We will certainly then forget all the things which have burdened our hearts. And I hope that in your dreams you will no longer have to sleep with other girls.  For me as well temptations have been a constant threat. In England I had my freedom and your love in my heart. That gave me so much strength that I could easily resist the temptations. Even in my dreams I wasn’t searching for a more beautiful reality. Everybody liked me and also everybody knew that I love you. Here at home unfortunately everything is different. I cannot bear it any longer that I must hurt them so much. And yet I love you and I have made my decision. Sometimes I am in a state that I want to numb my senses. But have no fear. I will endure the remaining time I am here.

Now I am almost finished with my letter and have not yet thanked you for your long letter, which gave me a much needed lift. I am happy to hear that you have so much success with your studies. I will make certain that I will not be a distraction to your final exams when I am with you. Now, dear Peter, let us hope that I may soon come to you.

Be now sweetly embraced and kissed

Your Biene

P.S. By the way my inner calendar is very exact. Perhaps it is not good at all to worry so much about it.

IMG_2989Violet

Paving the Way towards a Brighter Future

Peter’s Last Letter before Biene’s Arrival in Canada

March 25th , Calgary

My dear Biene,

I remember very well the time when I wrote you the first long letter. Just like three years ago I am sitting in the warm spring sun and hope that it will bring some warmth into my lines.

Your birthday letter has reopened the locked chambers of my heart with power and might, and a flood of new ideas is pouring out about our near future, our little apartment, our weekends in the city or at the lakes in the mountains. With so much joyful tension and anticipation I can barely concentrate on my studies and I am longing for a break from my intensive work.

Only at night time I am still being plagued by ‘nightmares’, which constantly warn me against the wedding soon to take place. They whisper threateningly that we both don’t have the assurance of the heart to throw ourselves into such an adventure. But in the light of a new day I always return to my confidence and trust. I have been searching deep within me and often discovered that the very weaknesses I had attacked most fiercely in you lie also hidden in me. You were in deep trouble, almost in a state of desperation. There weaknesses emerged in a way that greatly disappointed me. But after some time through self-discovery I was able to understand them. I wished you wouldn’t worry about this my disappointment any more. In the atmosphere, where nobody dictates what our happiness should look like, let us work on the healing of soul, spirit and mind and let us try to overcome our weaknesses.

I am little ashamed that you are a bit afraid of me. Perhaps I have sometimes given you cause for such fear through my seemingly cold behaviour. Perhaps you even believed that your father’s illness could provide the answer to my last urgent question. Now that I did not receive any reply,  I had to assume of course that you are sticking to your original plans. In the meantime your parents will have received my letter, in which in very kind words I have adopted your and your mother’s position and reassured your parents that you would not be in any kind of danger. I hope my letter will contribute to alleviate their fears. I also wrote that I was sorry if they felt insulted by my letter last Christmas. Hopefully you will understand that I could not apologize for what I had written. The strength to overcome my reluctance to write and to fulfill all your wishes came from the returning trust that from now on everything between us will develop normally and we two will forget the ‘sick’ period of the last three months. Should we not learn to trust each other, then spiritually speaking we will have built our relationship on sand and I will have no more hope. I am looking forward to make a little paradise out of our apartment. We will achieve this with love, imagination, and our skilful hands.

Thanks for the many kisses. It’s too bad that I was only allowed to imagine them and did not receive them right away.

Please write when the plane arrives in Calgary, so I can pick you up.

Greetings in love

Your  Peter

34732386071_6713da4df3_o (1)

Biene’s Last Letters from Germany

March 26th, Velbert

My dear Peter,

Finally after a long time I have a quiet evening, which I want to devote to you right away. Normally there is always somebody here for a visit, even though I am not always in a sociable frame of mind and would prefer to be alone with my thoughts. Today it snowed so hard and the streets were so slippery that my friend Ulrike, who had come in spite of it all, immediately drove home again.

Now I sit at my desk, on which I had written so many letters. A little oil lamp, which a friend had given to me for my birthday, is spreading a soft light that creates a dreamy atmosphere. And so it also happens that I am playing my opera records. But ‘Don Giovanni’ will come last, when I am already in bed and have switched off the light. You must feel for sure, what I am thinking. Indeed it would be wonderful, if you were with me now. God willing it will not be long until I can come to you. Thank God, my father is on the road of recovery. We all are breathing a sigh of relief.

In the next couple of days I will finally book a flight. Yesterday my passport with all its pertinent papers stamped and cleared ready for the flight came back from Cologne. I am getting more and more excited. Hopefully at least you will stay calm before the exams.

I have to work for another five days. During the last month I have become so accustomed to my work that I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was especially due to the very pleasant department, in which I had been placed. I would really love to work in Calgary at an office of a large company, if that will be possible. Do you think, we will find something suitable?

My dear Peter, how can I possibly control my excitement, until I am with you? I feel it more and more. Dear Peter, I must not carry on thinking of all these things. Otherwise my fantasy will run wild and I will get sick with excitement, Hopefully I can soon pass the exact date of my arrival on to you.

My dear Peter, try also to remain as calm as possible. But I believe, even if I had to travel to the Shah of Persia, I would not be as excited as now at the thought of coming to you.

For now be lovingly embraced by your Biene

March 29th, Velbert

My dear Peter,

Very quickly the most important information! I just returned from the travel agent. The flight is booked and paid for. Next week on Wednesday, April 6th I take off at Düsseldorf at 13 hours and will arrive in Calgary at 22 hours local time.

I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your kind words with the good news in your last letter. I also thank you for writing to my parents. I am so happy about it. Your letter was well received by them. My father is getting better. I just don’t know how to manage to visit your mother in the remaining days. Unfortunately, my parents had also in this regard thrown obstacles in my way …

Dear Peter, although I did not do everything right in your eyes, I ask you for understanding. Unfortunately, it is true that letters can only reflect a fraction of the life and character of a person. Now I have to close and say goodbye.

Pray that all will be well.

Your Biene

Chapter 34 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part IV

34

Biene’s Bold Reaction to Five Letters from Germany

Papa

Key Player #4 of Chapter 34: Papa Walter Panknin

As the drama unfolds I will introduce for each part of this chapter one person, who played a major role in our desperate struggle for being reunited in Canada.

November 2nd 1965 Didsbury

My dear Peter,

Before I respond to your messages and also tell you about my life here, I want to deal with the main issue at hand. Dear Peter, my parents and my brother’s reaction came so unexpectedly for me that every letter from home was a real shock for me.

First of all my brother wrote, who until now has only written this long letter to me. He tried to logically explain that our plans are against all reason that out of several reasons I would be unhappy with you in Canada and above all that I would make my parents unhappy. Shortly afterwards I received an equally long and logical letter from my father with similar arguments and the threat that if I acted against all warnings and reason, I would in no way receive any support from him. Then finally came a long letter from my mother. She desires that we two come together and that she was prepared to let me go ‘one day’ to Canada. However, influenced by my father and brother’s arguments, she too thinks that it would be too early and that we would only be unhappy. Even my brother-in-law and sister asked me in long letters to take everything into consideration and let reason prevail rather than listen to my heart.

Dear Peter, as I can only roughly indicate to you, their main concern was about my happiness and the fear to lose me. Therefore, Peter, I cannot feel any anger or disappointment. You are right, Peter, my parents must have hoped all the time that everything, as you said, would fizzle out between us at the end. And only now I understand as to why without any objections they let me go to England. I believe that they hoped it would lead me to different thoughts. Dear Peter, you can imagine in what kind of conflict I find myself! I have never been so determined in my life as now! I come to you, even if I have to earn the sea voyage myself. My decision is final, and nothing can dissuade me from it. Therefore, Peter, prepare everything.

My parents fear that the hard work would make me unhappy. O Peter, I realized here in England how physical work in harmony with intellectual work creates happiness. And to work together with you for our life can truly make me happy! Mrs. Lande literally cried, when I told her that I would have to leave at Christmas time. She thinks that never before had a girl managed to do so well with the work and the children as I have. These words give me self-confidence; for I came  with no experience whatsoever. My mother always says, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way.’ I also believe in it. Sometimes I think that I am hard-hearted and egotistical, because I want to come to you, although I know how much pain I am causing to all the people that love me. Yet, Peter, don’t we need to live our life as our parents lived theirs? My father writes that he would rather travel to European destinations four times a year than to spend a single penny for a trip to Canada to visit his daughter, who has abandoned her home country. You too will feel while reading this, how much these words have hurt me. When I come home for Christmas, I will talk calmly with my parents. If they insist on their position and refuse us any help, then Peter I will come in spite of it all. I have so much confidence in our future. Perhaps we can only convince our parents with an iron will! O Peter I think that I appear so hard-hearted toward them, for I can sense how they must feel. But I know that it is right to go to you.

In the meantime you will have received my brother’s letter. Don’t take it as an insult that my parents have used my brother as mediator. I am more offended than you; for I know that only my brother’s influence could have changed my parents’ mind. However, Peter, all parents would just like my parents try to keep their children at their side, especially if it means to let them go into a world of uncertainty. And Canada is for them uncertainty. We must understand them. But nothing can change my decision.

My dear Peter, now I have not yet dealt with many of your questions and problems you brought up in your letters. However, I shared the main issue with you so that you can undertake all the necessary steps and you can tell me what I need to do. As always in a big hurry, unfortunately!

Be lovingly embraced by your Biene

Having observed in the past quite a few of Biene’s vacillations during times when decisions of the heart had to be made, I felt total admiration for Biene’s courageous handling of a dilemma out of which there seemed to be no escape. In my eyes she ruled like a queen over the complex issues that were going to haunt us for a long time to come. Indeed I was awed by her bold stand against the odds that were stacked against her. However, what I did not realize at the time, when her letter  gave my anxious heart a lift, was the fact that Biene was fighting far away from home the  good fight in the safe haven of her British employer.

Chapter 21 of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part III

2

Storm Clouds on the Horizon

In the meantime Biene had an exciting vacation with her family in Bavaria, often went paddling on Lake Ammer with her parents’ folding boat. She and her twin brother Walter almost drowned, when their boat capsized in a violent storm. They traveled to the German Alps and even took a gondola ride up to the Zugspitze, which is with an altitude of 3000 m the highest mountain in Germany. She returned home filled with wonderful memories. There was so much to tell, but the flow of letters began to ebb. The intervals between them began to widen into two-week gaps. Something must have happened that made me worry. Had my letters lost its fervor? Were the thoughts expressed too philosophical, self-centered, out of touch with reality? I could not tell.

Biene and her father on the Zugspitze 1963

Biene and her father on the Zugspitze 1963

Fall was a beautiful time in Koblenz. The park at the German Corner, located at the confluence the Rivers Moselle and Rhine, was ablaze with brilliant red, yellow and orange colors. There I often sat on a park bench alone away from the noisy inner city and read about the fall and utter destruction of Rome’s rival Carthage in Mommsen’s History of Rome. I was fascinated to discover that the cause of the three Punic wars was the same as of most other conflicts in the history of mankind, namely the desire for economic power and growth at the expense of some other country. I gained important insights into the ways in which imperialistic expansions were intertwined with a general decay of the moral fiber of a nation. I saw so many parallels in our modern world that I contemplated writing a novella on the mighty city on the North African shore, if I could only add and weave in some personal experiences to the story to make it more interesting. These experiences were coming my way faster than expected, and in the end I got more than I had bargained for. Indeed I would have preferred not to write the novella in exchange for the pleasant status quo.

Deutsches Eck in Koblenz, Germany

Deutsches Eck in Koblenz, Germany – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

I had just settled into the routine of orderly army life with its duties of monthly night watches, sessions of theoretical and practical instructions and the occasional maneuvers, which I enjoyed more and more, because they took place in the great outdoors away from the stuffy barracks in the city. Then a command from the newly formed signal corps at Maxhof in Bavaria went out to all army divisions to provide two truck drivers each. Our crafty commanding officer in Koblenz selected private Gauke and me for the transfer effective October 1st, even though we had no driver’s license for those colossal Mercedes communications trucks. Obviously, he wanted to keep his precious truck drivers for himself. We were told that we would receive professional training and certification that could be very useful later on, when we returned to civilian life. However, it was immediately clear to my that with the transfer to Maxhof, I would lose out on the chance of becoming part of the upcoming officer’s training program. It would upon successful completion raise me to the rank of a lieutenant of the reserve with a much higher pay-out at the end of my two-year term. The wheels had been set in motion. I had no recourse to an appeal process. The decision was final. I was devastated.

58

Peter in a contemplative mood at home in Watzenborn-Steinberg

Chapter 20 of the P. and G. Klopp Story – Part II

10

Getting to know my Army Buddies

We did not have much time to really get to know each one another in Room 203. But before we settled down for the first night, I had learned that most of us came from the same region in Northwest Germany. However, nobody came from the same town no matter how big and, as I discovered later, no more than two were high school graduates. It seemed to me that someone in the personnel department had done a good job in creating groups from social and regional backgrounds as diverse as possible. This was to prevent cliques from forming and to promote harmony. The other high school graduate was a violinist . He planned to further his musical talents after his mandatory 18 months by studying at a music conservatory. He had applied for a transfer to the band division of the army before he arrived in Koblenz showing convincingly that regular army service would ruin the dexterity of his delicate fingers needed for becoming an accomplished violinist. I took an instant liking to him and, enthused about his virtuosity, recorded on quiet weekends many of his solo pieces on my tape recorder. Overall the troop in Room 203 fitted nicely together. Perhaps the only thing that made me feel slightly uncomfortable when conversing with my comrades was that in contrast to the heavy Low German accent of the Ruhr industrial area (the Ruhr Pot) I spoke the standard High German, which made me stick out like a sore thumb in the otherwise very congenial group. But that did not seem to bother them in the least. They would often good-naturedly tease me or would say, if they had a problem or question, “Let’s ask the professor. He will know.” In short, I had the good fortune to be among a good bunch of people. And if there was any misery coming our way– to be sure there was going to be lots of it -, it would come from the drill sergeants, whose job was to toughen us up for the tasks ahead.

Old City Center of Koblenz - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Koblenz at the Confluence of the rivers Rhine and Moselle – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

At the morning line-up we were standing on the pavement neatly arranged in a triple row from the tallest to the shortest. I occupied a fairly safe position from the critical eyes of the corporals in charge of the inspection. I stood in the third row on the left being one of the tallest in the company. The soldiers in the front row were the most vulnerable to harassment, where a missing button on the uniform, an half-open fly, dirty boots would come under an instant scathing rebuke peppered with such earthy language, were it not delivered half in jest with great exaggeration, it would have scared us right out of our wits. We at the back internally chuckled, when the sergeant noticed that we were not perfectly lined up and scornfully shouted, “You are standing there like the bull pisses!” or at the fly that a soldier had not completely buttoned up, “You pig, it smells like leather around here!” If one had learned to develop a thick skin, these verbal assaults were of little consequence. They simply put you on the alert to make sure that at line-up time you looked prim and proper by military standards. If you were found with dirty boots, the consequences were of a more serious nature. You usually wound up losing a weekend leave over such an outrageous crime against the honor of the army. On rifle inspection days you could expect similar punitive action, if you allowed a few dust particles to settle inside the shiny barrel of you rifle. Comments describing in most hyperbolic terms the lack of care for our most precious weapon were quite common like, “It looks like a herd of elephants has been stomping through your gun barrel!” Finally the captain as if on cue arrived. After his noncommissioned underlings had done the dirty job of whipping us into shape, he could afford to play the nice guy. With his kind, encouraging remarks he radiated the image of a loving surrogate father. He even suggested during one of the assemblies that, if we had a problem, which kind of problem he did not care to specify, his door to his office on the ground floor would always be open to us.

Army Buddies of Room 203 - Peter at Center Back (1963)

Army Buddies of Room 203 – Peter at Center Back, the Violinist at the Far Left

I was always looking forward to the afternoon line-up. Not only did I feel well rested after the noon break and pleasantly drowsy with a nutritious meal in my stomach, but also I was also full of anticipation that there might be a letter from Biene. At least once a week the sergeant would call out my name, and I would happily emerge from the back row to receive my mail. If a red wax seal adorned the backside of the envelope, I knew it was a letter from her. I buried it deep into the side pocket of my army pants, so I could secretly read it during the boring afternoon lessons on the organization and structure of the fifth tank division, to which we belonged.

Gertrud (Biene) with Papa Panknin in the Gruga Park

Gertrud (Biene) with Papa Panknin during a walk in the Gruga Park

There was only one other soldier, who received letters with the same frequency as I did. One evening, when all the other comrades were out for a beer, he proudly showed me the content of his girlfriend’s letter, which I was not in the least interested to see. From the top to the bottom of a piece of foolscap she had written repetitively just one single sentence: I love you. My roommate looked at me with that special kind of vulnerable expectancy that warned me to be careful with my response to this rather bizarre love-letter. He had to share his happiness with someone like me of whom he was almost certain, but not quite certain that I would not mock his tender feelings apparently so out of line with the rough environment of our life in the army. After a long pause of hesitation, which must have heightened the young man’s tension almost to the breaking point, I simply remarked, “A very powerful message!” Of course, I kept Biene’s letter in my pocket, her words were so precious to my heart that I would not have shared it even with any of my best friends. For it contained her responses to the world of thoughts and feelings about each other on a more elevated plane, where the word love had not yet surfaced and its presence could only be fathomed on second and third reading somewhere hidden between the lines.

 

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