The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

Reflections on Life, Family and Community

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Chapter 37 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part IV

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117Mountain

Biene’s Urgent Plea for Understanding – Part 2

In one point I won’t be able to grant my mother’s wish and that is that I want to get married to you at once. Don’t think that I was not sincere with my parents. O Peter, I was! They knew everything of us for a long time and all the same they reacted like this. I cannot be frank anymore, because the more I tell them, the worse it gets. O Peter, understand my situation. I cannot bear their tears, I cannot see them suffer and they are so downhearted, because they love me so much. Although I love you more than anything in the world, I suffer too with them and I cannot help it and yet I am happy, because I love you. Peter, it is so difficult to understand.

Sometimes I really wish I could hate my parents, because everything would be easier. I have to work because my father won’t give me a penny. Nothing can move him, although I have told him everything. I cannot bear the thought to take our last money you have here. I want to be able to pay at least the fare. Besides I learn a lot. I have nearly the function of a secretary. I have to type, to write letters and to translate many English letters with many difficult technical terms. It is a real good experience for getting a job in Canada. Don’t you think so? Have confidence, Peter, because nothing is hopeless as long as we love each other.

I love you so much! Your Biene

A few days later she added …

My dear Peter, I only now realize with a great shock how my last letter must have created a storm of anxiety in your heart. O Peter, I hope you remained calm at the exam. Peter, I was not aware at all what I had done to you. See, there so many things that I have to deal with, but yet you must never doubt that I am coming to you. Even my parents know that. They only want to make sure that I keep my freedom as long as possible, because they cannot believe that I will be able to endure life with you in Canada. Nevertheless I am going to be your wife as soon as possible. And when I am with you and my parents sense that I am happy, then they will find it easier to bear the separation. When I come to you without bringing anything, later on we still get eventually something. At least I want to be able to pay for the fare.

Dear Peter, I am asking you now just for one thing, although my letters do not always radiate confidence, you must not lose your trust in me. Unfortunately, I cannot describe everything. It is always way too much. But I love you so much that it would cost me my life, if I didn’t come to you soon.

Your Biene

Chapter 37 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part III

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116Mountain

Biene’s Urgent Plea for Understanding

January 11th 1966, Velbert

My dear Love, I am a bit exhausted and my nerves are on edge. But don’t be afraid. I never lose my confidence and courage, whatever happens. Nothing can prevent me from coming to you.

First I must tell you this. The letter from the Canadian Embassy arrived today! I filled out the form at once and it is now on its way back to Cologne. But Peter, I had to do something you may not understand. But I had to do it to take a burden off my mother’s heart. I have asked the ambassador whether it will be possible to grant me a visa and a work permit for one year, before I will come to you forever. I have arranged with my mother to go to you till Christmas and then come back home to make the final decision. It breaks my mother’s heart. She cannot bear the thought that already this step I am going to do might be the final one. She must get acquainted to this thought by and by. Peter, please understand I have to grant her this favour. I must try everything to leave her at least in the hope that I am not bound to stay with you if I should not be able to stand the new life.

Peter, once together with you, I can reassure her in everything and she will get acquainted to the thought that I will stay with you. Peter, believe me, I only want to do the best and therefore never let doubts enter your heart! I need courage and I only can get it through you, when I know you are not troubled. Look, Peter, I come to you, I think, in April by airplane taking only small luggage with me. Coming back after Christmas I will take everything with me, for then I will stay forever. Peter, understand this change of plans, if the embassy should grant me my wish.

To be continued

Chapter 35 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part III

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UofC1

University of Calgary – Winter 1965

Waiting for a Sign of Life from Biene

During the long wait for Biene’s first letter from Germany I jotted down a few ideas, bits of advice and the latest news from Canada Immigration. I intended to compile my notes and send them to Biene on the first sign of life from her. But there was no sign of life, not even a Christmas card, and I was increasingly getting more worried as the days were dragging on.

December 15 My dear Little Bee, I know, you will experience a hard time when you will have returned to Germany,, and if you don’t mind, please take my advice. There is only one argument in support of your coming to me, which is  that we belong together as husband and wife. No matter what the conditions here in Canada will be at the beginning, no matter how poor the prospects will be for me being  still a student and  having no professional income at all, no matter how insecure the future seems to us or to your parents, the only reason, which remains powerful regardless of all these obstacles, is that we love each other. We are convinced that this love is true and, therefore, all the obstacles can be overcome by the strength of our love in marriage. Consequently, please, when you arrive at home, argue with the sincere and great power of your emotions, because in them you are completely safe. Reason is – in the minds of your brother or your parents – not used to show you the right way to reality, but is a vital instrument for their own emotions. Thus, actually, emotions are fighting against emotions: theirs to hold you back, because they want you to stay, ours to come together and to get married. You must have this in mind, when you come home. For we talk about emotions on both sides, and ours are morally on a higher plane and should, therefore, win the victory. Thus, stand firm on the ground of your emotions and don’t venture out into the field of reason wrapped in the skilfully disguised emotions by your relatives.

December 18th  My dearest Biene! So many exciting news I have for you! Oh Bee, love without being able to love is illness. Believe me, I need your healing presence. I am terribly excited, because my mission is finished on the Canadian side of the ocean. Now it is your turn, brave girl! First of all I have to tell you about the last events at the Calgary Immigration Office. To some extent I feel sorry for your parents. For your time left in Germany must be cut short to a maximum of three months. Here are the details: The officer was a really friendly man and helped me portray our situation in a most positive light. Each aspect of your coming was shown in a favourable light: you had become a stenographer, the money I possess here and in Germany, the money you would probably bring with you, the money I would earn next summer, everything was summed up and spoke in favour of your coming. Even the fact that my brothers and my sister will support us was stated. Finally came the great surprise when the officer asked me, ‘When do you want her to come, in two or four weeks?’ I was struck as by a thunderbolt and answered that I didn’t know that your admission to Canada would go that fast and that I really expected you much later when I would have finished my first university year. The officer was not very pleased to hear that, because all the facts, which we have stated, wouldn’t be up-to-date in May any more. Now listen, dear Sweetheart, we finally compromised on the end of March or beginning of April and he gave me 45 days to marry you.

This will involve a lot of new problems, I suppose, because I didn’t really expect you earlier than May. But actually, the problem starts right here in Canada. For you will have to live at my brother’s and assume a good job, maybe in a household for the beginning, whereas I shall be completely involved in the final exams of the winter term. Thus, it will seem as if you have come into a strange, cold (March, April) and unfriendly country where even your dearest Love will have no time for you. I have to confess to you something; I am even studying on Saturdays and Sundays in order to cope with the requirements of the university. A few hours a week will be all we can spend together till the exams will be over, and our wedding will be only possible four weeks after your arrival maybe with yet unfriendly weather. If you see the hard work at my studies before the exams in terms of love, that is, if you recognize in each hour I spend for the progress of our future my great affection for you, as the warmest kiss would ever show you otherwise, you will have fully understood me.

Dec 26th My dear Sweetheart, I felt a little sad when I got no Christmas greetings from you. I spent Christmas Day with my brother Gerhard and his wife and their little son Wayne. It was really a nice time though I would have preferred to celebrate Christmas with you under a genuine Christmas tree.

I thought it was a good omen to get the final decision concerning your immigration to Canada on Christmas Eve. I enclose this letter to show you how far things have advanced by now. Since I cannot meet you in Montreal because I still study in March and April and I don’t want you to endure the early spring storms on a passenger ship, I would like  you to come by airplane and fly directly to Calgary where I can meet you at the Calgary Airport. Put the most necessary things into your suitcase and all the rest especially heavy things into a wooden crate, which will come by ship and train half a year later. Every travel bureau will advise you what steps to take.

Although I haven’t had any news from you for such a long time, I will no longer wait and send you all my letters off to you.

Hoping that all is well I send you a thousand kisses. Your Peter

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

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Mother2.jpg

Key Player #6: Erika Klopp, Peter’s Mother

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.

Stepping up the Pace

“It is easier in spite of the great distance to visit relatives in Canada than those in East Germany. And we will lose our children we try to hold captive. In a higher sense we will regain them as we let them go.”  Peter’s Mother

From the moment the avalanche of opposing letters came crashing down on us, Biene and I accelerated the pace of our correspondence to a feverish pitch, as far as the notoriously slow mail service between England and Canada  would allow any speeding up at all. Biene continued to be resolute and firm in her decision to come to Canada and marry me as early as the following spring. While I had nagging doubts about our future, her bold attitude emanating from her letters was like a shining exemplar encouraging me to be strong and not to despair. Biene’s twin brother had planted poison in my heart. I had premonitions, even believed to hear inner voices with dire warnings of imminent disaster. Fortunately, Biene was always able to dispel such dark fears, which usually surfaced on my distraught mind after stepping down into my dingy basement room after a long, hard day at the university.

With every new letter she rekindled my longing for her presence. Her passionately written words filled my heart with warmth and confidence, fortifying me for the long pause in our correspondence, which was to come even before she returned to Germany. For the longest time like a weary wanderer leaning on his walking stick, I clung to her words.

Do you know Peter that I have the same feelings like you namely that I might become a good wife to you? I am longing for you so much! Your words saying that we must both grow together touched me deeply because that’s what I feel every day more. Yet, Peter is it not a miracle all the same? Look we both are going through the same experiences of life although thousands of miles are between us. In mind we are together. I feel so closely linked to you that to a certain extent the distance does not matter. Yet we are living beings of flesh and blood and not only souls. Therefore even the strongest mental link is only a substitute for being together. I want to feel your arms around me, touch you, speak to you and kiss you. Please undertake all the necessary steps for my coming at once. Have always confidence in me and never let doubts prevail over you.

My dear blogging friends, let me break the rules for writing an objective autobiography and allow me to address you directly. After reading these passionately written lines, tell me who would be the young man whose pulse would not go up a notch faster, would not feel the warmth of tender anticipation flood his heart, and would not foretaste in all its intensity the embrace of his beloved sweetheart ? Even a heart of stone would melt after being exposed to so much loving-kindness!

How could Biene have so much confidence that everything would work out in the end? Was it naive and wishful thinking or blind trust in Providence? Was she truly prepared to enter the lions’ den, especially after the barrage of opposing letters suddenly ended and dead silence from parents and brother was sending out ominous warning signals?

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

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Storm Clouds on the Horizon

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Key Player #1 in Chapter 34: Gertrud (Biene) Panknin 1965

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.

We define our identity always in dialogue with, sometimes in struggle with against the things our significant others want to see in us.  Even after we outgrow some of the others – our parents, for instance – and they disappear from our lives, the conversation with them continues within us as long as we live. Charles Taylor

The Letter to Biene’s Parents

To merely summarize the troubles we experienced, the opinions we voiced, the arguments we had and the decisions we made, the agonies and struggles of the heart would have distorted the true picture we had created through our correspondence between October 1965 and March 1966. On the one hand an objective approach, if it were possible at all, would never have succeeded in describing the passionate appeals we fervently made to one another in the face of dire adversities. On the other hand a purely emotional account would most certainly have embodied on my part a lot of bias and subjectivity. So for the next two chapters I mostly let the letters speak for themselves. They include more and more often our first attempts to correspond with each other in English. Here and there I corrected a few grammatical errors and edited out some awkward expressions without changing the intended meaning.  The letters in a sense are also a fine record of our progress in the use of the English language. As to those still written in German it is my hope that not too much of their emotional impact has been lost in translation.

September 25th Didsbury

My dear Peter,

…From my mother I had an immediate reply to my letter, which was going to prepare her for the letter from you. With her words my mother has taken a big burden off my heart; for she writes that she is glad that things are working out for us and that she would help us in as much as she could. She congratulates you to your success at your entrance exam and is confident that we somehow will make it together. Strangely, I felt my heart ache, even though I was happy all the same. Please, dear Peter, write to my parents soon; for now they have been prepared. How I wished I were already with you! Then I would know that everything was true and not just a dream.

Be lovingly kissed, Your Biene

October 15th Calgary

My dear Love,

There are a lot of important things I have to tell you. But first of all I have to apologize that my letter is so late. It is quite possible this will happen again and again for the next couple of months, because the academic work is overwhelming. Only with a time schedule from dawn to dusk I am likely to pass the final examination in the spring, Therefore, dear Gertrud (I guess it sounds better in English to say your real name), remember that I am working hard, that I am devoting more love to you by spending every minute available to me for studying.

About a fortnight ago, I wrote a long letter to your parents. I am still waiting for an answer. I don’t know what they will think of me, and in which way they will react. I only hope positively. I explained the situation and spoke of you as Biene without recognizing that, because this name had become so familiar to me, I had forgotten at this moment that a little more formality would be required. I hope they will not mind it. Canada was shown not in terms of a paradise for their daughter, but as the place to start a completely new life with all the uncertainties of the future, which I cannot anticipate now. They have seen the financial problem as well as the problem of my professional career. Now it is up to them to make their decisions, I hope, in favour of both of us…

With a thousand warm kisses, Your Peter

The letter I wrote to Biene’s parents does no longer exist. As the events unfolded it became very clear that I had made a grave mistake by describing honestly and realistically all the challenges we would be facing in a letter that was supposed to make them agree to let their daughter go to Canada and marry me.

Chapter 33 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part V

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Discussing Marriage at Lunch Break

Student Peter

Peter in front of the University of Calgay

On the wall of my basement room hung a timetable, a rigid what-to-do list that was to govern my life for the next seven months. On weekdays I got up at six and after a cornflakes-and-milk breakfast spent sixty minutes to have an early morning study period. Then I took the bus for my first morning class at campus. I had one hour for lunch that always consisted of the same homemade bologna and cheese sandwiches washed down with the watery coffee from the vending machine. During this time, when I managed to relax a little bit, I often met with three students on alternate days, as they all had their own schedules to follow.

On Tuesdays and Fridays I sat together with Brian Fisher, since we both attended the same afternoon tutorial class for Math 211. It made me feel very good to be able to help him with many of the questions from the weekly assignment sheets. In turn I got gradually used to the informal, casual way of English conversation. On the other days I met with two women, both married, one from Great Britain, whose husband had recently been promoted to a managerial position in an IBM sponsored business in downtown Calgary, the other Mrs. Karen Bolso, an immigrant from Norway. Both were attending the same late morning psychology lecture. In a country that was built on the skills and talents of hundreds of thousands of immigrants the voices of three individuals producing an interesting blend of Oxford English, Scandinavian and German accents were not unusual in the student lounge. All three of us, coming from Europe, had interesting stories and experiences to share. The British student, whose name I can no longer recall, had recently followed and joined her husband in Calgary and was pursuing a teaching career to get out of the house as she put it, while her husband was busy setting up calculating machines, the forerunners of business computers. Her main point of advice relating to happiness in marriage was that the two partners should come from the same ethnic and cultural background. Their children would integrate quickly with their new environment, but the parents would take a long time to adjust. “Like oil and water Canadian and immigrant spouses just do not mix,” she stated her opinion with a slightly superior air.

Mrs. Bolso, whose marriage was on the rocks, protested and said, “Well, let me tell you something. I was married to a Norwegian, and yet things did not work out at all. When I arrived as his bride from Norway, he lavished gifts on me, bought me a diamond ring and a fur coat with money he did not have. He had bought all these luxury goods on credit, even though he held only a low paying job. He could barely put enough food on the table for our two children and me. I would rather have a husband, who would show his love in a financially responsible manner. Your theory is all wrong!”

Then it was my turn to voice my opinion. I spoke quite eloquently presenting an entirely idealistic viewpoint, which, as I could see from their reaction, took them by surprise. “Even if a partner could afford the most expensive diamond ring, a fancy car, and an even more fanciful house, it would be all for naught, if love and faithfulness were not present to hold the two together.” Then I thought it would be a good time to talk about my invisible engagement ring, the story about Biene, my fiancée, who was going to join me here in Calgary next spring. After many exclamations of ‘O, how wonderful’, ‘You must be so happy’ and the like, we moved on to other topics.

For the evening my timetable allowed me one hour for preparing and eating a frugal meal for supper. Two hours of studying followed till nine, after which I granted myself a little bit of time to play and practice a few tunes on my guitar. But if I had gotten stuck in my attempt to solve a particularly difficult calculus problem, there was no time for relaxation, until I had found the solution. One evening I had been working over a thorny differential equation. Stubborn as I was when working on problem solving, I did not want to give up. It was way past my bedtime. Midnight was rapidly approaching. Finally common sense prevailed and I decided to go to bed. But the brain having been overstimulated did not want to come to rest. So many possible solutions were gliding by in front of my inner eye that it took another hour before I managed to fall asleep. Before the alarm went off, I woke up with a jolt. My body had rested, but my brain had not. I jumped out of bed, ran up to the table, grabbed paper and pencil, and before it would fade away, I jotted down the solution, which my brain had worked out correctly in my sleep. Having no coffee maker, I put an extra spoonful of ground coffee into the cooking pot, added water and brought the brew to a boil over my two-element stove to make myself a cup of strong coffee. What a life!

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