Switching Authors Again
Biene wrote the preceding chapters based on a wealth of experiences from 1945 to the early 1960s. The story begins with her father’s return from the Bad Kreuznach POW camp to his family and home in Gotha. It ends with a vivid description of life as a refugee family in the so-called ‘Golden West.’ In loving memory, she sees her mother as a pillar of strength. She did not hesitate to jeopardize her health and well-being in the fight for justice for her husband and children. Biene depicts Papa Panknin’s stern appearance without the usual negativity often found in a father-daughter relationship. She briefly mentions her squabbles with her twin brother Walter. For example, the abusive ‘burrowing’ of her dolls and toys and often wrecking them bothered her. In retrospect, she preferred to dwell on the joys and emotional support she received from her friends while entering her teenage years.
Modest Beginning in the ‘Golden West’ – Christmas 1958
The task at hand of writing about the rest of the story will be a challenging one for me. In contrast to Biene, I did not have personal experiences with my parents-in-law. Indeed, I only had the pleasure of meeting them three years after our wedding in Canada. However, what enables me to throw detailed light on Papa and Mutti’s life is their love and passion for expressing themselves through their immense correspondence with friends and relatives. They meticulously sorted and preserved their work in well-organized, dated folders and binders.
Papa Panknin suffered from nervous tics in his facial muscles and hands dating back to WW1 shell shocks. Therefore, he used an old typewriter for his letters to government officials, friends, and relatives. Typing had the advantage of producing carbon copies for his records, for which I am very grateful, making my job as a family chronicler much easier. My writing will be drier for the most part and less colourful than Gertrud’s autobiographical notes. However, I hope that many excerpts from his correspondence, especially those dealing with family events, will be noticed even in translation. So without further ado, let the extraordinary story of the Walter Panknin family continue.