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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 34 of the Peter and Gertrud Klopp Story – Part II

33

Ominous Rumblings from Biene’s Home Front

Peter copy

Key Player #2 in Chapter 34: Peter Klopp

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.

After having dispatched my letter to Biene’s parents I felt very much at ease. With vim and vigour and guided by an indomitable desire to achieve high marks in my academic endeavours, I embraced a regime of self-denial, a kind of mental forced  labour. I cut my leisure hour of guitar practice in the evening, shortened my social lunch time with friends and fellow students at the university, and allocated an extra hour   to my studies at home in the morning. I had no idea about the potential danger to my health by placing so many burdens on my shoulder. But I was happy in the sweet knowledge that all the hard work would pay off in the end. Little did I know, however,  of the storm clouds gathering on the other side of the Atlantic and of the ominous rumblings coming from Biene’s home turf.

October 20th, 1965 Didsbury

My dear Peter, Life is like a brilliant symphony. Again and again I feel this. Every day has its special tune and color and atmosphere and you need to be a poet in order to give a vivid and colourful picture of it. Sometimes the melody of the day is light and joyful, in other times dark and full of melancholy.

Today was a bright and sunny October day, and pushing the carriage with the little laughing Paul through the park, I felt happy and at peace with the world. Here in England I have gained new aspects of life and I really feel for the first time free and independent. Two letters, which arrived with the second post, made me hurry to the place, where I usually have a little rest in the sun. I got your letter as well as my mother’s and I have a lot to tell you. At first, Peter, be assured that my parents got your long letter. Don’t worry about not having received an answer until now. I am going to tell you the reason although I rather would not like to speak or even think of it, because it makes me feel unhappy. My aunt (you know, I sometimes talked about her, because I loved her very much) died a fortnight ago. My parents went immediately to Berlin and stayed for a week to arrange everything for her funeral. All the tasks connected with my aunt’s death caused my parents much grief and my mother felt mentally and physically exhausted after the journey and she was not even able to write to me. As soon as she feels better she will let you know what decisions she and my father have made. She asks me to tell you that this is the reason for their long silence. My mother had to tell me so much about the last happenings that she only gave notice to me of the mere fact that she got the letter from you. Yet she did not discuss it. She only reassured me that she would stick to her promise and try to help us in any case…

In love yours forever, Gertrud

A day later, having not sent off the letter, she continued on in German, which I took as a bad omen, and so it was.

My dear Peter,

Today I received a long letter from my brother, which contained the main thoughts and arguments, which he as he told me had written also to you. It is quite impossible for me at the moment to delve into all the details. I didn’t know at all that you don’t find it easy to stay in Canada. This is in any case the way my brother interprets your words. As soon as I have answered my brother, I pass on his letter to you. Dear Peter, my decision is firm, and nothing can detract me from what I recognized as the right thing to do. I have no fear of an uncertain future. This just for today! As soon as I have a little more time and leisure I will write you everything, which I have considered and decided.

Your Biene

I knew all along that, when this moment came, everybody would be against our plans.

For the moment it was very easy for Biene to stick to her decision. To join me in Canada was not only the right thing to do, but also fulfilled the promise of love between the two of us. She was still far removed from the source of disapproving views on getting married to a young adventurer with an uncertain future in the far-off and hitherto unknown country of Canada. Thus, she was able to take a firm stand against the first volley shot by her twin brother Walter across the English Channel.

Walter K. Panknin – Wie ich die USA sehe Part III

2

Guest Post by Gertrud’s Nephew Norbert Werner

Reifferscheid Family Tree – Chart III – III & IV
 Blog Contribution in German by Norbert Werner

Walter K. Panknin – Wie ich 1989/90 in den USA erlebt habe

(Wie ich die USA sehe – Teil III)

Zusammengestellt von Norbert Werner

Vorwort: Ende 1989 begannen unruhige Zeiten in der DDR. Die Menschen gingen auf die Straße und demonstrierten für einen „besseren Sozialismus“. Mit dem Anschluss an die Bundesrepublik und der Wiedervereinigung im Oktober 1990 kamen viele neue Sorgen und Probleme auf uns bisher recht unmündige Bürger zu. Ich suchte mir in Walter einen Gesprächspartner, der mir manches erklären und vielleicht auch einen Rat geben sollte.

Arlington, 30.9.1989

Ja, meine Lieben, auch ich habe in der Presse verfolgt, was in Deutschland so vor sich geht. Mehr als einmal habe ich an Euch alle gedacht und mich in Eure Situation versetzt… Ich bin ziemlich sicher, dass sich der in der UdSSR begonnene Prozess der Liberalisierung nicht mehr aufhalten lässt und über kurz oder lang auch in der DDR fortsetzen wird. Ein einzelnes Land, so groß oder klein wie die DDR, kann nicht auf Dauer in so verkrusteten Strukturen bestehen, vor allem nicht, wenn ja praktisch alle Nachbarländer, alle Verbündeten, alle Vorbilder von früher einen neuen Kurs einschlagen. Die Menschen sind einfach mündiger geworden. Zu lange hat man ihnen einzureden versucht, dass schwarz=rot ist, das ein Kreis viereckig ist. Lange, allzu lange haben sich die Menschen damit abgefunden, haben sich ihren eigenen Teil gedacht. Doch irgendwann kommt einfach mal der Punkt, wo man offen sagen dürfen will: Schwarz ist schwarz und rot ist rot, und ein Kreis ist rund. Es ist im Grunde die in jedem Menschen verbleibende „Würde“, die sich nicht total unterdrücken lässt. Es ist die Würde und das eigene Streben, ausreichend selbst bestimmen zu können was man tut, wohin man sich entwickelt, was man wird. Ich bin absolut sicher, dass in kurzer Zeit, in wenigen Monaten, maximal 1-2 Jahre, auch in der DDR ein Umdenken und ein drastischer Wandel stattfinden wird. Ich hoffe nur, dass dieser Wandel einigermaßen geordnet, ohne dramatische Vorgänge erfolgen wird. Wie es gehen kann hat man in Russland, Polen, Ungarn gesehen.

Leipzig,Montagsdemonstration - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Leipzig,Montagsdemonstration – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Arlington, 23.10.1989

Leber N., liebe Ch., ich war in den letzten Jahren vielleicht nicht so oft bei Euch, aber doch oft genug, um mir ein sehr plastisches Bild von dem machen zu können was Euch in diesen Wochen und Monaten berührt. Auch hat uns unser reger Schriftwechsel im letzten Jahr noch näher zueinander gebracht, als wir ohnehin schon waren. Man braucht nur die Anzahl der Flüchtlinge der letzten Monate durch die Bevölkerungszahl zu dividieren um sofort zu sehen, dass fast ein jeder ganz persönlich betroffen ist. Plötzlich fehlt ein Freund, ein Kollege, ein Bekannter. Auch kann ich Deine Wut und Enttäuschung verstehen, dass gerade diejenigen geflohen sind, denen es noch am besten ging. Mit Deiner trotzdem so besonnenen Haltung scheinst Du gottseidank nicht allein dazustehen. Wie ich in der Zeitung gelesen habe, muss vor allem der große Protestumzug in Leipzig sehr verhalten und besonnen gewesen sein.

Berlin Demonstration - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Berlin Demonstration – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Arlington, 9.11.1989

Meine Lieben,

mein Brief von gestern ist noch nicht abgeschickt und die Ereignisse haben sich überschlagen. Heute ist die Mauer gefallen. Mir fehlen die Worte, um Euch meine Empfindungen und Gefühle zu schildern. Was soll ich in diesen Stunden denken und schreiben, die in die Geschichte Deutschlands eingehen und die uns persönlich alle so tiefgreifend beeinflussen werden. Ich wünsche Euch Kraft, Besonnenheit und einen klaren Kopf, um in dieser Zeit weiterhin das richtige zu tun. Ich bin bei Euch allen in meinen Gedanken und bleibe Euer Walter.

Fall der Mauer - Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Fall der Mauer – Photo Credit: wikipedia.org

Arlington, 18.12.1989

Meine Lieben, der Versuch, die Ereignisse der letzten Wochen zu beschreiben und zu charakterisieren führt mich hinweg von Eurem und meinem Alltag. Doch eines Tages werden eure Kinder sagen können: „Ich habe es erlebt- ich war dabei!“ Ich hoffe und wünsche, dass die Ereignisse in der DDR sich niemals wieder umkehren werden. Ich weiß, das der Westen sicherlich nicht Sinnbild alles Guten ist, doch ich bin aus tiefstem Herzen überzeugt, dass Ihr alle einen Schritt in die richtige Richtung tut. Es wird Euch alle fordern,- es wird nicht leicht sein,- doch was war leicht in der Vergangenheit? Es wird Euch helfen auf lange Sicht. Und wenn ich sage „lange Sicht“, so meine ich die nächsten 5-10 Jahre.

Arlington, 9.10.1990

Aus der Ferne, doch in Gedanken war ich voll dabei, habe ich die Vereinigung unserer beiden Staaten erlebt und mitverfolgt. Zwei Staaten, wie sie sich gegensätzlicher kaum vorstellen lassen, die aber trotzdem zusammengehören Dies ist, jeder weiß und spürt und erlebt es, kein leichter Prozess. Für beide Seiten. Ich habe vor Kurzem an die Zeit nach 1945 gedacht, als meine Eltern im Alter von 53 bzw. 56 Jahren mit zwei 10jährigen Kindern und zwei Koffern ein neues Leben begannen. Ich glaube, wir haben ca. 4 oder 5 Jahre in einer Einzimmer-„Wohnung“ gelebt, ehe wir die erste Wohnung bekamen. 1961- im Jahr des Mauerbaues- machten wir unsere allererste Urlaubsreise nach Italien an den Gardasee.

 

Chapter 17 of the P. and G. Klopp Story Part II

5

A Most Curious Camping Trip

How I Met Biene

Pentecost was a long weekend and the beginning of a one-week break from school, the last one before the summer holidays. Hans had dropped out of our planned camping trip, because he had to baby-sit his younger stepbrothers and sisters. So Helmut and I got together to discuss our destination and the supplies we needed for the two and a half days. The reasons for the choice of our campsite will forever remain one of the great mysteries of my life. The nearby forests on either side of the River Rhine were within easy reach of a two- or three-hour bike ride. Our favorite camping sites were on federal land, rarely controlled for trespassing by forestry officials, miles away from the noisy highways, perfect places to be in tune with Mother Nature. The choice for this particular location was the opposite of everything I had learned to cherish during the years as a scout. As Helmut and I unfolded the map for the area of North Rhine Westphalia, we glanced over the tent icons, which marked the locations of campsites, and spotted one that bordered directly on a lake. On closer inspection we found out that it was Lake Baldeney between the city of Essen to the north and the city of Velbert to the south.

Lake Baldeney - Photo Credit: dirkosada.de

Lake Baldeney – Photo Credit: dirkosada.de

          Apart from the dead side branches of the River Rhine, there was no real lake in the vicinity of Wesel. It appears to me that the things one does not have exert a certain attraction that one often finds hard to resist. So despite nagging doubts that in the light of the hard facts we had made a poor choice about our camping destination, our decision to go there was irrevocable. Who would have thought it possible that I would have considered taking a train to go camping? Was it not totally insane to trade a peaceful refuge in the forest for the hustle and bustle of a noisy commercial campground? The Rhine was filthy and burdened with chemical pollutants that came from the Ruhr industrial area, to which we were planning to go. With the economic recovery of West Germany came the demand for energy. Mining for the high-quality anthracite coal was in high gear bringing work and prosperity to the region, albeit at a price. On windless days the coal dust polluted the air. Dirt and grime covered walls, lawns, and even the wash that women hung up to dry. Yes, it is hard to believe that Helmut and I actually went, where – as people who knew the area around Essen warned us – the sun would seldom completely break through the gray cover of a leaden sky.

Lake Baldeney near Essen - Photo Credit: mapio.net

Lake Baldeney near Essen – Photo Credit: mapio.net

          So it came to pass that on the late afternoon of June 9th, 1962, two young men carrying heavy backpacks and holding a two-man tent between the two of them arrived at the Baldeney Lake campground. Helmut and I were pleasantly surprised to view scenery quite different from what we had anticipated to find. The sky had cleared from the cleansing action of an early morning rain. There was not even a layer of industrial haze left to obscure the blue sky. The sun shone brightly, the trees were in full leaf, the lawn impressed us with its light-green spring verdure, best of all the brilliantly shining lake reflecting the blue sky created an ambiance we had not expected in a park south of the city of Essen. Since it was still early in the season and only a few hardy people had ventured out to camp, we had no trouble finding a suitable site near the lake shore to set up our tent. We enjoyed an early supper, which I had prepared from a can of chunky soup and had heated it up over my gasoline fueled camp stove. We spent the evening listening to pop music from my transistor radio and taking in the lush-green trees and bushes that the locals call the green lung of the Ruhr region. The only reminder that the black gold was mined north of here deep down from the rich coal deposits came when we looked at the dark soles of our feet black from our bare-foot walk through the park.

          Next morning after a frugal breakfast with cereal and milk we pulled out our air mattresses into the brilliant morning sun. We relaxed reading, listening to music from Radio Luxembourg and watched people saunter by on the way to the beach. Two men, one in his early sixties, the other a little bit younger than I, caught our attention as they brought two of those so-called folding boats down to the lake shore. They can be easily transported on buses, trains, and even in the trunk of a car, because when folded together they easily fit into a large duffle bag.

Biene and her Dad

Biene and her Dad

          For lunch I opened a can of sardines, an excellent staple for people like us traveling on a shoestring budget. Helmut having relied on me in charge of the provisions grumbled about the meal that consisted only of slices of dry bread and fish. In the meantime the boaters had returned to their tent with the folding boats. As we found out later, they were Herr Panknin and his son Walter. It seemed strange to us that they had nothing to eat and just sat there as if they were waiting for something. That something was obviously food. For now at a distance we noticed two persons approaching the camping area. As they came nearer, they turned out to be a woman and a young girl carrying baskets filled with delicious food perfect for a picnic in the sun. Enviously we looked on, as Frau Panknin and daughter Gertrud with a rather curious nickname Biene (Bee in English) unpacked the mouthwatering content of the baskets. We could see that this was culinary heaven on earth, Schlaraffenland, as a German fairy tale by Grimm so aptly describes the land, where people eat the finest delicacies in gluttonous quantities without having to work for them.

Twin Brother Walter with one of his Model Airplanes

Twin Brother Walter with one of his Model Airplanes

          What attracted me to this family, however, was not so much the food, which in comparison to our lunch was so alluring, but rather that pretty seventeen-year old girl whose first impressions on me provided a good match with the image of idealized beauty that had been growing in my mind for the past two years. Biene, from the moment I cast my eyes on her, radiated a charm whose magic did not depend on bracelets, earrings, and similar outward adornments, not on make-up or perfume, which I rightly or wrongly loathed as poorly disguised cover-ups, but rather on the very lack of all those artificial means. In short, I gazed in admiration at the girl of my dreams.

Biene at the Mediterranean Sea

Biene at the Mediterranean Sea

          Helmut and I were watching Biene and her twin brother play badminton in the open field. There was no net. The game was not very competitive. Its objective was to set new records by counting the number of times the birdie would fly back and forth before hitting the grass. Suddenly the idea occurred to me that we all could organize a mini-tournament with two pairs competing with each other for the highest score. After we had introduced ourselves, I explained the idea of a badminton tournament to be played with two pairs. Seeing that this would add a little bit of excitement, Walter and Biene readily accepted the proposal. As I had secretly wished, Biene wanted to form a team with me. I no longer recall how many rounds we played, but Biene and I always succeeded in getting the greatest number of hits. We were both very competitive, but the success in the game depended on complete cooperation. We felt good about our victories over our rivals and even more so, because we had won them together.

          It was only a matter of time, until the topic of the folding boats would surface in our conversation. Walter suggested going for a ride on the lake. Herr and Frau Panknin voiced no objections, indeed they were happy to see their twins go boating and at the same time having a little bit of peace and quiet. Somehow Helmut had managed to partner with Biene, which at first made feel quite annoyed. But he argued convincingly that it was now his turn, since I had spent so much time playing badminton with her. As I was paddling with Walter, I soon got over my disappointment. Full of enthusiasm for his hobbies, Walter talked about his model airplanes and ships that he had been building. That was quite a pastime for Walter and took a lot of time, skills and dedication to bring a building project of this kind to perfection. I thought that just as Walter needed to have a plan and all the parts ready before he could even begin, so did I going through the same process in building a working radio. The moment Walter mentioned that he was thinking of using radio controlled devices to direct his model in the air or on water, I got quite excited and told him about my electronics projects, especially about the tube driven transmitter that provided musical entertainment to my friends in the apartment block in Wesel. Having found an area of common interest, we paddled less and less vigorously and talked all the more enthusiastically not realizing how fast time had been slipping by. When we pulled the boat ashore, we had already exchanged addresses and promised each other to mail each other schematics of electronic circuitry. Of course, what Walter did not know was that I had established a link to Biene, a connection that went beyond mere electronics. Like in an electric current, which the battery is pumping through a circuit providing energy and action to its individual parts, so warm feelings were flowing through my heart in the belief that Biene may have taken a liking to me during our badminton contest with Walter and Helmut.

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