Local author, Bill Franz will be making a few stops to a couple of local libraries in the coming days. He wrote Mutti and Papa A Love Story. The book is about his Mennonite parents Johann Franz and Ella Weber who fell in love in a refugee camp in Germany when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.
“They met after the Second World War in a refugee camp in West Germany, fell in love, and got engaged. My mum sailed for Canada and then my father found out that he had been rejected. The major part of the book really is their love letters to each other while they were separated. She was in Canada. He was in Germany. The first 50 to 55 pages are family history—not everything but just the important parts. Wherever, I could find something in somebody’s own words, I included that to help tell the story. The best part of the book really is their love letters,” said Franz.
For the author the book started out as a piece of writing created for his kids and family members but Franz was hopeful the project would be of interest to the general public as well. Franz had been thinking about writing the book about his parents letters for most of his life but when they passed away in the early 2000’s he became a bit more serious about it.
“The kind of the question in the back of your mind is like how my parents would feel if they actually saw their love letters in print and also their story. I didn't ask permission. They’re gone. I understand that there are only good things in heaven. If I run into them, they’re not going to be mad at me,” the author joked.
Franz admitted there were some challenges along the way. He and his three sisters see their parents as being younger in the text than they ever knew them to be. Franz was also concerned about how people would perceive his father in particular.
“There was a time when I wasn't sure if I could write it and I actually did say no, I can’t write it. Part of the reason for that was because my father served in the German Army. He volunteered as an interpreter at the age of 16 after his father and uncles were taken off by the Soviets into forced labor, which really should have been his fate. When you tell people that, we all we all carry a lot of impressions from that time. It's a difficult subject and also I don't want to trigger things in people,” he admitted.
Another challenge the author came across was translating their letters from German to English.
“Some things just don't translate well. I don't know how many times I could actually say that my father said to my his fiancé who would become my mother ‘I want to hold you so tight that your ribs crack.’ It doesn't translate well,” said Franz.
Bill Franz is currently donating a portion of his book earnings to Ukraine to provide food, medicine, and transport to those who need it. You can purchase the book online here from Friesen Press here and Café Vero and Eastview Apple Drugs in Red Deer. You can also purchase a book directly from Bill by emailing email@example.com. Franz will be at Lacombe’s Mary C. Moore Library on Thursday May 19, at 7:00PM to discuss memoir writing with the Genealogy Club. He will also be heading to Blackfald’s Servus Credit Union Library on Wednesday, May 25 at 7:00PM to speak with their book club.