Building my family tree, I have - so far - managed to collect information going about 5 generations back in time. Analyzing my DNA, I learned that I am
- 93.7% Scandinavian, i.e. Danish, Swedish and Norwegian.
- 4.6% Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, and
- 1.7% Greek.
Hanne Calberg, Frank's mother
My mother was born in 1938 in Aarhus, Denmark. She had a brother, John, who was 1.5 years older than she is. They grew up in the area around Skanderborgvej in Aarhus. My mother also spent much time with her father's sister, Anna, and her husband, Harald, who lived at Sejrs Allé in Risskov North of Aarhus. And still, she likes taking walks there. To learn more about how life was like at Skanderborgvej, have a look at this video:
When my mother was 6 years old, her father, who worked as a police officer, was - together with about 2,000 other police officers in Denmark - taken away from his family and brought to concentration camps in Germany. He was away for about eight months. When he came back to Denmark, he spent several months in hospitals due to, for example, infections. Following the horrible experiences in the concentration camps, he sometimes also had problems with stress.
As a child, my mother attended - with other girls - Læssøesgade school. At that time, key values in education were a strong degree of discipline and punishment for making mistakes. If a student laughed in class, for example, he or she had to leave the classroom. And if a student talked when standing in lines in the school yard, a teacher would hit the student with a stick. For my mother's father, discipline was of strong importance. He wanted her daughter to to have top grades in "behaviour" all the time. She obeyed his wish and frequently got top marks in "behaviour". As my mother once got the next highest mark in "behaviour", her father got angry and refused to sign the report card.
My mother often took care of her 1½ older brother John, who - during his birth - had damaged his brain. John regularly tore up my mother's books and often wanted my mother's attention, so it was difficult for my mother to do any homework. Not least due to fear of what her brother and her father might do, my mother did not have the courage to invite a friend home from school. So at Læssøesgade school, she did not seek friends and often felt alone.
Due to my mother's strong dissatisfaction with school, she wanted to do something else, learn in different ways, work with different people in a different environment. So in 1953, my mother's father, Robert, found an apprenticeship position for her at Jensen Skorup, a tailoring company based in Aarhus, Denmark. The company employed about 150 tailors and made uniforms for people working for the police, postal services, telecommunications companies, and transportation service companies. Compared with Læssøesgade school, my mother felt much more at home in this environment. She liked that people needed what she did and thrived with the responsibility she got in her work. As a consequence, she learned much better and faster than at school. During the 12 years my mother worked for the company, she helped out with accounting services as well as the procurement of clothing materials from, for example, Japan and France.
Later in her life, my mother worked for the dentist school in Aarhus, a school that became a part of Aarhus University. In a career which spanned several decades, my mother worked on a large variety of tasks servicing both patients, dentist students, employees, and managers. For example, she bought gold and silver in the Netherlands and sold the gold to dentist students. She also bought skulls in India which she rented out to dentist students. Among other tasks my mother solved were accountancy work, sending and receiving mail, writing meeting summaries, archiving information, registering patients as well as connecting patients with dentist students and/or other people they needed help from.
My mother has a habit of collecting all kinds of things. For example, she collects all kinds of food, all kinds of clothes, different kinds of books and all kinds of plates, knives, forks, and glasses.
Communicating with my mother about what her purpose in life is, i.e. what drives her to make a positive difference every day, she says that she wants to do the best she can do to help everyone feel well. Seeking and promoting feelings of pleasure and joy is important for her. When moments of joy happen, life feels meaningful to her.
How does my mother live out her purpose? Here are a few examples:
- She decorates her apartment to make it beautiful. For example, she decorates her balcony with a variety of flowers. And during a European capital of culture event in Aarhus, Denmark she helped out paint miniature viking ships.
- She listens to radio programs such as P4 Østjylland and watches events on televison during which people look happy and spread joy. That helps her become happy, she says. For example, she likes to watch what the Danish Royal family is doing and watch programs in which beautiful scenery and animal life from around the world are displayed. She also likes to learn from how cooks, who participate at Go' morgen Danmark, prepare various meals.
- She shares observations, stories, thoughts and ideas with other people on social media. She uses, for example, facebook, Twitter, Skype, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn. For example, she shares tips on how to cook various meals with other people.
- She shares smiles and stories with people she meets on her way. For example, she told me that she likes to communicate with bus drivers, employees in supermarkets, and/or with other people she meets as she moves from a to b.
- She invites friends over to her home at Elstedhøj in Lystrup North of Aarhus for a meal. By cooking a nice meal and serving it on a beautifully decorated table, she hopes to make her guests happy. By the way, she has done that as long as I can remember, for example with Ruth and Rita.
- She shares stories from her life.
- With classmates she had at Læssøesgade school in the 1940s and 1950s, she organized events during which they reengage with students and teachers to learn about the significant changes happening in the way education is done - for example regarding the use of social media as well as regarding changes in what educators and students do.
Leif Sørensen, Frank's father
My father was born in 1937 in Aarhus, Denmark. He was the first born child of his parents. He had a 9 month younger brother, Richard, and two younger sisters, Astrid and Gerda. The family of six lived in a 2-roomed apartment at Lundbyesgade 28 in Aarhus. During his childhood, my father attended Munkegade elementary school in Aarhus, a school only for boys.
In 1955, my father met my mother at Skanderborg youth hostel South of Aarhus. My father was there with a couple of his friends, and my mother was there with one of her friends. My mother and father married in 1960, and in 1970 I was born. With my mother, my father built a summer house at P. Baatrupsvej 62 in Odder South of Aarhus in the 1960s. And in the beginning of the 1970s, after I was born, they built a house for the three of us at Skæring Skolevej 123 in Egå North of Aarhus.
During a relatively large part of his life, my father had a problem with stuttering. My mother told me that when my father was young, his mother, Ingrid Bothilde, would sometimes tell him to stop with that and pull himself together. My mother also told me that my father's mother would sometimes, as they were distributing the newspaper "Demokraten" on the street, point to places, where people with high incomes lived, and say to her son, look over there that is where the rich people live.
My father liked to do craftsman work. He had a variety of tools including screwdrivers and drilling machine that he used to fix practically any problem around the house. And he liked to fix things - for himself and for others. Early in his life, my father became a trainee at M.H. Jæger, a company that made safes. He educated himself as a smith. Later, my father learned to make technical drawings and design products.
My mother told me that during the time she and her father were together, i.e. from the middle of the 1950s until 1975, my father wanted to do everything, he was doing, really well, i.e. to perfection. Quality was of strong importance for my father. For him, only the best was good enough. Not only did my dad want to make products of the highest quality. When he bought things such as furniture, clothes and cars, he wanted the best quality. My father also liked order - to a relatively high degree. An example of my father's passion for order was the way he organized tools in the tool shed: Tools were lined up perfectly next to each other - like soldiers standing on a line.
My father also very much liked creating new things. Continuously, he worked on improving the quality of products. He also continuously worked on testing different materials and technologies. He patented more inventions related to safes. My father educated himself further, for example by reading, writing, drawing, testing, and constructing things. He worked with teaching and became the manager of a design department.
In 1975, my father decided to move out of our family home at Skæring Skolevej 123 in Egå North of Aarhus and divorced my mother. He moved to Aalestrup in the Northern part of Denmark and started the company Mitek. At the end of the 1970s, my father married Karin, who worked as a school teacher and later as a school principal. During the 1980s, Mitek grew to about 50 people. My father later sold the company to employees, who renamed the company Treco. At the end of the 1980s, Karin and my father divorced.
In the 1990s, my father moved to Gatten. In his house, which was situated at a fairway of one of the golf courses there, I remember we had many good conversations that I appreciate and from which I learned a lot. We talked about all kinds of things, when we were in the house and/or walking around the area. For example, we talked about people each one of us knew, about things I was learning during my studies, and about news / events / sports / stories each one of us had read about and/or watched. In this regard, I remember that we regularly talked about things / events / news / conversations that had made each one us laugh. And sharing humorous stories often made both of us laugh.
I think there were a few reasons that conversations, I had with my father as I visited him in Gatten, were often good. One reason was, I think, that my father had time for conversations. He was not feeling stressed. Another reason was, I think, that because of the bachelor education and master education, I was studying for, I could understand more about life - meaning that I could ask better questions and participate better in talks we had.
Elly Elisabeth Christoffersen, Frank's mother's mother
My grandmother Elly was a quiet, sensitive, caring, and helpful person. When my mother worked as a trainee in the office of the tailor company Jensen Skorup, her mother Elly would sometimes spontaneously stop by and have a chat over a cup of coffee. One of the jobs, my grandmother Elly had, was helping people save money for presents they wanted to give to their loved ones at Christmas. She also sang in a church choir, and at home Elly loved to play the piano.
My grandmother Elly loved everything that was beautiful. And my mother told me that her mother, who was not very tall, was always wonderfully dressed and liked to regularly use perfume. In the 1920s, my grandmother started working in the house of the Rasmussen family. This family had a goldsmith store at Søndergade 1 in Aarhus, where a Georg Jensen store is now located. My grandmother later helped out in the goldsmith shop. She also helped a friend sew clothes for people. And for another friend, a half sister of Her Majesty, Queen Margrethe II, my grandmother helped people find their preferred fragrances at her perfume shop.
In the months after my grandfather Robert, who worked as a policeman, was captured by German soldiers in September 1944 and brought to concentration camps in Germany, my grandmother Elly took several courageous decisions. My mother told me several times that during this time, her mother was stubborn and not afraid. Example # 1: Even though her neighbours and good friends strongly advised her not to do it, my grandmother Elly went with the Red Cross busses to concentration camps in Germany to see if she could find her husband Robert. She did not find him. Example # 2: When German soldiers knocked on the door and commanded my grandmother to give them the weapons of my grandfather, she denied that she had any. In fact, she lied: With the help of the caretaker of the apartment building, my grandmother had hidden my grandfather's police weapons below the coals in the boiler room in the basement. Example # 3: During WWII, German soldiers commanded that black window blinds were put up in apartment windows, where my grandmother lived with her children, and that these blinds were rolled down. Again and again, my grandmother rolled up the blinds - even though German solders pointed at the window with their machine guns.
Ingrid Bothilde Sørensen, Frank's father's mother
My grandmother, Ingrid Bothilde, grew up in Holstebro in the western part of Denmark. She had a sister as well as a brother. her brother had a bakery in Holstebro. When my grandmother moved to Aarhus, she helped out, for example, doing cleaning work at a hospital. She also helped out in the hospital kitchen.
My grandmother wanted her children to dress well and had a tailor help her make good clothes for her children. In the 2-roomed apartment, where she lived with her husband and four children, she also took great pride in keeping everything clean. My grandmother liked to gather the family. She was great at cooking, and every Sunday, she invited the whole family over for flæskesteg, a classic and Danish roast pork meal that people enjoy for dinner as well as for lunch, for example with red cabbage, slices of orange and rye bread.
Robert Christoffersen, Frank's mother's father
My grandfather Robert was born in 1898 in Aarhus, Denmark, and died in 1966. He was an open-minded and curious person. He was educated as a cooper. However, it was as a policeman that he spent a large part of his professional life. He was charming, liked being with people, joking and having fun with people. He liked to cook. My grandfather was also a great athlete. In 1924, he participated in the olympic games in Paris in wrestling. Robert was also a member of the board of Aarhus Athletes club.
In September, 1944, towards the end of WWII, my grandfather was - together with about 2,000 other police officers in Denmark - taken away from his family, his work, sports as well as other communities, he was a part of, and deported by German police to concentration camps in Germany. In May, 1945, he came back again after having spent time in 3 different concentration camps in Neuengamme near Hamburg, in Buchenwald and in Stahlag IV B in the Eastern part of Germany. To understand what had happened to my grandfather, I asked my mother if she could tell me stories about this time. To my surprise, my mother could only tell me very little. Why? She exlained to me that her father had told her very little about what happened. Why? What I have understood is that because of negative emotions such as fear and shame and because of lack of ability to communicate - with words - experiences, thoughts and emotions, my grandfather had chosen not to talk very much to his family about this time. My mother told that she, herself, had chosen to suppress a lot of what she had experienced during time. And because she chose to suppress experiences, thoughts and emotions, which she had during this time, she also did not do much research either. However, what my mother has realized is that from time to time, short stories, thoughts and emotions pop up in her mind and heart from this time.
In 2017, I somehow felt more ready than ever to do more research about what happened to my grandfather during this time. So on the way from Zürich to Aarhus, my girlfriend and I decided to make a stop-over a couple of days in Hamburg and go to learn at the Neuengamme concentration camp memorial. During the days, we spent there, my girlfriend and I read, observed and listened. For example, we had the opprtunity to communicate with Dr. Reimer Möller, a competent and friendly research leader. Mr. Möller gave us tips about books to read to understand better what happened to my grandfather and his colleagues during this time. Following this research work, I wrote this blog posting.
My mother explained that her father did not accept my father - neither when she dated my father in the 1950s nor during the time my mother was married to my father. Once, when he noticed my mother and father kissing at the door of the apartment, where my mother lived with her brothe and her parents, my grandfather literally threw my father down the stairs. When my mother and father invited my grandfather to come over to visit them, my grandfather did not want to come. Each year on my mother's birthday, my grandfather left a present for my mother outside my parents' apartment. However, he chose not to ring the door bell. My grandfather did not tell my mother, why he did not accept her husband. My mother's explanation why her father did not accept my father that my father was the son of a man, who worked at the harbour of Aarhus. My grandfather had hoped that my mother would choose a policeman as husband. He was convinced that would be better for her.
Rasmus Peter Sørensen, Frank's father's father
My grandfather Rasmus Peter was born in the countryside outside Aarhus as the third child of 11 children. He left school very early and began helping out at various farms. When he moved to Aarhus, he started working at the port of Aarhus. My grandfather later worked in various controlling jobs. For example, Rasmus Peter worked as a city guard in Aarhus towards the end of WWII. He also worked as a controller / guard at the harbour restaurant Valencia in Aarhus. In addition, my grandfather worked as a caretaker at residential buildings in Aarhus.
Eva Granø, Frank's mother's father's sister's daugther
Unfortunately, my grandparents died before I was born and when I was relatively young. The closest I came to having a grandparent was Eva Granø. Eva was born in 1916. She was the daughter of Carla, my mother's father's sister, and a Danish sailor, whom Eva did not get to know. In the mid 1950s, Eva went to live in Quito, Ecuador with her husband, master brewer Poul Vang Granø. In Quito, Poul Vang Granø was the manager of a Ceres brewery. It was not least Eva who inspired me to learn more about Ecuador. When Eva's husband Poul died in the mid 1960s in Ecuador, Eva returned to Denmark and moved into an apartment at Emiliehøj 1 Højbjerg south of Aarhus.
With Eva, I shared a few interests. For example, we both liked tennis, and when I was young, I recall that, now and then, she played a little with me at Aarhus 1900 where she was a member. And when I came to visit her, we also sometimes watched tennis on television. Eva was well into her 70s before she stopped playing tennis and cycling between the club and her home in Højbjerg.
With Eva, I also shared a passion for learning. I recall that she often cut out articles for me from Jyllands-Posten, a paper she read with much curiosity every day, and we had good conversations about what we had read / learned. An interest in languages was another thing Eva and I had in common. Eva communicated well in, for example, English and Spanish. When Eva was in her twenties, she worked for a period of time in London. And I recall that, over several years, Eva communicated via letters with people, who lived in Quito and had helped her and her husband in the house where they lived. A precious gift, Eva gave to me one day, as I was visiting her in her apartment in Højbjerg, was a freedom fighter armband, which she had received earlier in her life. She told me very little about the story behind. She just said, this is for you.
An additional thing we had in common was a love for chocolate. Eva's favourite chocolate was a dark bitter Feodora chocolate. Every time I came to visit her, we enjoyed a piece of chocolate together.
Johan Bernhard Christoffersen, The father of Frank's mother's father
In the 19th century, my great grandfather came to Denmark from Gothenburg in Sweden, where his ancestors lived. In Aarhus, Johan Bernhard worked as a foreman for the company Aarhus Olie. With his wife Anne Petrine, he had 3 children, Carla, Anna, and my grandfather Robert.
Gerda Rasmussen, Frank's godmother
My godmother Gerda, called Putte, is educated as a graphic designer. She worked for Jyllands-Posten for almost 5 decades. My mother told me that when I was a child, she and my godfather Lars sometimes took care of me when my parents had a need for it. I remember that Putte and Lars had a relatively big St. Bernhard dog that I liked.
Later in her life, Putte married Hans. They had two children, Carsten and Gregers. In the 1980s, when I attended high school as well as in the 1990s, when I studied for a bachelor education and a masters education, I recall that I sometimes visited them in their house in Aarhus. I remember, for example, that Putte liked to play the guitar, and sometimes we would sing songs, have a chat and a good laugh over a cup of coffee.
Lars Windeløv, Frank's godfather
Not long before my parents divorced in 1975, my godmother Gerda and my godfather Lars had divorced. Later in his life, Lars developed an interest in Thailand. How? I was told by my mother that the father of Lars' brother's wife had started a garden center in Egå. Lars and his brother had the idea of collecting plants from exotic places around the world and bringing these to the garden center and thereby offer customers something unique. Lars and his brother traveled to, for example, Mexico and Thailand. In December of 2004, when Lars was in Thailand, he died with thousands of other people, as a Tsunami hit the place.
Lars was educated as typesetter and worked for Scanprint in Aarhus for more than 40 years. He also worked as a model and was a great goalkeeper on football teams based in Aarhus.