Franziska Hart: ‘Between Two Worlds’

Posted:  Friday, September 12, 2014 - 8:30am

Abdul, a man of slender means but rich in street smarts and good manners, was my family's manservant and my constant companion in Karachi. I was 4. To travel on his arms or hold his hand was to feel like a princess and to be well loved. His white turban made him majestic and in charge. He cared for me. He was the most patient of listeners to all that I said. When he smiled benevolently and warmly, his dark brown eyes would almost disappear with the crinkling of his brown skin.

But when I greeted him on my return from a family trip to Germany, something was amiss. I seemed unable to make myself understood. Everything I was saying to Abdul was met by his uncomprehending expression. "But Miss Franziska," he admonished me gently. "You must speak in English."

Born in Germany, of German parents, and growing up in the English speaking world of Karachi, I was a child of two languages. I had never had trouble switching between the two. During my visit to Germany, I'd had to be polite and make friends with my German roots. All that German communication had left me with a brain wiped clean of every English word I knew. I repeated myself over and over to Abdul but made no progress. It was as if I was speaking under water. That once familiar and predictable connection to my world had inexplicably disappeared. In my frustration I asked, "What has happened to my world? Where do I belong?"

In that moment, of course, I had no way of knowing the answers. Nor could I have anticipated that 60 years later, it would be I who smiled benevolently and warmly at my 95-year-old mother. She too was once fluent in both languages. Now, as I visit her in her home in Canada, I witness her panic and frustration as she painstakingly searches through her cerebral blender and finds only chopped up bits of German to communicate to an English speaking world. Unlike my 4-year-old self, she has no chance of finding the way back. So she asks, "What has happened to my world? Where do I belong?"

FFranziska Hart

Franziska Hart grew up traveling the world with her diplomat parents, moving first to Karachi, Pakistan, in 1952, at the age of 2. Family photographs and storytelling have helped her retain childhood memories of the exotic scenes and adventures she experienced.

Currently, Franziska is doing research with a view to writing a creative non-fiction memoir about her father's civilian prisoner of war experiences in the British internment camps of India during World War II.

We tell stories.
We tell stories to make sense of our lives.
We tell stories to communicate our experience of being alive.
We tell stories in our own distinct voice. Our own unique rhythm and tonality.

Transformations is a weekly story-telling column. The stories are written by community members who are my students. Our stories are about family, love, loss and good times. We hope to make you laugh and cry. Maybe we will convince you to tell your stories.
— Kathrin Seitz, editor, and Cheryl Durbas, co-editor

"Everyone, when they get quiet, when they become desperately honest with themselves, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. There is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there." — Henry Miller

Kathrin Seitz teaches Method Writing in Rockport, New York City and Florida. She can be reached at Cheryl Durbas is a freelance personal assistant in the Midcoast area. She can be reached at