My Mother, as I recall her, was always writing letters.When I was a little girl, I used to read them with great interest. They were very personal, contained descriptions of nature, thoughts, and impressions of new places my Mum visited. In her letters, she invited the reader to share her life. When I was recently visiting my family home (luckily, the same place since 1958) I came across a cardboard box of letters dating back to my parents’ early married life. Mum travelled a lot. I remember her home-comings from Italy or Holland, where she was often invited. She returned with huge suitcases full of surprises – a lace dress, a pair of red wellingtons, Dutch drinking chocolate. My Parents’ letters show their characteristic handwriting styles. My Father always wrote with a ball-point pen, his handwriting narrow, crammed and slanted. Mum’s handwriting was clear; even, rounded letters made it easy to read and reflected her steady character, unchanging views and steadfast principles of conduct.Mum always wrote with a fountain pen, a classic model with a green-striped sleeve and gold trim. As a child, I was not allowed to touch that pen.Mum filled it up very carefully with dark blue ink, and then delicately tried out the nib.I dreamt of such a fountain pen for many years, and at a mature age I became the proud owner of one. My Pelikanpen was preceded by other brands, some of which I bought myself, and some I got as gifts. One of the first specimens in my collection was theMont Blanc(the one with the white star). I was presented that pen in Germany, in the town of Neustadt in Holstein by Charlotta Hoff(néeRose).Charlotta was born in the 1920’s in the Abbots’ Palace in Oliwa. Her father was a gardener working in the Oliwa Park.In 1945 she was one of many Germans evacuated from Gdańsk on board the MV Wilhelm Gustloff. She survived the disastrous shipwreck and managed to save some family jewellery;however,her younger sister drowned that January night when Wilhelm Gustloff sank, causing Charlotta to grieve to the end of her days. Since meeting for the first time in Hamburg in 1978,our exchanges were frequent and very warm. Childless herself, Charlotta treated me like her own daughter. We used to go for long walks along the sea-coast and we spent many an autumn and winter evening in the drawing room performing songs by Schubert,Schumann,and Wolf,as Charlotta was an amateur singer with a beautiful soprano voice. After one of these concerts she offered me a fountain pen as a keepsake, asking me to write to her sometimes. And so I did. Today, with the same pen in my hand, I remember her and the time we spent together. I visit the Abbots’ Palace and the surrounding park whenever I am in Oliwa.
When holding a fountain pen, I slow down in a sense, order my thoughts and give myself time to think things over. My handwriting becomesneater, the sentences more rounded and polished. I have been carrying several fountain pens with me for years.On planes and in hotel rooms, I use them for writing personal letters or notes in my diaries.Some of the pens have their own history – like the one I got from my husband to commemorate Witold Lutosławski’s 80th Anniversary Concert in Katowice.Another one is from my Warsaw friends – given to me when I became a professor. My latest is a fountain pen from a Writer – in this one the ink is brown, in others blue or green. I choose a fountain pen depending on the mood and the place where I am writing. Sometimes it also depends on what I intend to write. I am of the impression that fountain pens are not used to write irrelevant things.
30 September 2014