Monday, 1 June 2009

Pop Foto, December 1977: Anni-Frid collapsed when she found out that her father was still alive – “I cried like a child”

An article from Dutch magazine Pop Foto about Frida finding her long-lost father in 1977, thanks to an article about ABBA that was published in German magazine Bravo.
She stood in the lit doorway, marked out like a dark image, and for a while he thought he was back in a different time, that sad time filled with fear, despair and violence. For one breathtaking moment he thought he saw someone else in the fading evening light, that one, long lost love... Then the woman on the threshold reached out her arms and the light of the glimmering lamp hit the red-brown hair, the high forehead and the almost familiar eyes. He hesitated and then purposely stepped forward. With their arms tightly wrapped around each other, they just stood there motionless for a while... Anni-Frid Lyngstad had found her father after thirty-two years!

This is how the first meeting between Anni-Frid Lyngstad, thirty-one years old, mother of two children and world famous as a singer with the Swedish group ABBA, and her presumed dead father, the fifty-eight-year-old Alfred Haase, adviser with a factory specialized in bakery equipment, went. Father of a thirty-five-year-old daughter, a thirty-year-old son and no less than two times grandfather! For minutes on end, they stand with their arms around each other in the evening breeze and don’t know anything to say to each other because he doesn’t speak Swedish and she doesn’t speak German! It’s Friday September 9 and Alfred Haase from Karlsruhe has made a long trip, from Germany to Anni-Frid’s mansion just outside Stockholm, and from 1977 to 1945! At five minutes past five, his plane took off from Frankfurt and, after a stopover in Hamburg, landed at Stockholm airport at ten minutes past eight. For three hours, Alfred sat rocking in his chair, hardly daring to close his eyes, because then he might see that face, with tears in the dark eyes, that has haunted him since February 1945... the face of the then nineteen-year-old Synni Lyngstad. When he finally stands in the arrival hall, apparently a calm man with waving grey hair, a beard and a belly, he gets approached by two neat young men who escort him to a black Mercedes, in which Benny Andersson and an approximately fifty-year-old lady are waiting for him. Within an hour, he stands in the semi-darkness in front of the door of the luxurious mansion and watches the door open, a woman nervously brushing her hair out of her face... Anni-Frid, the woman who has to be his daughter. Synni’s daughter! In the background, Benny and Anni-Frid’s aunt, a sister of Synni Lyngstad, have to swallow hard. Then Anni-Frid says ‘Wilkommen...’ and the ice is broken! Since recently, Alfred Haase knows that he’s the father of Anni-Frid Lyngstad, the woman who knows to sing ‘Fernando’, his favourite ABBA-song, in a way that gives him a melancholic feeling. Then his sister coincidentally saw a German pop magazine from her daughter, the fifteen-year-old Andrea Buchinger, casually read an article about ABBA and almost choked when she saw that Anni-Frid stated that she was the daughter of a drowned German soldier, Alfred Haase, her very own brother! The whole family was called together and Alfred’s son Peter surprised his father with the question: ‘Who was Synni Lyngstad, dad?’ and the article about Anni-Frid’s descent! When he had recovered from the astonishment and the emotion, he had to assume that Anni-Frid was his child. But only now, when he hears her speak, sees her face and her eyes, follows her movements and all of a sudden grabs her hand when she serves him coffee, he knows for sure. Anni-Frid is his child, his daughter, who was born from love in the cold north of Norway. That night, Alfred Haase finds it difficult to get to sleep in the special room in Anni-Frid and Benny’s house that will always be ready for him from now on...

Benny: “She didn’t believe it. She didn’t believe that her father was still alive in Germany. She didn’t want to see or hear him, not even talk about him! I called Alfred Haase and asked him questions that he only could answer if he really was her father. About Anni-Frid’s mother, the small cottage where he lived for a couple of months and about the village Balangen... He knew about everything, much more than I asked. Then we knew for sure and Anni-Frid was completely at variance with herself for days. We talked for nights on end and little by little she calmed down...”

Alfred Haase: “A thirty-two-year-old daughter! Imagine that. I never knew that that special girl in Norway, my Synni, who never answered my letters when I was back in Germany, gave birth to my daughter! The first thing I thought when I realized it was really true was: ‘How cruel life can be.’ Because Anni-Frid’s mother, Synni, must have been extremely unhappy. And lonely, when she died...”

Anni-Frid: “When you have always thought that you are an orphan, you start dreaming about your parents. You try to imagine how they would have been like. I had a couple of photographs of my mother, but I didn’t really relate to them. And about my father I only knew that he was a German soldier, who drowned when his ship was torpedoed, close to Denmark. Now that I know Alfred Haase, and know that only he can be my father, I couldn’t be happier. Because I couldn’t have wished for a better father!”

The tragic story of Synni Lyngstad

Actually, the love story of Alfred Haase, officer in the German occupying army, and Synni Lyngstad, an innocent village girl, is the classic story about two people who don’t end up together. Because there was a war going on, and he was a German occupier and she was still almost a schoolgirl.
She was 19, dark-haired and slender, when they met for the first time, and he was 26, a blonde guy with a moustache and a sense of humour. When he signed up for the military service in the German occupying army, Alfred Haase was a servant with a pastry baker, married to Anna Farbe and father of a two-year-old daughter, Karin. Synni didn’t know more about the world than her place of birth Balangen, and the town Narvik, fifty kilometres further on. It was June 1944. The Germans had occupied Norway with gruesome violence and a young German officer was stationed in a cottage near the village of Balangen. Every morning, sergeant Haase walked to the village and every morning, always coincidentally when he passed by, he saw a girl, taking care of her parents’ vegetable garden. After the first timid smiles, the moustached soldier mustered his courage and started a conversation. It wouldn’t take long for the righteous citizens of Balangen to see them together much too often. The people shook their heads and warned Synni Lyngstad: “Nothing good can come of this, he’s a German occupier!” But Synni smiled, shook her long, dark hair and walked to the cottage outside the village with a bunch of flowers the next day. In the course of that summer, her German improved, and her visits to the lonely cottage became more frequent... They walked through the vast forests together, took a swim in secluded lakes and were madly in love with each other. They forgot about the war with all its cruelty, but it wouldn't be long before that war would change their lives... In October 1944, Alfred Haase was relocated to Narvik, fifty kilometres from Synni! It turned dark in cold Norway, the war toughened up and Synni and Alfred didn’t see much of each other anymore. All of a sudden, in January 1945, a disturbing rumour spread among the German occupiers: they would leave, the next morning already, with the seven o’clock boat! That night, Alfred borrowed a bicycle, he just had to see Synni one more time. Ten kilometres from Narvik, the tyre broke down! Alfred stumbled back to the city, took another bike, that broke down as well, and then he stumbled to Balangen. Synni was there waiting for him. The two lovers didn’t speak much that night and the next morning Synni watched Alfred walking back to Narvik, with tears in her eyes. They would never see each other again...
Alfred reached Narvik on time and wrote a letter from Denmark, in which he enclosed his last Norwegian money. Around that same time, Synni received a message that he had drowned, somewhere near the Norwegian coast. According to Alfred Haase, he never could have imagined that Synni gave birth to a daughter in November 1945, that would be called Anni-Frid. He also never knew that Synni died of a kidney failure, two years after Anni-Frid was born, lonely and scorned by her neighbourhood, while the father of her little daughter started a new life in Germany...

‘Tyksbarn’ is how the people in the village of Balangen called Synni Lyngstad’s dark-eyed child, which means something like ‘German love child’. After her daughter’s death, grandmother Lyngstad had enough of being an outcast in the neighbourhood. She took the two-year-old Anni-Frid to Sweden, where no one knew about her descent.

“A reporter from Hamburg called me and said: ‘Do you still work? But what about all those millions you get from your world famous daughter?!’ Another one said, when I answered the phone: ‘Is this the famous mister Haase himself?’ Sometimes you can suddenly be disgusted by some people...”, according to Alfred Haase.

3 comments:

George said...

I read that Frida cut all ties with her father presumably after she became convinced that he knew about her mother's pregnancy and never tried to contact her. I also recall a story that he even pleaded with her a few years ago to resume their contacts.
And finally, I seem to remember reading just recently that he passed away.

Anonymous said...

How can be frida daughter of Alfred if he left eleven months before she was born?

Anonymous said...

Actually its 9 months between February and November. Mid-march is one month and keep counting!

Amazing story.