Dominic Clark always knew his grandparents had lived a full life, but he never knew the true extent of their love story. That is, until his wife Jenn surprised him with a published account of their love as a birthday present for his fortieth birthday. He then learned how truly magical and incredible their story was, and continued to be.

He was from the opposite side

His grandparents’ love story began only about a month after the war ended. His grandmother, Annaliese was swimming in the river near the German village where she was staying, and met his grandfather, Stanley.

It wasn’t love at first sight though! Stanley was a British soldier and she did not hesitate to give them a piece of her mind. After all, as an effect of the war, her home had just been requisitioned by British forces and her family had been left without food.

Anneliese had suffered a lot during the war. Her fiancé, a pilot in the Luftwaffe, had been shot down; another boyfriend was killed in 1944. She and her family lived through tons of bombings and death. It is no wonder that she had some reservations about the British soldier.

Regardless of the horrors of Nazi Germany, Annaliese had never been one to keep her mouth shut. She stood up to the authorities and made the best of a terrible situation by “decorating rooms with wild flowers or concocting novel meals from scant rations.”

Their love brought her old self back

Stanley instantly fell in love with Annaliese and as they spent day after day together, it was not long before the feelings were mutual. Before the trauma of the war, Annaliese had been a fun-loving and happy woman. Her relationship with Stanley brought her back to her old self.

On one of their first dates, Annaliese snuck out of her parents’ home against their wishes to change into a silky party dress. “I have always, ever since that night, liked to dress nicely for Stanley,” she remembered.

After Stanley’s regiment left in 1945 to make way for Russian occupiers, Annaliese had to decide if she would stay with her parents, or follow Stanley. He begged her to leave with him, but she could not leave her family. Annaliese begged her family to escape, but they wouldn’t leave their home.

In the end I chose to go without them.

Anneliese

She made a bold move for love

Annaliese left with nothing and headed for the British-controlled zone. Shortly after, she reconnected with Stanley and they soon got engaged. However, marriage between English and German citizens was not legal at that time, so they decided to settle in Lewisham after a small English ceremony. Both went on to have a happy life, building a successful business and raising two daughters.

“The sheer scale of their life does blow me away,” said grandson Dominic, who named his first daughter after Annaliese. He realized that the historical context and the war had taught valuable lessons to his grandparents.

They were wonderful grandparents. When you read everything they went through, I understand how much they made the most of their lives. I hadn’t realized what a deep love story theirs was. The war formed who they were.

Dominic Clarke to The Telegraph

We need to make the most of our lives and love

While we may not have lived through the same terrifying events that both Annaliese and Stanley experienced in their lifetime, we can still learn much from their resolution to make “the most of their lives.” That includes looking past their differences in order to appreciate each other as human beings rather than former enemies.

Dominic’s story reminds us that love is made up of grand, terrifying and courageous gestures, like Anneliese’s fearless decision to leave with Stanley, and also smaller, but no less significant ones.

The latter includes Dominic’s birthday present– a record of his grandparents’ incredible story. His wife Jenn “had dug out photos, spoken to family, found old tape recordings of his grandparents discussing their experiences, and sent them to family biographers Story Terrace.”

Dominic declared it to be the best day of his life. By commemorating his grandparents’ story, Jenn celebrated her own husband, and love, in the most thoughtful way possible. It also honored the power of love, to transcend all boundaries, even the most difficult ones.

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