Clara Franklin isn’t wasting any time – the 84-year-old Bendigo woman has released two novels this year.
She began writing when she retired at age 73 and has released Angel Wings in 2008, Entwined Lives in 2015, and Ottavia’s Story and Story of One but Many in 2018.
“I always wanted to write but I didn’t have the time,” she said. “(Writing) these books is about the satisfaction that I have achieved something in my old age that was my dream for many years.”
Publishing four books is an even more amazing achievement considering English is her fifth language.
Mrs Franklin – who was born in Poland – speaks Polish, German, some Russian and English. She also can understand Czechoslovakian.
“When I came to Australia (in 1963), I couldn’t speak a word of English. So I promised myself I would learn one word every day,” she said.
In the last 55 years since arriving in Australia, Mrs Franklin worked in a factory followed by a clothing store. That led to her owning a fashion boutique for 40 years until her retirement.
Her family has also grown and Mrs Franklin is proud to say she has two daughters, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. But Mrs Franklin ’s amazing story begins earlier than that.
She was six when World War Two broke out. When her father – a gliding instructor – refused to train the Hitler Youth to fly he was shot.
Mrs Franklin was then taken to a workers camp in Germany and returned to Poland in 1948.
“We were taken away on a goods train. My mother had prepared us that it was something that could happen. Luckily for us, I train didn’t go to a concentation camp. It went to a workers camp.
“I was too little to work and separated from my family.”
She was re-united with her mother in Australia in 1963, 20 years after they were separated.
“After the war, I was told my mother had perished and she was told that I had perished,” she said. “My mother started to write to her family and found that I was still alive.”
In Ottavia’s Story, Mrs Franklin drew on the experiences of a family friend who had survived the concentration camps and was living in post-war Poland.
“I heard what they had done to survive and what they did after the war,” she said. “That came to mind while writing Entwined Lives and after a lot of research I wrote Ottavia’s Story.”
Mrs Franklin hand-writes her stories in pidgin English before she dictates them to someone who types them up.
“It’s a lot of work. The books are not thick but there is a lot in each story,” she said.
Mrs Franklin’s books are for sale. Phone 5454 2847.