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Aino Laberenz
People

I knew her long before I met her. Aino was everywhere; her name was in the air. Aino.

Everybody in Berlin knew her and really loved her. Everybody had this little Aino-story to tell. They said how strong she was and how beautiful. They told me how she would negotiate serious things with a bunch of difficult, stubborn men. Not only in Burkina Faso. How people would fight and shout at each other and the moment when Aino raises her voice–the only woman around–they would all shut up immediately and they would listen. Listen to her.

So I liked her before I met her. I had this tall and serious woman in mind. Around 45 years old, maybe glasses, no,… no glasses, boots, heavy boots.

Ok: I was afraid of Aino. I adored her and was afraid at the same time.

Then, much later, at a dinner party, I sat next to this girl. She was beautiful with long dark-blond hair. Gentle and small, even smaller than I am. And I am small. I stared at her––dazed by her appearance.

We talked a lot. At some point she told me her name was Aino. Aino? There must be more Ainos. Huge ones with boots. Aino would be a Finnish name she told me. It means “only”. It is the beautiful sister of Joukahainen in the Finnish national epic “Kalevala.” That all matches. After a while she said she would leave soon for Africa. Hm, Africa, where to? Burkina Faso. What? I shouted: but you’re much too small and too young, and too beautiful. You look like a little girl! No, I didn’t shout. I shut up like the men in Burkina Faso. I learned about her ideas about the village. And the operas. Everything made sense now.

People
Aino Laberenz
by Jeanne Tremsal