Meet the west-end writer with 50 love letters—including some from World War I—in her bedroom

By Athena Tsavliris| Photography by Athena Tsavliris

Christine Estima’s collection of love letters is so vast, she keeps many of them on display.

Some of Estima’s collection—around 50 letters—is tucked away in the drawer of a well-worn writer’s desk, while others are framed on the walls of her sunlit bedroom:


“I’ve read the letters so many times that the people in them don’t feel like strangers to me,” Estima says of her dozens of flea market finds.


It was during a seven-year stint living in Europe that she amassed most of her collection. She picked up letters at markets in Cologne, Brussels, Vienna and Berlin. Many of the letters are anguished declarations of wartime fear and longing, while others are postwar dispatches longing for home. There are letters from a ‘70s hippie love trio, too.


Estima, dealing with her own heartache after a breakup with a guy in Cologne, was drawn to the passion and pain in the letters. “I felt there was comfort in our shared experience of pain and loss,” she says. Here is a series of envelopes containing letters written by a wife telling her husband, an army doctor from Brussels stationed at the military hospital in Namur, how she longs to see him. It’s dated 1958:


This letter is from World War I, from one cousin to another, and describes a family from Brussels who is in exile in Saumur. The writer says trains full of refugees arriving from Ypres brings tears to their eyes:


Estima is a writer, poet and playwright, and self confessed sucker for romance, it’s no surprise that she appreciates the gesture of a letter. This letter’s author, Kenneth, is swept up in an intense love triangle with Nathalie and Yvette. Estima bought nine of the triad’s letters, dated 1972, for five euros at the flea market on Place du Jeu de Balle in Brussels:

Kenneth chicken scratch

Unlike Kenneth’s inky chicken scratch, which Estima, who is fluent in French and German, found hard to read, this Belgian telegram shows beautiful penmanship:


The swastika and eagle seal on the back of this letter dated 1940 from a Swiss woman to her lover in Salzburg (annexed by Nazi Germany at the time) shows it was opened and read by the Nazi military high command:



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