A was a joyful and positive woman of 85 who felt fortunate to be alive to tell her extraordinary tale.
She was born in Switzerland to a Jewish family living in Germany, and was one of the 10,000 children granted passage on the Kindertransport, who were fleeing nazi Europe to gain refuge in England. A was 5 when she escaped on the transport ship with her family. Usually the parents would be parted from their children and have to remain in Europe. An exception was made for A’s family because the youngest of the 4 children was only 18 months old, and at the last moment the parents were told they could go. The two things A recalled from her time on the ship, was her dad’s hand helping her to reach her high bunk and her mischievous 7 year old brother throwing onions off the deck into the sea.
A spent the next 6 years in and out of different fostercare homes in England, until finally reuniting with her family in a permanent home. I asked A what the fostercare had been like, and she mentioned only being fed jam on bread for dinner and sleeping 3 children to a bed. Despite this and some unmentioned deprivations, she felt lucky that she and her sister were not separated and were in fostercare together.
A had a real zest for life, and felt fortunate for being here. She was a widow and said that her marriage had been a happy one, and that she felt grateful that her husband had passed away painlessly during an operation. She mentioned how joyful she felt living in her retirement unit with her poodle Molly and having many lovely new friends. A told me she had been sick with Leukemia but was now on a trial drug that had saved her life, and for which she felt lucky to get another chance.
We talked about the world’s current refugee status and I asked what her thoughts were having been a refugee herself.
Her answer was – “How lucky were we!”
A’s joy of life and attitude of looking on the bright side was infectious. I felt grateful to have met her, and was humbled by her grace and beauty.