surprising and enlightening

Ruth Barnett, author of Person of No Nationality, spoke eloquently at Jewish Book Week of her feelings of abandonment at the age of four when her mother sent her to England to escape the Nazis. She described how it was easier in her mind to imagine that her mother was dead than to have to deal with her feelings at having been left on her own.  When her mother came to take her back home to Germany in 1949, four years after the war’s end, Ruth was unable to believe it was her  and had a most difficult relationship with her thereafter. 

It was a fascinating session comparing the experiences of British children who were evacuuated, and  also separated from their parents but who were, at the least, able to send letters home.

An interesting  fact to emerge in Ruth’s session is that Susan Soyinka  is related to Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian Nobel Prize winner for Literature who is her brother-in-law. It all made sense in a session about  inter-cultural experiences.  Susan is the white, Jewish, English, author of  East End to Land’s End, about the evacuation of the Jewish Free School.

Later,  in the evening, Bernard Kops  read from This Room In the Sunlight at West End Lane Books.  As a child he wanted to escape the stifling confines of the Jewish East End, and he  found his form of escape through books. Now he writes about those experiences. Not that he wants to – “inspiration seeks you – you don’t go chasing it” he explained.

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