Monday, September 24, 2007

Reading in Parallel

Somebody lent me the book
The Children of Willeden Lane, Beyond the Kinder Transport:
A memoir of Music, Love, and survival.
It is about the prewar years 1938-1939 in Vienna and the War years 1939 -1945 in England. For the parents it was a difficult decision to make, just being able to send one of their daughters to safety.
Lisa, a musically gifted young girl of 14 from Vienna, was on one the many Kinder Transports and found refuge in the hostel in Willesden Lane. Her mothers parting words were: “Music will give you strength”, she reassured her “It will be your best friend in life”.
It is a heart-rendering story of the courage of a young refugee girl who turned her love of music to help her overcome many hardships in life.
Willesden Lane was a hostel in London for refugee children from Austria and Germany. The matron, a refugee woman herself, whose son became blind as the result of being injured by the Nazis, did all within her power to encourage the refugee children to get on with life. In spite of war-time conditions and rationing, the Blitz in London with regular air raids, Lisa was working hard in a factory to earn her living while practicing and practicing to play the piano, until she finally managed to get a scholarship to the Academy of Music in London. She made it to her Musical D├ębut and became a Concert Pianist.
In parallel I read a of my son Danny.
It is an unusual and fascinating rendering about the history of a region in the hills of Jerusalem. Among many other stories there is an interview with an elderly Arab man from Amman in Jordan, who fled during the fighting of the Israeli War of Independence 1947 –1949 from one of the villages in that region.
He describes the village life prior to that war. Chirbet-El-Lus was a small village of some 400 inhabitants, belonging to different clans, in a hilly region near Jerusalem. There were no paved roads, one walked from one village to another or used a donkey to transport wares. Several villages together shared a one-room school for the first four grades for boys. Girls did not go to school in those regions in those days. Some of the boys continued on for a couple of years in a village school in nearby Ein Kerem. Being a hilly region, agriculture was greatly reduced to growing fruit trees, mainly olive trees, grapes and Almond trees. It is the Almond trees that gave the village its name.
Part of his story is of how after November 1947 when the Partition-Plan for Palestine was announced by the UN, heavy fighting took place in that region.
During the battles taking place between Arabs and Jews, stories of atrocities in another village spread from mouth to mouth and his whole village decided to flee. Packing up their belongings they walked over the hills from village to village, reaching Bethlehem, moving on to Jericho and finally putting up a tent and later building a mud-hut. In 1950 most of his family moved over to Amman in Jordan. His father remained in the refugee camp near Jericho till the year 1967 when he joined his family in Amman.

Refugees are refugees. Both stories are about refugees.
Most refugees try to preserve their old culture while moving from place to place. Time wise, there is only a few years difference between them, but the stories are worlds apart.
Being a refugee is something that is difficult to reconstruct in words.
One story differs from the next until there is no resemblance left between them.

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