Member of Wolverhampton u3a
Poems by Ruth Parker, born in Berlin in 1928. Ruth was raised by her grandparents until coming to Britain as an 11-year-old Kindertransport refugee. Once in Britain, she spent time living in four different 'homes from home' before finally settling in Oxford with relatives who had managed to escape Germany.
Last Letters from Berlin 1939/40
In homage to my grandparents who did not get away.
Did your daughters know
how you hungered for the letters?
But you kept things bright,
how your flat had become a 'transit camp'
for relations leaving the country,
all those aunts and uncles waiting
for permits to go
You write that Father now helps in the kitchen,
(he does his best) but you do not say
That this is because you are ill.
You still worry about others now
safely in England,
about thyeir eyes, their chests,
their school reports
but the terrible truth was
that you knew how it would be
Soon, you write, farewells
will have been said
and then you will be all alone.
In a land of hatred you were consoled
by Beethoven and Schiller,
the best of Germany whie awaiting
the booted footsteps of the worst.
Your little brown letters
so closely typed, so carefully worded
shiver and rustle in my hands.
When I hear Beethoven now
I bless him for the comfort he gave you
and try to think the best
of the land that bore him.
Once a Refugee...
For years I've lived a calm and happy life
Blessed with affection and with beauty all around me,
But as a child I left a vicious land
And many loved ones who were not allowed
To end their lives serenely in their beds.
So often when I look at my content
I ask myself, 'What have I done...
Why have I been the lucky one?'
And every night, as sure as fate
I run for trains - but am too late;
Gasping, I rush for buses that leave as I arrive,
My car takes me to fearful, unknown places as I drive,
I struggle against mud, slipping and sliding,
Faceless pursuers force me into hiding.
I cry for help by telephone,
The line is dead - I am alone...
All night I must continue striving
Stumbling and straining, not arriving,
And when I wake, I have the strange and subtle dread,
Had I arrived, I think I would be dead!
Still, this is not too great to bear.
In view of the great suffering everywhere.
It's only just a minor scar
Left over from another war,
And it's the price I have to pay
For being alive in my own home today.
And then at night, as sure as fate
The train has left and I'm too late.
The child stood, ready packed
reaching up to kiss her grandmother goodbye.
(She would do this in dreams for years to come)
The old woman grimaced a smile,
touched the child's head in blessing;
then, as the steps receded
felt her life's skein unwinding -
and as she sank down, hollowed out,
knew that soon the men in boots would come
to herd her to an unspeakable end.
Anguish and terror flooded in
but there was triumph too:
the child, the child would be safe
in a kinder land....
I was that child
and I am grateful.
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