The Power of Touch: Misha Herwin
|Mum in Venice during WW2|
Both my parents were Poles who came to the UK after the WW2, having served in the British army.
My dad had left Poland with the Polish Government when they fled the Nazis in 1939. My Mum and her family had been taken by the Russians to Kazakhstan in 1940. They had been woken at mid-night and put on cattle trucks and sent out into the steppes.
Although she had spoken about her experiences when we were children, and I had used some of them as a basis for my novel “Shadows on the Grass” we had no definitive record of her life.
A year ago my sister-in-law taped some of my mother’s reminiscences. She’d used an old Dictaphone and, afraid that the technology would not be easily accessible, I suggested that I transcribe the tapes. A little earlier one of Mum’s old work colleagues had also asked if she would talk about her life and Christine had sent me copies of the recordings she had made.
There was also a video tape that my Mum and her brother had made way back in 2008.
Armed with these resources I set to. There were hours of sitting listening, then watching and making notes. Some of the information from one source appeared to contradict another and last month Mum and I had a good session when we sorted out the anomalies. I also asked lots of questions that had been brought up by my research and learned so much more from her answers.
At one point, she go up, and pulling out a drawer brought out an old shoe-box full of documents that she had brought with her from Poland. For me the most moving one was a thin scrap of paper that her father had managed to smuggle out of the Starobielsk concentration camp where he had been imprisoned by the Russians before being shot in the Katyn Forest.
It had been written with love and kept with love. And although I had known his story for years holding this in my hand had an emotional impact I could not have imagined.