Being Krystyna author Carol Browne reflects on what the theme of this year's Holocaust Memorial Day means
In this life many of us are torn from home. The reasons this happens to us are varied. It could be economic necessity that forces us to move elsewhere to find work. It could be further education or marriage that take us far away. Perhaps we are promoted and transferred to a different location. We might be compelled to escape from a bad neighbourhood or situation, or we simply cannot pay the rent any more and are thrown out onto the street. For many unfortunate souls, being torn from home happens because they are refugees who must flee for their lives and seek asylum in another country.
Whatever the reasons, rarely are we torn from home because of personal choice. Pulling your roots from the soil that nurtured you is always painful. Relinquishing the known for the unknown takes courage. Being forced to do this as a matter of survival is not a decision any of us would relish.
It’s nearly forty years since I left the place I still call home and, while my childhood there was not a happy one, there are some memories of the place I cherish in spite of everything, but they leave me with feelings of homesickness and nostalgia that make my heart ache.
So, I cannot imagine how much more painful feelings such as these must have been for Krystyna Porsz. In my true-life novella Being Krystyna – A Story of Survival in WWII I describe how she witnessed her city, her country, being ravaged, ruined and enslaved by the Nazis. She lost everything, including most of her family, and was taken against her will to the hell of Ravensbrück concentration camp.
I doubt I will ever go home. Krystyna did not want to. What happened to her was so awful, so life-changing, that she kept moving forwards and never looked back. She made a new home and a new family for herself in a foreign land and she stayed there until she died.
Krystyna was even torn from herself, refusing to reclaim both her cultural identity and her real name, despite being safe in the UK, because for the rest of her life she feared the Nazis would return. Given the resurgence of fascism on the world stage now, I think she was right.
On Holocaust Memorial Day let us spare a thought for everyone who has lost their home, in war and peace and for whatever reason, because, as Krystyna could testify, once you have been torn from home, it is lost to you forever.