Friday 9 February 2024

Pogroms, asylum seekers, happiness seekers


A member of my creative writing group wrote a very moving piece based very loosely on her family. She wrote of a time when two million Jews fled or rather were forced to emigrate from Russia 1880 -1920. Clara’s Story starts as a time like that in Germany has ended and any persecution of Jews has been made illegal. We know that that particular peace did not last long. My creative writing group member really took us into the time and place and made us understand what that way of life felt like. This is another example of creative writing being a tool for uncovering what we don’t know.  We take what we do know, our humanity, and say how that humanity will react if this or that happens.

Her other piece was a newspaper article about the people who arrive in boats. These are people wo are so scared of the regime they have left, where their lives may be under threat , that they are willing to pay the high prices to exploitive gangs and put their lives at risk  in another way by crossing the sea dangerously. Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants. However we don’t know who the people are in the boats until we process them.

Jennifer Burkinshaw’s Happiness Seeker features Mareno who has come illegally to the UK simply because there is no work in his homeland. Simply? Wait. There being no work is huge. How are people supposed to support themselves if they can’t find work?

As the people in my creative writer’s story began to leave their already quite poor homes I was actually reminded of John Steinbek’s The Grapes of Wrath. They too were “happiness seekers” but what else could they do if their farms were no longer viable and there was no work available locally?

Many factors can lead to people becoming displaced. Having a home, feeling safe at home, and being able to sustain a home are important. We all do what we can to maintain that. We are or should be grateful for it and it may be worth taking a few moments to reflect on what it might feel like if that were suddenly taken away from us.

We should also remember those displaced people are often or often become very resourceful and creative and thereby also become an asset to the community they eventually join.            

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