I visited a Methodist Community Group in north Nottingham yesterday to give my talk on the search for my birth parents. They put the name of the talk in their programme as Are You Averill? with a short explanation of what it was about and as I walked into the building from the car park a lady looked at me quizzically and said, ‘Are you Averill?’
The mixed group was very friendly and interested and certainly appreciated the energy and enthusiasm of their group leader who organises the programme. Before she introduced me a lady on the front row came to tell me she had adopted her two children from babies and they were now in their thirties but had shown no inclination to seek their birth mothers. Her son, however, had shown a deep distrust of women in his young life although was now married with children of his own. When he was a teenager he had walked in some hospital grounds with his mum and on seeing a wheelie bin outside a ward asked her, ‘Is this where she dumped me?’
After the talk a lady said that she recalled in her very young life having Polish airmen to stay at her house during the war. There was not sufficient room in the barracks at RAF Hucknall so families willingly volunteered their homes to accommodate these young Poles. She could not recall his name but I would have fainted away if she had recalled Zygmunt. She did, however come up to look closely at the photo I brought of Zygmunt and his training unit sent to me from the Polish Institute and Sikorski museum to see if she recognised any of the other young men. A gentleman came to tell me he had worked with a Polish chap who had been a flyer of Wellington bombers in the war. His name, too, had been Zygmunt and until I said that my father had emigrated in 1950 he wondered briefly if he had been the same chap.
Yet another lady told me about someone her daughter worked with who had been responsible for bringing together with their relatives in the UK some of the child migrants, who had been sent to Australia, New Zealand and Canada after the war. She was reminded of this as we discussed a social worker’s role in acting as intermediary for adopted children searching for birth relatives. As it happens, I have had the good fortune to meet the social worker in question, Margaret Humphreys, who uncovered the scandal many years ago whilst I was teaching in Nottingham in the 1980s and have followed her work with interest over the years. See more of that on www.childmigrantstrust.com .
It seemed an afternoon of coincidences, much like my own search.