On Tuesday fresh from the summer at the French house, having travelled home on the afternoon ferry from Caen to Portsmouth and arrived home in the early hours, I went to talk to a group of ladies in Stafford. I put out my photos on a table and a couple of copies of Are You Averill? A few ladies came to look at them before the start of the meeting and the President confessed she had no idea what my talk was about! Later she was very complimentary. She knew it had gone well as there had been no one chattering!
I have realised, in the course of giving these talks that a reference to Nicky Campbell and Davina McCall’s television programme Long Lost Families always produces a reaction due to its popularity and people relate my search for Kathleen and Zygmunt to many of the people desperate to find their own family members. At the end of the talk several people came to tell me their story.
One lady had been in my circumstances as her father had been a GI in WW2 and although she bore his name had never had the chance to meet him. For her 50th birthday her husband had taken her to America. However, although that was a treat in itself he had also managed to conduct a search and found her birth-father. Without telling her what he had done he arranged for them to meet for the first time. She had been thrilled, as had he. Here was someone she resembled; here was the man who had given her life. Sadly after a few months he passed away so it was even more poignant. Another lady told me of twins in her family one of whom who had been given up for adoption. The grandmother of the one kept in the family told her when she was fourteen that she was a twin and when she was old enough found her and they were reunited. Yet another lady had adopted a daughter when she was almost three years old. She had been in care until then, then came to join their family. She was told that when the adoption had been formalised legally the authorities had destroyed all her medical records and so her daughter was never able to say to doctors if certain conditions had been present in her family. No one had any idea why this had been done.
I enjoy it when after the talk people look closely at the photos. They exclaim at the likeness of my father, Zygmunt, to my younger son, how the Polish ear has been passed on from my elder son to his son, how like my mother I am, and how alike my brother, Michael and I are. All very important to an adopted person. They look at my book but few buy it yet after these talks Facebook tells me how many people have looked at my page and I notice if sales on Amazon have risen a little. Nevertheless, publishing a book is not about how many people buy copies but how many people have enjoyed reading it. My cousin Margery passed around her complimentary copy among six of her neighbours all eager to read the story and to note where she had been mentioned in it. There is never a way to know how many readers the book has had but much pleasure in knowing it has meant something to them.