I had a splendid time visiting the Macular Support Group in Stoke earlier this month. What a delightful group of people and so friendly. I had taken my photographs to illustrate my ‘Are You Averill?’ talk and was afraid members wouldn’t be able to see them effectively but several people regularly come to the meetings with sighted relatives or are able to see things close up with the aid of magnifying devices. They were interested in the details of my search and one lady felt able to tell me her son had been adopted but so far had shown no interest in tracing his birth-mother fearing rejection for a second time. She took a copy of my book, not being able to read it herself, she said, but in case her son needed a bit of encouragement or moral support.
Later in the month on a warm sunny evening, I talked to a group of ladies at a Women’s Institute in Staffordshire. They, too, were most welcoming, some with stories of their own to tell regarding adoptions. I was asked to judge their competition which was to bring a black and white family related photograph. What a difficult task. There were so many treasured images. In the end I settled for a family group sitting in the open clearly have a good time, a wedding group photograph from the 1930s or 40s and a photo of a soldier from WW1 who had sadly lost his life in 1916. Two or three ladies told me of searches their friends or relatives made to find family members and one of a cousin who had not been told of her adoption only finding out from papers found after the death of her parent. What a shock that would have been; she was 60 years old. Another lady remarked how the system of openness is so much better nowadays when birth mothers are able to leave letters to the children they have given up saying that they had been loved. Finally, a lady asked me about what had happened to my father, Zygmunt, after the war. Had he stayed on the UK? He had until at least until 1950. After the Second World War, the choices offered to the Poles who had acted so bravely on our behalf were limited. Some could stay in the UK if they were given work; some had the opportunity to return to Poland but as much of their homeland was in the hands of Stalin under the communist regime this wasn’t desirable and many were killed or their families put in danger; and so many others emigrated to Canada, as did Zygmunt, eventually to end up in the USA. She knew of these options as her father had worked with many Polish airmen after the war. We sold them down the river at Yalta, she said. A different conversation, I think.