Telling Arts: Taking refuge in our city

Posted on 30 August 2012 | Narrative

Rose, visiting from the Netherlands, told me about her Father who was a Jewish refugee. He had been evacuated from Sudetanland to England thanks to the generosity of the Rowntree family. He spoke fondly of the Rowntree family all his life.

“My father met my mother at the Saturday dances held in the Assembly Rooms, they fell in love quickly and were soon married. My father came from a sophisticated and cultured family. He was well educated and used to having servants take care of him.

Life was very different for him here in York where he was referred to as a ‘friendly alien’ and he served in the pioneer corps.

To improve their English, the refugees were encouraged to read the stories of PG Woodhouse. It must have worked because he spoke perfect English (albeit with a heavy German accent).

My mother and Father lived with my Grandparents in a small house in Poppelton Road. The night of the York Blitz, he and the rest of the family took shelter under the stairs. They were lucky. The street behind them took a direct hit.”