The Kinder transport statues inspired the cover design of The Borrowed Boy. If you have read this story, you will know that Angie arranged to meet Nikoleta at one of the two statues that are situated at Liverpool Street Station.
For the children
The statue of two children is at the entrance to the Tube on the concourse of the station and is called For the children. For several years I passed by this statue on my way to and from work. Some days there would be discarded paper cups or takeaway containers littering the plinth, a person might be resting against it, or a small child hoisted up as though it were a seat. On one occasion a fresh posy of flowers had been placed in the girl’s arms. Unnoticed. Ignored. Recognised as a memorial to the plight of refugees. The people who passed by this statue had different responses. Much like our attitudes to the plight of refugees who seek asylum in our country.
The personal stories of migrants and refugees fleeing the horror of war, making perilous journeys across the sea, or in containers moves me to tears. In researching this blog, I looked back at the news on migrants that might have influenced me at the time of writing The Borrowed Boy. I came across a news story, a photograph taken in June 2019 of a father and his infant daughter, washed up on the bank of the Rio Grande after a failed crossing to the USA from El Salvador. Their bodies lie prone, the twenty-three-month-old child held close to her father’s body within his T-shirt. I remembered my husband and daughter when she was tiny. How he took care of her every need, the way that he gazed at her and held her. I imagined this young father, trying to keep his baby safe and I cried. Not the silent tears triggered by an emotional read, great noisy sobs. It is a heartbreaking story, but sadly just one of many.
In the years that led up to Britain’s referendum to leave Europe, there was a growing disquiet and resentment towards immigrants and refugees. I am not judging. Fear of the unknown and imagined consequences of change influence how people behave. However, there was a time in Britain’s history where we acted kindly and showed compassion. The Kinder transport statues at Liverpool Street Station commemorate the arrival of ten thousand children who feeling Nazi persecution arrived in Britain by train during 1938. They travelled to England without their parents and were sent to foster homes and hostels.
The second statue is called The Arrival and stands outside the Station in the aptly named Hope Square. The bronze statues are the work of Frank Meisler, who was himself one of these children. They were installed at Liverpool Street Station in 2006.
Beneath The Arrival is a plaque which reads:
Children of the Kindertransport.
In gratitude to the people of Britain for saving the lives of 10,000 unaccompanied mainly Jewish children who fled from Nazi persecution in 1938 and 1939. ‘Whoever rescues a single soul is credited as though they had saved the whole world.’ Talmud.
There is also a memorial plaque in Hope Square, which reads:
Dedicated to the children of the Kindergarten Transport who found hope and safety in Britain through the gateway of Liverpool Street station.
The children travelled by ferry from The Hook of Holland to Harwich, in Essex, England before boarding the train to Liverpool Street station in London. Harwich is on the same coastline as Clacton and Jaywick Sands, and close to where I live. I took a photograph of this plaque when walking by the sea in Harwich.
I cannot begin to imagine what life is like for families who have to leave a country that they love and risk their lives so that they can live without fear. The Bea Keeper of Aleppo, Christy Lefteri, The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini, and Exit West, Mohsin Hamid, are all excellent novels that convey this well. Stories have the power of engendering empathy, as we experience the inner world of the protagonist. See my blog on Empathy.
The Borrowed Boy is a story about hope, friendship and the power of communities.