Drawn across Europe on the Kin­der­trans­port

Seek­ing Refuge

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - By Irene N. Watts, il­lus­trated by Kathryn E. Shoe­maker

Tradewind Books, £11.95 Re­viewed by Ivy Gar­litz

SEEK­ING REFUGE is a graphic adap­ta­tion of the se­cond in a tril­ogy of nov­els by Cana­dian chil­dren’s author and play­wright Irene N. Watts, based on her ex­pe­ri­ence of es­cap­ing from her na­tive Ber­lin on the se­cond Kin­der­trans­port at the age of seven. It fol­lows the graphic novel Good­bye Mar­i­anne, based on the first book of the tril­ogy, which also fea­tures art by Kathryn E. Shoe­maker. Seek­ing Refuge be­gins with the ar­rival of the first Kin­der­trans­port at Liver­pool Street Sta­tion in 1938 and re­veals how 11-yearold Mar­i­anne Kohn must now ad­just to life in Eng­land in or­der to sur­vive.

It stands on its own apart from Good­bye Mar­i­anne and the tril­ogy; the reader learns what has hap­pened in Shoe­maker’s pen­cilled il­lus­tra­tions in tones of grey con­vey the bleak­ness of Mar­i­anne’s Kens­ing­ton and ru­ral Wales

Ger­many from Mar­i­anne re­al­is­ing that in Lon­don she can en­ter parks and sit on benches as they don’t bear signs “for Aryans only”. A po­lice­man’s uni­form evokes mem­o­ries of the Gestapo who at­tacked her par­ents. “Aunt Vera”, her foster mother, im­me­di­ately cor­rects Mar­i­anne’s English and puts her to work as­sist­ing the maid as do­mes­tic help. At school, Mar­i­anne is called a “hun” and a spy. Few un­der­stand what the

grow­ing cri­sis in Europe por­tends for Mar­i­anne’s fam­ily. While serv­ing tea at Vera’s bridge party Mar­i­anne seizes the chance to tell one guest that her mother is a good cook, and asks: “You have work? Here is ad­dress to write please”. Vera rep­ri­mands her for try­ing to find spon­sor­ship for her par­ents: “They must wait their turn. A refugee needs good man­ners”.

As war looms, Mar­i­anne and her school­mates are evac­u­ated to Wales; she has to con­tend again with a new coun­try, a new lan­guage, and prej­u­dice against her for be­ing a Ger­man and a Jew. Her new host mother finds her “an an­swer to our prayers” — she wants her to re­place her de­ceased daugh­ter

and asks Mar­i­anne to call her “Mam”. Their next door neigh­bour calls out “Mochyn” when Mar­i­anne passes by, and she knows it means “pig”.

Shoe­maker’s pen­cilled il­lus­tra­tions in tones of grey con­vey the bleak­ness of Mar­i­anne’s lonely Kens­ing­ton and ru­ral Wales. Each chap­ter starts with a map that in­di­cates the dis­tance be­tween Mar­i­anne and her fam­ily and sig­ni­fies the un­cer­tainty of their fu­ture.

Seek­ing Refuge con­tains much about hope and the re­silience of the spirit in times of ad­ver­sity. While the book is rec­om­mended for ages nine and older, adults, too, will find it en­gross­ing.

Ivy Gar­litz is a poet and critic

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