Алдона Групас

Страна : Великобритания

Я – медицинская сестра, писатель, блогер, спикер, креативный коннектор. Помимо этого являюсь – Председатель литовского, общества в Уолверхамптоне (Wolverhampton), член Евразийской творческой гильдии и Председатель творческого клуба «Альбион» в Бирмингеме. С момента переезда в Великобританию работаю медицинской сестрой геронтологии. В моих книгах я делюсь своим опытом работе с пациентами, с какими трудностями она сталкивалась и чему научилась, пишу советы по уходу за больным, пишу жизненные истории как свои так и моих коллег, пациентов. Пишу книги о литовской диаспоре и о литовских авторах живших и живущих в Великобритании. За свою карьеру писателя написала несколько книг о литовцах, которые переехали в Великобританию, и также о своих собственном опыте, как личном, так и профессиональном. Мой жизненный опыт сподвиг меня в 2012 году написать свою первую книгу о Литовской диаспоре в Англии. Которая там сложилась в послевоенные годы. Книга была издана на литовском и английском языках и получила финансирование на издательство от фонда “Наследие”. Вторая книга “Сестричка, дайте мне таблетку для смерти…” получила сразу две награды: от Евразийского творческого союза “ЗА НЕОЦЕНИМЫЙ ВКЛАД В РАЗВИТИЕ ЧЕЛОВЕЧНОСТИ” и второе место за лучшую женскую работу на фестивале “Open Eurasian” 2019 года в Брюсселе.

Country : UK

I am a nurse, writer, blogger, speaker, creative connector. In addition, I am the Chairman of the Lithuanian Society in Wolverhampton, a member of the Eurasian Creative Guild and the Chairman of the Albion Аrt Club in Birmingham. Since moving to the UK I have been working as a nurse in gerontology. In my books, I share my experience of working with patients. I write advice on patient care, write life stories of both my own and my colleagues, patients. I write books about the Lithuanian community and about Lithuanian authors who have lived and are living in Great Britain. During my career as a writer, I has written several books about Lithuanians who have moved to the UK after the II World War, and also about my own experiences, both personal and professional. My life experience prompted me in 2012 to write my first book about the Lithuanian community in England. Which developed there in the post-war years. The book was published in Lithuanian and English and received publishing funding from the Heritage Foundation. My second book “Nurse, give me a pill for death …” received two awards at once: from the Eurasian Creative Union “FOR INVALUABLE CONTRIBUTION TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF HUMANITY” and second place for the best female work at the Open Eurasian festival in 2019 in Brussels.

Отрывок из non-fiction “West Midlands HO!“

Acknowledgements

Many people provided me with help and inspiration in creating the original version of this book, on which this new edition is based. I would like to thank them all for their contributions, which included research, brainstorming, editing and sharing personal perspectives. The original team included Audrone Lamb. Thank you for your support and encouragement.

In particular, I am grateful to the members of the Lithuanian community who agreed to tell their life stories and those of family members who migrated to the West Midlands after World War II. Among them is Gene Ivanauskiene, a central figure in the Lithuanian community of Wolverhampton, who provided much of the original inspiration for this project. As a first-generation migrant from the home country, she provided invaluable information on life as a refugee in the immediate post-war period. 

I am also grateful to the second-generation migrants – Terese Macys Russell, Grazina Narbutaite Lockley, John Petkevičius and his brother Peter – for sharing their reminiscences and family histories. Another member of the second generation, Kunigunda Kaminskaite Gough, went one step further and provided an informative account of the community’s development in the West Midlands over several decades. An edited version of her text appears in this book.

I am indebted to several authors and historians for the background information provided, particularly the renowned scholar Kazimieras Barėnas, who documented the activities of Britain’s Lithuanian community over many years.

I also received valuable pointers from the staff at the Wolverhampton City Archives and the archives at the Library of Birmingham.

The first edition of this book would never have been produced without support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. I thank that organisation’s staff for their advice and support. 

Finally, I would like to thank my editor, David Stanford, for helping me to produce this new edition, which is published under a new title. I hope this revised version will appeal to a broad range of readers.

 

Preface to the New Edition

This book, titled “West Midlands Ho!”, is a revised and updated edition of a book published in 2014 under the title “Lithuanian Community in the West Midlands after the Second World War (1947–2012)”.

I produced the original book with the help of a wide range of people, mostly members of the Lithuanian community in the West Midlands. The focus was on the personal tales of refugee families who had settled in this corner of England after World War II. In addition, I provided some historical information on the Lithuanian community as a whole, including its social and cultural activities over several decades. 

That book was well received within the community, with many readers expressing their appreciation for the window it provided on the early days of the post-war refugee community. I was also pleased with this accomplishment, happily donating copies to the Wolverhampton City Archives, the Library of Birmingham and the Lithuanian Embassy in London. I uploaded the book to Amazon, thus making it available to a wider audience.

However, since that time, I have come to see various ways in which that volume could be improved. For one thing, the English was not always great, with room for improvement in terms of grammar and vocabulary. In addition, while the personal tales provided by community members were very engaging, I had done little to introduce the interviewees to readers, nor to explain my interview methodology. There was little background material to explain those historical events that resulted in the wave of post-war refugees arriving in Britain, nor their reasons for remaining here.

Finally, the information on local community activities was drawn mainly from one source, a book by renowned historian Kazimieras Barėnas. Due to my limited knowledge in this area, I perhaps relied too heavily on this source, missing the opportunity to provide my own summary of events in a readable format.

Clearly, there was some scope for improvement, and by 2019 I began to wonder about issuing a new-and-improved edition. I had recently gained some success with my autobiographical book, “Nurse, Give me a Pill for Death”, due in part to my collaboration with freelance editor David Stanford. Since we worked so well together, I contacted David again to discuss improvements to my book on refugees in the West Midlands. By early 2020, we were hard at work on the new edition, agreeing on the punchier title “West Midlands Ho!” – a reference to the Westard Ho! resettlement programme for European refugees after World War II.

We set about making changes to the text, tidying up the English, providing more historical background, explaining the origins of the project and describing my methodology. I also gave a little more background on those community members who had provided personal reminiscences. Finally, I set about revising the material on community activities, summarizing it in my own words, while excluding much of the clutter. 

My aim was to provide a new edition that would be both informative and highly readable, thereby appealing to a wider audience. I enjoyed producing this revised edition just as much as I enjoyed working on the original. I hope readers find themselves equally enthused by the contents of this slim volume.

 

Introduction

My interest in the Lithuanian community in the West Midlands stems in part from my own identity as a member of that group. Compared to many others, I am a late-comer, having arrived in 2005. I am also a first-generation migrant to England, while others have migrant roots going back to the 1940s. Even so, we have much in common.

I was born in Latvia, as part of the Lithuanian community there. In fact, my ancestors were prominent members of Riga’s Lithuanian community, having been exiled from their homeland. As a girl, I dreamed of travelling to Lithuania, and once I was old enough, I made that journey. From an early age, this sense of national identity was very strong in me, and it continues to play a central role in my sense of self and my relations with others.

My journey didn’t stop there, of course. After qualifying as a nurse in Lithuania, I set my sights further afield. Together with my husband, a Lithuanian doctor, I began to plan a new life in England. After much preparation, including English lessons and job applications, we finally made the journey. I was full of hope and high expectations.

However, on arrival in London, I received a number of shocks. For one thing, I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. “What language are they speaking?” I wondered, as I strained to make sense of the local people. It soon dawned on me that England was home to a wide range of different people, originating from every corner of the earth, each speaking their own variation of the English language. As I travelled north for my first job, the problem was compounded by English regional dialects, and it took me some time to learn to communicate with my colleagues and patients. 

I was also shocked to discover that my professional skills as a nurse were not automatically recognized. I spent a long time as a care assistant before obtaining authorization to work as a qualified nurse in the UK. Even then, it took ages to find a real nursing job.

Meanwhile, some of the staff and managers with whom I worked seemed less than welcoming of migrant workers. This was partly due to language barriers, as well as differences in professional practice. In some cases, however, it seemed I was being discriminated against merely for being foreign. 

I have written about my experiences in another book, “Nurse, Give me a Pill for Death”, so I won’t go into too much detail here. However, it’s worth mentioning that there were plenty of challenges to be overcome before my husband and I felt properly settled in England.

For this reason, I have a great deal of empathy with other migrants who have made difficult journeys and struggled to put down roots in a foreign land. In particular, as a long-time resident of Wolverhampton, I am fascinated by the experiences of other Lithuanians in the West Midlands. I enjoy listening to their life stories and those of family members, learning what motivated them, what obstacles life threw their way, and how they surmounted those obstacles. I’m continually inspired by the efforts they have made to foster a sense of community, while keeping alive their own Lithuanian culture and traditions. 

It seems natural, therefore, that I should want to record the life stories of these people, as well as the efforts they have made to establish and maintain a living community. This book is a result of that impulse.

 

The origins of the project

The idea of writing a book on this topic came to me in 2011, during a conversation with Anna Cielecka-Gibson from the Midlands Polish Community Association. Anna showed me a book that the association had been working on, telling the stories of second-generation Polish migrants in the area. It was an oral-history project, presenting interviews with dozens of people of Polish origin, showing their experiences as members of a migrant community within England. I was fascinated by this project, with its focus on personal histories.

It occurred to me that a similar book could be written about the Lithuanian community of the West Midlands, showing how they moved to England after World War II, building new lives and raising families. I thought I might be well placed to conduct such a project, bearing in mind my links with this community. The book on Polish migrants had been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and I wondered if I might receive similar funding.

I met with some consultants from the Heritage Fund and told them my vision. They said that it was a good idea, and it might receive funding, so long as it hadn’t been done before. They checked the archives at the Library of Birmingham, seeking existing materials on the Lithuanian community, while I did the same at the Wolverhampton City Archives. We found very few materials, aside from a few newspaper articles.

I learned that very few books had been written on the subject of Lithuanian migrants to Britain, and most of them were in the Lithuanian language. In 1978, the historian Kazimieras Barėnas had published a book called “The Lithuanian Association in Great Britain 1947–1973”. This told the story of the main community organization for Lithuanian migrants, and it contained some material on the West Midlands. However, there was little space given to personal narratives, and it had not yet been translated into English.

Based on this apparent gap in the existing literature, the people from the Heritage Fund agreed to provide funding for my book project.

My idea was to interview half a dozen people from the Lithuanian migrant community, allowing them to tell their personal stories and those of family members. I wanted to learn the details of how Lithuanian refugees settled in England at the end of World War II, including the following: how and why they had arrived in England; what sort of employment they found; what their living conditions were like; how they built homes and supported families; how the second generation integrated into English society; and how the migrants managed to preserve their Lithuanian culture and identity. 

By this time, I already had a good network within the local Lithuanian community, and I was confident that I could find several willing subjects for interviews. Among my oldest Lithuanian friends in England was Audrone Ruliene, a fellow nurse who I had worked with in the early days. She was supportive of my book project, helping me to brainstorm ideas and plan a course of action. I had also made many friends through the Birmingham branch of the Lithuanian Association in Great Britain, which was founded back in 1947. There, I met Irena Hughes, who was running the branch at that time, and who made me very welcome. 

But my main inspiration was to be found closer to home, in Wolverhampton. Here I met Gene Ivanauskiene, a warm-hearted lady who had arrived in England in 1947, along with her husband. They had worked hard and bought a house, and became founding members of the Wolverhampton branch of the Lithuanian Association in Great Britain. Gene‘s cultural contributions included the establishment of the folk dance troupe “Vienybe”, which put on  many wonderful performances over the years, complete with traditional costumes. 

Gene said that she would gladly be interviewed for my book, providing me with the perspective of a first-generation migrant who could remember the hardships of the early years. She also put me in touch with a number of second-generation migrants – John, Terese, Grazina and Kunigunda – who likewise agreed to be interviewed.

I knew that the interview method I was embarking on was well established in the social sciences, and much used by local historians seeking a bottom-up perspective on the past. However, I didn‘t wish to be too formal or scientific in my approach. Rather, I sat down with each interviewee, switched on my recording device, and asked them to tell their migration story – starting from the beginning. 

The stories poured forth, and I only intervened to clarify a few details here and there. The interviews were recorded in English and Lithuanian, and I later typed them up in English, editing out any passages that deviated too far from the main topic of discussion.

My approach wasn‘t particularly scientific, but the results were exactly what I‘d been seeking: personal tales of migration, including a range of aspirations, challenges and triumphs. These personal tales formed the backbone of my book, providing a permanent record of human experience during a time of great historical change.

Years later, as I pondered improvements to the finished book, it occurred to me that there were a few gaps in the narratives. For example, many first-generation migrants had travelled to England from Germany, rather than return to Lithuania at the end of World War II. However, there was little said about why they made this decision. What was it that prevented their return to Lithuania in 1947, and how had they come to be living in Germany in the first place? 

History buffs may be able to venture answers to such questions, but it seemed important to hear the facts directly from those involved. 

And so, in early 2020, as part of the process of creating the revised edition of this book, I resolved to go back to my interviewees and ask a few of these oustanding questions. I would then provide my own narrative introductions to each person, inserting this new information wherever appropriate. The result, I believe, is a more complete and compelling account of events.

 

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