Uniting In The Face Of Uncertainty

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My granddad fled Poland on the back of a chicken truck bound for Russia just weeks after World War Two broke out, he learned to drive as a teenager in Iraq and somehow, despite a large percentage of his family perishing, made it to England.

He settled near Stoke-On-Trent, got married, and worked whatever odd jobs he could land to support his wife and children.

My grandma ended up in Africa – she was just seven when Germany invaded Poland. Her younger sister died as they traveled through Czechoslovakia, and I found her name, not too long ago, on a passenger list from a boat that arrived in Southampton from Cape Town in 1947.

I won’t lie, I sobbed at my desk when I saw that scrawled document flash up at my computer. It proved her stories and her life, and I can only imagine the hope and the fear that would have surged through her veins at the prospect of a new life in a new country she did not know, as the coastline came into view.

She settled, along with her mum and two siblings, in a Polish camp formed on the side of a road I often drive down. They lived alongside other Polish families in abandoned aircraft hangars not far from Kelvedon in Essex.

I found a blog post on the internet crammed with black and white photos of children playing happily around the huts they called home, alongside all the surnames of the families that had lived at the camp – my nan’s included.

Both of their tales break my heart. Both of their tales remind me I know nothing about true suffering, true survival and true strength.

And on days when my world seems a grey place, I look to them, and the people they managed to become, despite it all, as my inspiration.

If they can do it, then I can sure as hell do it.

And then I think about what would have happened if England had said no, if every European country had said no. If we’d have said no siree, you Polish vermin, you can get out of our country, stop stealing our jobs and our houses and our land. Go back to where you came from.

I mean, I for one, wouldn’t have been born. (And hey, imagine your life without me. Lol JK).

Would they have survived? Would they have been happy? Would they have had a life worth living?

This blog isn’t a place to push political agenda. I don’t care how you voted. I am entirely certain there are those of you out there far more clued up than I am, who voted leave. And I applaud you and give you ALL the high fives for educating yourself and for making your voice count.

This is a post about kindness. About helping other human beings. About being nice. About not always putting yourself first. About thinking about others.

It is a post to say, regardless of whether you can *really* afford that ASOS dress you’re about to snap up from the sale, we are some of the richest and luckiest and safest people in the world. In the UK, we have a pretty fucking privileged life, but we’re too busy looking at the things we want, rather than the things we have, to notice it.

We’re too busy dwelling on the whats ifs and the could bes, and blaming our pitfalls on anyone but ourselves. We don’t embrace our own lives enough, or admit that actually, the things we feel sad or angered to not have, are probably down to our own faults and shortcomings. WE didn’t try hard enough or push ourselves the way we should have.

I’ve spent the last week, or five days or whatever, feeling, as I’m sure a lot of you have, that the UK has lost its way.

This uncertain fear of what comes next, combined with the humiliation that the world now sees us as this racist, selfish country with only eyes for its own success and rise to power.

I feel a bit like we’re that shit best mate, who when their friend rings them in puddles of tears like I’VE LOST MY JOB AND MY BOYFRIEND’S DUMPED ME AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO, I NEED YOU, PLEASE HELP ME is like ‘oh sorry Sarah, I said I’d see Paul tonight, hope you feel better, bye.’

We’re in a fuck load of debt and university fees are crippling and sometimes you can’t get a ruddy GP appointment for two weeks and yeah, it’s not all rosy.

But it’s certainly better than leaving your friends and family and home behind and fleeing with your children on a dingy boat with just the clothes on your back and as much cash as you could shove into your bra.

The news is full of horrible stories about how this country, that deems itself so ‘Great’, is turning on the people who need us most – by physically and verbally abusing them.

People that have either risked everything to get here, to get to safety, or people who have grown up with stories of how their grandparents grew up in war and poverty and wanted better for themselves and for their children.

How are either of those things so wrong?

And so, I’ve turned to kindness. I want to be a better person, even if my country does not. I’ve started smiling at strangers in the street, chatting to people at the airport or on the train and OMG so excited for the first person I hear to sneeze in public so I can say bless you.

I want to be better and nicer and friendlier. Because without each other, and without support and kind words and warmth, we have nothing. Not really.

So, no matter which way you voted, let’s just unite to be better people. To help each other when things feel gloomy, to push each other up and support each other – even if it just starts with a few smiles in the street.

As Hagrid once said: ‘There’s a storm coming, Harry. And we all best be ready when she does.’

 

 

 

 

 

  • Lottie Etchells

    Reckon you’ve hit the nail right on the head there Miss Gale!
    This is exactly how I’m thinking right now, kindness or manners doesn’t cost a thing & right now with all this hatred & anger around it’s more important than ever! Thanks for writing such a beautifully elequent piece. xxx

    • Thanks so much for your kind words and have a lovely day ๐Ÿ™‚ xx

  • Wendy

    Morning Hannah, what a beautiful post. I haven’t felt compelled to comment on anyone’s blog post lately but yours really made me smile. I totally agree that just being a kind person right now will make the world of difference. We all have to stop judging one another’s vote and stop turning on each other, let’s leave that up to the politicians. We need to unite as one big family now.

    • 100% agree about uniting – life’s too short to spend so much energy and time on hate and negativity! x

  • I love this so much it nearly made me cry. I’ve started doing exactly the same. I’ve signed up for Spanish lessons after work and am looking to volunteer in Europe when I get time off.

    Can’t just sit here and let the world think we’re bad people!

    Amazing post

  • Really great post Hannah. I think you are spot on.

  • Francine Kirk

    *High Five* Hannah xxx

  • This is such a beautiful post and I couldn’t agree with you more! Thank you for such a sunny start to a rainy Wednesday xx

  • I read this first thing when I woke up. What a lovely take on the whole situation, I’m glad you didn’t bombard with a tonne of politics but actually kept it real and applicable to your own heritage – which is actually really similar to mine! If everyone spread as much kindness as this, we’d be in a much much better place right now! Alice xx

    http://www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

  • Spot on!
    We are so incredibly lucky to have what we have and I’m guilty of taking it all for granted. Thank you for making me stop and think today.
    X

  • Annabella

    Hi Hannah,

    As ever, I have enjoyed reading your blog post but on this occasion found it slightly hypocritical. You refer to buying that ASOS dress and whether or not you can afford it, but – and please correct me if I’m wrong – isn’t part of your income / job reliant upon your followers purchasing items that you post on here, including sponsored posts & affiliate links? Therefore aren’t you encouraging people to make that purchase because that ‘oh so amazing’ dress is now only ยฃX?

    I absolutely have the upmost respect for you doing your job, I’m not sure I would have the discipline, but I think it’s perhaps not right for you preach about having the things that we want, rather than need when you are actually encouraging that.

    I hope you are not offended by this in anyway, it’s just another perspective from one of your many loyal followers.

    Regardless of what happens now regarding Brexit, I think the most important thing is for us all to stick together as there’s no going back (or so we’re told)! xx

    • Hi Annabelle, thanks for taking the time to read my post today ๐Ÿ™‚

      Absolutely understand what you’re saying, but I think what I was trying to get across was that we need to remember we are lucky, extremely lucky, to be in a position where we can buy new things. And rather than dwelling on the fact we haven’t got xx amount of followers on Instagram, or a pair of Gucci loafers, or a boyfriend or a baby, we need to look at the things we do have – roofs over our heads, family, friends, food and safety.

      xx

  • hannah mccartney

    What a beautiful post!

  • Oh God I am crying! I totally agree we have to be nice and friendlier and just generally nicer people to everyone, there is way too much hate in the world! Sophie x

    stylestarsandsparkle.com

  • Hi Hannah,

    This is the best thing I have read since the news last week, everywhere I look all I have seen is negativity and it has made me feel so down the last week. This is such a positive post, I am going to share this with all the people I know who are still feeling down about Brexit! We all need to lift our heads up, smile and carry on,. Thank you! x

  • Jazmin

    Not sure if it was the super sad Jake Bugg song on the radio as I read this, but it gave me all of the emotions. I’m so sad about the state of our country at the moment – I know people who fled war torn countries themselves to settle in England who voted leave because (and I quote) “all of the Polish people are coming in and doing my job for cheaper.” Where has the compassion gone? If somebody has found their way to England and risked life and limb doing it, just imagine what they were running from!

    As the daughter of a Chilean refugee and a Spaniard who just somehow ended up in England, I worry for where and how this will end. So, you’re right, we need to spread love, compassion and warmth and welcome those people that chose our country to live in because now it’s their country, too and we should be damn well honoured that they saw us as a good place to live. Let’s not change that for them.

    Wow, sorry for the essay – I think that may have been festering for while!

    Jx

    • This was such a beautifully written comment that’s uplifted me a little further! A family member of mine (WITH Polish parents) once voted UKIP because of the ‘immigrants’. Um, pal, you alright there? You’re aware you’re only alive BECAUSE of immigrants? People are so manipulated by everything there heat in the media and are so ready to jump on a scapegoat. We HAVE to help each other and be kind and compassionate, it’s the only option <3

      • *they hear. Fuck, I got overexcited.

      • Jazmin

        ๐Ÿ˜˜ I’ve also seen a few stories today about people leaving kind notes and gifts for their neighbours/colleagues, telling them that they have as much a right to be here as anybody else. Glad to see that we’re not letting the small minded minority win without a fight. x

  • Excellent post Hannah. In the past few days my attitude towards the vote had shifted from anger to a sense of understanding for those who voted differently to myself. Many, many people voted in an informed and well thought out way and I respect their decision. I also, in some way, understand the frustrations of those who voted because they were ‘promised’ certain things and feel let down as that particular side crumbles.

    But those who made protest votes, or ill-informed votes or worst of all racist votes I just cannot comprehend for the exact reasons you laid out here. Immigration is nothing to fear and the amazing yet terrifying journey your grandparents endured for their own safety is one we should consider when, as you say, we see the dingies and the camps and the fences on the news. There isn’t much of a difference really.

    I felt bleak in the days following, so I did what I do to bring myself back to centre and baked a pie. I wrote about it on my blog today and while its not as powerful a post as yours, I too felt compelled to at least say something and express how I felt. Pie won’t change the world but it helps to sweeten our lives when perhaps we need a little lightness.

    Victoria
    http://victoriaspongepeasepudding.com/

  • I feel like everyone needs to read this as it will open their eyes – it did mine. This is just the kind of attitude that we need in this world right now because all of this fighting and arguing just isn’t fun anymore and never has been.. We all need to unite and even though I completely disagree with ‘our’ vote to leave, it’s happened and we just need to hope that it’s for the best. Thank you for sharing your point of view as it was perfect xo

    Char | http://www.charslittleblog.blogspot.co.uk

  • This was a lovely post to read Hannah. Your grandparents sound like wonderful people.

    I’ve never felt more ashamed about being British as I have this past week with the videos I’ve seen and the stories I’ve read. I have always been proud of being from a country that celebrates cultural diversity, and seeing the amount of people spreading racism and hatred genuinely scares me. I feel like as a country we have taken a huge step back.

    I will definitely be following suit and spreading kindness in the wake of last weeks result xx

  • You literally couldn’t have written a more well balanced and poignant piece. I know this isn’t a place for politics but sometimes things have to be said, because well, what is the use of all the ASOS dresses in the world if the world we live in we don’t want to be part of anymore. YOU’RE A TROOPER and your grandparents sound like heroes xxxx
    http://www.fashionnomads.com

  • Lanna

    Lovely post Hannah. I’m so sick of the hatred and bitterness that’s erupting across media, social media and in the streets. Regardless of how people voted, it was not a vote for racism or xenophobia to be suddenly acceptable.

    I also had family that had to flee Europe and start new lives. Things were not easy for them, as for a lot of people (Brits included) and then, as now, there was a lot of mistrust directed against new arrivals to the country, regardless of their story. No-one in the UK can claim that they have no roots anywhere else in the world, no-one. It’s bewildering that people can even believe that that’s the case! And even if it were true, that’s still no excuse.

    So it’s a yes vote to small kindnesses. Because just knowing you’re not alone in this mess can make a world of difference to us all.

  • Stacey Kerr

    My granda fled from Poland too before the world war – now he’s 94 and leading a reasonably healthy life. If he hadn’t, none of my family would be here and it’s really hard to imagine what life was like for him whilst moving here in the middle of a world war knowing zero English and having no family or friends to support him.

    Despite all this my granda and my Dad (his son) voted to Leave the EU and it is absolutely disgusting. It fills me with such rage because the reason the EU exists is becauise of the war that brought him from his homeland to Scotland in the first place.

    Everything is in such turmoil and I guess we just have to wait and see what happens next. Thanks for writing this blog, I found it so relatable!

  • Amy

    Hannah this is a beautiful post, so well written and you put your point across wonderfully. It’s so true that we forget how lucky we are and that we don’t know what true suffering is – I can only imagine what your grandparents went through and what an inspiration it must be to you that they are so strong.

    The state of Britain at the moment does make me sad, there is quite a big Polish community where I live (in Hull) and I’ve heard of some awful things being said to them post Brexit and I think they now feel very unwelcome – I literally wish I could apologise to them all on behalf of some people in this city.

    Obviously Brexit is done now and you’re so right that we just need to move forward in a positive manner with regards to being kind to one another and I hope that’s what our country does!

    Amy xx
    http://www.callmeamy.co.uk

  • Natalie

    Its such an interesting time at the moment because of what’s happening politically in our country and continent. I really appreciate your post here and agree whole heartedly with the sentiment and I understand why you have posted this now, as the decision made by the majority of the country has stirred up a lot of these feelings for many of its constituents.
    I voted leave, for many reasons and have experienced a lot of hate/ negative comments from friends and acquaintances for my decision. One thing I have found so shocking is that the hateful negative comments have come from the same people pre decision that were encouraging leave voters to be more open minded and inclusive.

    I think one thing is for sure there will be turbulent times ahead, but I’m looking forward to when the tempers and egos have subsided and we can all pull together to create a fairer society.

    PS totally love your blog.

  • What a lovely post – recently I’ve seen certain things written online or broadcast on the TV that make me ashamed of where I grew up and nobody should be made to feel that way – we should all be proud of our heritage and history.

    Emma | HarmonyBlaze.co.uk

  • What a lovely post, and with the right sentiment. I was born and brought up in south London and for the last 8/9 years I have noticed things slowly going down the pan. You used to say hello to your neighbours, talk to people or smile a them in a lift, hold a door open for them, even a smile or a nod here and there. You’d have a friend who got the same train every morning and chat to them. Now everyone is so rude! Men have slammed the door in my face or pounced in a seat before I was able to sit down and without me saying a word often bleat something about ‘feminism’. I always try and have manners, empathy and react to people with kindness and am often left saddened when it’s not returned. So I fully support more people joining together and being good to one another xoxo

    Sarah Iheartcosmetics

  • What a lovely article!
    I am from Brazil, my country is a potical mess and I heard and read about the Brexit, and I can say it is related to my reality too and that we can use this text of yours here in my country as well.
    In the politics is hard to people agree with different positions and because of that, a lot of hate is spread among opposite positions.
    You write a inspirational story here, thank you for that. The world needs more people like you!

  • Sarah

    Yes yes yes – it’s nice to be nice. Thanks for all your positivity!

    Also, you prob have already seen this – but it’s v cool. http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/uk_57736a3ce4b0220ef54fadd8?edition=uk

    Xx

  • I absolutely love this post Hannah! You have pretty much summed up how I’m sure 48% of the U.K. Voting population feel!

    For anyone who ever said we won two world wars we can survive our own… We didn’t win them without the support of the rest of Europe

  • what a lovely thoughtful post – thanks for sharing the stories of your grandparents ๐Ÿ™‚

    If I think about what the UK is becoming too much it makes me so depressed – I’m going to try and use your thoughts here. Lets be nice to each other and remember what being british is about.

  • Harriet Emerson

    This is just what I needed to read after feeling so deflated by the EU result. It’s helped me realise that I need to accept that some people are going to be racist and hateful, and instead of being angry about it, I just need to spread as much kindness as possible xx

  • Aw thank you so much for this post Hannah, I’ve enjoyed reading this so much! I agree that we need to have a more positive outlook on the whole thing, because panicking will essentially make things worse and although the country is so split right now, more than anything we need to work together to become a ‘United’ Kingdom. It makes me so upset that some people are using this result to be openly racist in public and so spreading love/kindness in the face of this is the best way forward and is definitely something I’ll be adopting – even the smallest act of kindness can go a long way ๐Ÿ™‚ x
    Charlotte’s Road

  • Rayne

    Vote one Hannah!!! Perfectly put words to show people what is really important in life- kindness. You are an inspiration.

  • Laura

    Hi Hannah^^ You have said exactly what I have been thinking.

    I live in Korea currently but I’m originally from the UK. I was planning to move back with my Korean boyfriend next year, but after all that has been happening, it’s kind of made me think again. I am, perhaps overly so, worried about how he will be treated… It’s really upsetting to see all the hatred that’s broadcasted (especially internationally). I think the media is partly to blame for fueling the fire. It completely forgets to show the majority who are caring, accepting people.

    But after I read your post and reader’s comments, I realised that even if there are those who have used this EU result as a means to act as they wish, there are also so many wondeful people in the UK who are tolerant and welcoming, and that I shouldn’t worry so much.

    Manners cost nothing and we should all try our best to show people we respect and appreciate them when we can. Thanks for making me think more positvely ^^ Keep up the good work~

  • Peter S

    Good morning, I too was moved by your Blog which I found by chance today. I agree with all that you said and I am trying to be positive about the chances of the autistic teens I work with to have as good a life as I have had as a citizen of Europe. One thing I wanted to tell you – My grandfather ran a pub in a tough area near a harbour on the south coast. Occasionally a ship would dock with wood from Russia and if any of the crew were Polish and came into the pub, all their drinks were free. There had been an event in WW2 in which my grandfather had reason to thank an unknown Pole. He never talked about it, but his family still remember.

  • Agree with everything you’ve said, I’ve been feeling pretty devastated about what’s happened but trying to be kinder sounds like a good start in getting back on track. x

  • Daisy Skepelhorn

    What a brilliant response to the state of the world today. I couldn’t agree with you more, and shall follow your lead in promoting the kindness in the world

    x

  • Sarah

    This, this flippin’ post right here is why you are one of the best (if not the best) bloggers out there at the moment! x

  • Couldn’t agree more. I feel our country has been spoiled rotten with what we have as a nation. I don’t agree with the vote and felt heartbroken when it was officially announced we shall be leaving the EU. Our country has become to greedy and many believe we will have it better out, yet we already have it good! We have a healthcare available to all, a education system that educates all up to the age of 18 free of charge, and a nation fill of all nationalities, beliefs and origins that work together to make a great system. Yes it could be better, but hell it could be a lot worse.

  • Very beautifully written Hannah, and I agree that we can all work a bit more at being kinder in the face of some awful scenes that have happened since the ref. It is very easy to get angry at the older generations, but some have seen more atrocity and hardship than we have, so we still need respect and humanity in uncertainty.

    Lauren x
    Britton Loves | Lifestyle Beauty Wellbeing

  • Charlotte Connolly

    Just this <3 all of this. You're a girl after my own heart most days, but even more so than EVER with this. xxx

  • Faye

    Beautifully written, this is why you’re my fave blogger. We need more like you xxx

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    I got this site from my friend who informed me on the topic of this website and at the
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  • I’ve just recently discovered your blog and am scrolling through it as we speak. Am in LOVE! This post hits me right in the heart. Goes a long way to show that our life compared to our ancestors is so easy. Our grandparents had to survive through either one or both World Wars. It’s scary to think, and every single day I am so thankful that I have a roof over my head.

    http://www.ashrealasitgets.blogspot.com


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