Friday, 7 February 2020
Windermere's children: What's in a name?
Yesterday I re-watched the BBC 2 programme about the 300+ Polish refugee children brought to the UK in 1945 for "rehabilitation" after their incarceration in concentration camps. For details see this previous post:
and if you missed it I urge you to watch it on
One of the most striking features is the emphasis the children place on their identities, names and families.
The first boy asked to introduce himself automatically uncovers his forearm to reveal his number tattooed concentration camp number. We get the message of dehumanisation.
One boy was included in the group at the last minute because another was withdrawn for reasons that I failed to catch. Unfortunately the "paperwork" wasn't changed and so he was travelling under the others name. He see him anxiously enquiring as to whether this has been rectified. I think that by the end of their stay in Windermere it hadn't been but he was assured that: "as the wheels turned and in the fullness of time, it would be. Welcome to England."
A third boy is addressed by the archetypally insensitive PE master as: "Son." He responds angrily that he is the son of ***** ***** of Poland. Told that "It's just a phrase," he replies: "Well, don't use it with me."
A modern trend that I find disturbing as that we are urged, and in some cases required, to blur or disguise our identities with "user names." These are widely used on social media platforms and we can have no idea who is saying what about whom, or being rude to whom and telling lies about whom.
As Peter Pomerantsev in "This is Not Propoganda" describes, in the fields of "fake news" and opinion distortion the use of fake or untraceable identities is endemic.
This poses a serious danger to the working of democracy, and is in urgent need of international regulation.
In all spheres, and not just politics, we need to know who is saying what, how they can be contacted for correction if necessary, and, where appropriate, who is financing them.
Those Polish refugees knew from bitter experience the importance of their identities. We should take a leaf our of their book.