Bognor Regis Herald: Refugees and Asylum Seekers, their sons, a personal view
by Jan Cosgrove
Negative aspects of immigration tend to dominate the News and the thinking of politicians fearful of losing support from communities where there is a perceived problem. Yet in many communities where there are relatively few migrants there can be as great if not greater prejudice.
But immigration and refugee issues also get confused and mixed up. Many say they are sympathetic to the plight of the refugee, and at one time the British told the world of our tolerance. Yes, refugees coming here are migrants, often from appalling conditions, wars, famine etc. We can judge for ourselves whether we still deserve such a reputation and many will point to the disgraceful failure of the UK over unaccompanied child migrants suggestive that our government fears backlash back from some parts of the public.
Yet when we look at history, many of us have refugee ancestors, people who fled from persecution from Europe and elsewhere, and the claim of anyone to be pure English etc is likely to wilt in most cases under scrutiny — go back and at some point most of us will find a refugee in our bloodline.
Indeed the term ‘refugee’ is not English in origin, it is French derivation from refuji, one seeking refuge, and first used in the late 16th Century with regard to an influx of people fleeing religious persecution in France, a crisis which saw many protestant huguenots murdered in ethnic cleansing, over 400000 estimated to have fled to Germany, Holland and England. Later some of these went onto America Australia etc.
France suffered badly as these were often from the middle classes, educated and prosperous. Their loss our gain as so often re migration. Think of the traditional English corner shop, I well recall such from my 1950s childhood. Now a byword for Asian family enterprise, many initially taken on by East African Asians who fled Ugandan persecution (now it’s gays) under the notorious butcher, Idi Amin.
For me there are refugees and asylum seekers on both sides of the family. On my mother’s side, go back to Cornwall in the 1570s and the parish register at Tintagel records one John Dangar marrying a local maid. The name which my mother bore, is a Huguenot name, those who fled France from Catholic persecution and murder. Dangar is D’angar so far as I can tell. Other derived names from this are Dangerfield and Angiers.
So within 5 years, this lad is marrying local, having found his way to Cornwall to that essential British place, the birthplace of Arthur, you can’t get more Brit (not English you german usurpers who settled e.g. in Sussex (South Saxons, immigrants the lot of you). [Interesting fact, so far as I am aware, the Huguenots have a chapel in Canterbury Cathedral, uniquely in the Anglican Church). The Dangars go onto integrate completely into the local scene as farmers etc.
Settled in Cornwall, these folk toiled, raised generations and became a leading family in the County.
When my grandfather left for London, he was one of four seeking escape from poverty, married my grandmother (I never knew any of my grandparents) and became a senior clerk in Harrods, def upper working class.
This photo is of the family of Reginald Dangar, emigrated to Australia, exporting the migrant habit. The Dangars became a leading family in the Merino wool trade:
Now on my paternal side, an issue. Ernest Thomas Auckland Cosgrove, whose surname I proudly bear, Anglo-Irish family, ran away to sea and somewhat of the black sheep, married my mum in 1947 on return from serving in Burma in the Royal Sussex, odd in a way I ended up here given that. His story in Burma, not one he or many of his comrades wanted to retell, especially to their sons, because of the sheer horror they saw. I pestered him until he told me a story, I never asked again.
The cost to his health, bouts of malaria in my childhood, I saw its effects as he lay in bed shaking.
But he was not my biological father, that fact belongs with Bruno Marek Nadolczak, born in Poland, served in its military pre-war, spent, so far as one can tell, 2 years in Germany 1937, spying. “You know Janek, I came close enough to Hitler to kill him 3 times” but presumably not under orders to do so. Took part in defence of Warsaw, 1939, captured by Gestapo, fled to France and then to England in 1940 and was sent to Canada to help train Polish and others in parachute skills.
Became one of the 360 or so agents known as the cichociemni (roughly ‘silent dark’) and parachuted on a mission in autumn 1944 into Poland re uprising against Nazis and, if I am correct, the Soviets also). Escaped from latter’s NKVD (became the KGB) to England. I ‘came about’ in Brindisi where he and my mother both were (she in a support unit in the FANY with Sue Ryder). He is still in Poland at the end of the War in Europe.
He meets a Polish lady, Aldona, before he leaves and there we have a classic triangle. Aldona’s is another story, Polish underground or one of them, Warsaw Uprising 1944. Another story …. She and Bruno match up and emigrate to the US and I don’t find him until I am over 60 and he in his 90s. I knew from age 11, never told Ernie I knew, why would I. Hence 2 dads …. Two mums too ….. Such is life.
An asylum seeker like John (Jean) Dangar. Both sides of the family one in quite recent times. Why the move to the States? Well Bruno could not return to Poland, well not if he intended to live, and yes, Aldona told me, the racism of some English folk was enough to persuade them to emigrate and to become US citizens. Maybe I missed those lost decades for reasons not unlike those which caused some voters round here to vote Brexit. I say that having read their real reasons for supporting it.
What now happens re EU people here? And UK residents in e.g Spain and France? Your guess, Pandora, is as good as mine, and you would insist on opening that bloody box without knowing what was in it.
Interestingly, the claim in one of today’s article also in this edition, that migration brings lower crime may be borne out by the stats I have collected over some months re convictions imposed in local magistrates courts. Of a total of some 195 in the local area I counted 17 from EU East European countries, which I suspect is a lower proportion than their numbers in the community and some local sentiment suggest. Many of us, thus, have something of which we can be proud in our refugee ancestry, people who fled terrible oppression, poverty, disaster, ill-fortune, starvation, even simple old fashioned poverty, they came, stayed even if not accepted, had children whose descendents are England, we who made and MAKE it what it is.
If Brexit is people forgetting their roots, it is a betrayal of those who came before that, and the truth is still the truth even if some want to deny it in a vain hope that “things will go back like they used to be”, the refuge(?) of those unwilling to accept the changes that, let’s face it, made England what it is. No, not happy to accept that?
Well ….. Go home Saxons!
Footnote: People in Tintagel will tell you that King Arthur was no myth but existed. Well you ecplain King Arthur’s Pub and car park then …. Seriously, no one seemed to be able to trace the man. Yes, a legend he was born in Tintagel Castle (image above) but NOT that one which is ruined Norman from the 11th Century. Very craggy and right romantic. 5 centuries too late.
In the 1920s there was an archeological dig in the grounds in what were regarded for decades as a 6th century celtic monastery. Not so long back, the University of Strathclyde department of archeology revisited the dig and reinterpreted as a substantial celtic hill fort 6th century (Castle, OK?) with evidence of substantial trade with Spain (Europe, lol). And a most inconvenient shard of pottery which is inscribed with “this place was built by Arthog, son of the High Prince”. Arthog, yes, = Arthur. But not HIM. Nah say the professors, well not necessarily …. Guess what the locals say …. told you all along, and that’s his Car Park.