Standing talking to the doorman outside Grosvenor House, an American woman
and man seem to be a couple on holiday in London. The day was cold but not as
cold or surreal as the year, 1939. Craziness, the jazz, the modern, the movement
of life, of energy, of hate, of joy, of transcendence, of all things joyous, or all things
monstrous were being placed into the cauldron that was Europe.
A spring day in April, the cruelest month was more cruel than any dreamed of in1922
by Eliot. This chill wind heralded the beginnings of genocide, the power of a mentally
diseased tyrant plotting world domination by setting the planet on fire, by destroying
millions of lives and changing life on earth forever after.
This gentle looking couple were not lovers or married. She, who only sought
peace, this Unitarian woman from Boston named Martha Sharp had seen what was
happening in Poland and in Prague. She had already arranged shelter for 35 refugee
children, was seeking a place for many more. The man may have been a friend,
a secret British agent, an American spy, or a wealthy American Jew.
The map of Greater London was meant to help them persuade people there, in a country teetering on the brink of war to stretch beyond personal safety, to comprehend the incomprehensible, to find a center of courage. This brave woman would find homes for many, many young children ripped from all they knew and housed in a foreign land with a strange language to assure the continuance of a faith, of a culture, of a people whose history had been marked by movement, a diaspora begun six centuries before Christ. Like so many that year and the following ones, she simply decided to risk everything to save others.
© Gay Reiser Cannon * 1.30.2014 * All Rights Reserved
The photograph is one from the Getty Collection of Vintage Pictures.