One Unsung Hero

1939 An American couple ask the aid of a doorman.

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. 

19 thoughts on “One Unsung Hero

  1. An incredible tale that held my interest to the final period; & as a prose poem, the paragraphs ape stanzas, and the words dance to poetic rhythms; liked this one a lot, Gay; thanks.

  2. This is a remarkable story, Gay. It is good that there were brave and good people who tried to help at this time of grave danger for so many. I am sure that so many people owed their survival to her. It shows that one person CAN make a difference. I would like to know more about Martha Sharp. You have whetted my interest.

  3. I had never heard of Martha Sharp, Gay! She is indeed an unsung hero. It is incredible that so many people were saved thanks to her courage and determination.
    Thank you for this great prose poem!

  4. what a heart she has in providing that space for the children…i like the position this takes in history…and how what she hears moves her to action…we need more people willing to do that these days… piece gay

  5. A dreadful time and the acts of courage are evoked strongly in your piece. I remember well meeting families, mos of themt without fathers, newly arrived in Britain. They rebuilt their lives doggedly, learning the language with astonishing speed. The refugee children, without a word of English, were absorbed into my school, quickly rising to the top of the class.

  6. This is the perfect reply to the question of what any one person can do in the face of immense wrong. A capsule of the far greater opus of how many acts of kindness and generosity and tolerance can be perpetuated especially in a time of war. Great stuff, Gay.

  7. Thank you for this informative prose poem Gay – it is good to learn of the courage of others, those who are a fine example of who we all could be.
    Anna :o]

  8. Where i live there is a dedicated area of monuments for all the fallen heroes of wars past…and my favorites of all the one that honors a soldier only known to GOD..

    There are so many unsung soldiesr for our World..who truly do it for LOVE..and no thing..

    You honor those people with your words here..and of course so many this Martha Sharp..that may never get credit..the lily white hands..
    that save the world…
    With all the credit in the Universe..
    Love simply Love.

  9. oh wow – i have to read more about her – risking everything to help others – this is noble and there were some brave people that did that as well – schindler as lydia mentions above… a great write gay

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