In the Beginning

I had my first experience of abuse when I was about four years of age.  I remember being spat at by some of the other kids in the street where we lived. 

Looking back, I guess it all started when my parents, who were originally from Poland, came to the UK after the war in 1947.  Having experienced life in a free, pre-war Poland, their reluctance to return to a country which had been sold out to Stalin at Yalta was understandable.  They very nearly ended up in Canada, but the decision to come to England was swayed by the fact that my father had a distant cousin living in Nottingham.  It was a tenuous link, but living in a post-war world filled with the fear of uncertainties, it was a link nonetheless.  It must have been such a daunting experience for my parents, trying to build up some sort of life in a new country amidst unfamiliar surroundings and people, especially as neither of them spoke English. 

But then, the previous six years had brought with them unimaginable terror and hardship; that time between 1939 and 1945 when so many nations of our world took up arms, united in a common goal –  the fight for freedom and democracy.  It is a time that must surely be considered as one of the greatest blights upon the world’s history; a time when death and destruction reigned supreme and there was no hiding place or safe haven for anyone.  

My parents were among the one and a half million Poles who were deported by the NKVD to the gulags in Siberia in 1939.  Two long years followed which can only be described as a feat of endurance, courage and fortitude.  They survived the sub-zero temperatures, the starvation, the heavy work and the appalling living conditions which brought with them a surfeit of disease and infestation. My father suffered frostbite in his chin, and my mother had to walk alone through miles of snow covered forests inhabited by wild wolves in order to reach the nearest town and get him medication.  It sounds like something out of a novel or film, doesn’t it?  During that time, my parents had a little boy, my oldest brother.  Had he lived, he would have been in his seventies now, but the terrible conditions led to his death at only eight months old.

After they were granted amnesty by Stalin in the August of 1941, my parents travelled to the Buzuluk area, where my father joined the Polish armed forces in the East under General Wladyslaw Anders. The army was created in the Soviet Union, but in the March of 1942, it evacuated the USSR and made its way across the Caspian Sea to Iran. Thousands of Polish prisoners, men, women and children were forced to walk from the southernmost border of the Soviet Union (the present day location of Turkmenistan) to British hands in Iran. Many perished from the long walk.  There were many Jewish people who joined Anders’ army, and amongst them was a man called Menachem Begin, who not only became a veteran, but was later destined to become the sixth Prime Minister of Israel. 

The army crossed into Palestine where it passed under British command and provided the bulk of the units and troops of the Polish II Corps taking part in the fighting in Italy.  My father became one of General Anders’ bodyguards and saw active service in Italy at the battle of Monte Cassino, for which he was awarded a medal.  During that time, my mother was in different refugee camps and it was in Tehran that my now eldest brother was born.  Mum has often told me how kind the Iranian people were to her.  I would like to thank them for showing such goodness and compassion towards a lonely young woman of barely twenty-three and her child, a woman far away from home and family who had already endured so much, living with the constant fear that she would never see her husband again. I can’t even begin to imagine how terrible this must have been, not just for my mother but for all those who lived and continue to live through the horrors of war. 

But my parents were destined to survive. The war ended and they came to England.  They spent the following few years living in various refugee camps across the UK.  My second-oldest brother was born in Wales and then, in the early Fifties, my family came to live in the south west of England, and I was born towards the end of that decade.   After years of meandering around the globe, they were offered a home, the first proper home they had had in fifteen years.  It was a local authority owned house made from breeze blocks and reinforced concrete but to my parents, it was a palace.  It heralded a new beginning, a place where they could start again; a place where they could belong. They lived in that house for over fifty years. You know the old saying “home is where the heart is”.  I think that’s especially true of me because even though I left the family home behind many years ago and went on to build up a nest of my own, that first little sanctuary from so long ago still is and always will be where I belong.

People endure so much in their lives.  For many, merely surviving on a daily basis can be such a struggle, very much as it was for my parents and the millions of others like them.  Just like it is today because times may change but sadly, people don’t.

Sometimes, when I think about all this, there’s just one thing I don’t understand.  Why did those kids spit at us in the street?    

 

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Mine is the Law

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“Mine is the Law” by A. M. Robus is available from Amazon UK and USA

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March 9, 2013 · 12:31 pm

My Inspiration

As I talked a lot about inspiration in my last post, I thought I would tell you about the source of mine.

I have been a Bruce Springsteen fan for many years, and it was his song “The Price You Pay” (from the album “The River”) that inspired me to write my novel. I loved it from the moment I first heard it and over the years that followed, it pretty much became my song. It saw me through good times, and not so good ones. This will probably sound a bit pathetic, but I almost viewed it as an old friend.  It was always there for me, just waiting to be played.  It didn’t judge me or criticise me. I could just close my eyes, lose myself in the music and find a little inner peace, albeit for a short while.

I really don’t know why this particular song had such an impact on me, as Bruce has written so many great songs. Because he is such a wonderful story teller, it was the lyrics that captured my imagination. I appreciate that their meaning will be subject to individual interpretation, but for me, they are about the decisions and choices we make every day, and how these can ultimately influence the paths we follow in life. And we all know it’s true. Everything has a price. You make your choices, you take your chances and then you pay for them.

The choices we make may be driven by need (like that job 1000 miles away which offers career progression and more money), but the price you pay is leaving behind family and friends.  Sometimes they are driven by love, like the individual who gives up part of his or her own life to care for a loved one who is sick or disabled.  There are also situations in which we have no control and decisions are made for us, like someone serving in the armed forces who’s sent to the front line.

And then there are the myriad of other reasons. The choices we make fuelled by anger, hatred, jealousy, lust, greed, spite and fear. They are all such dangerous weapons. They have the power to make us do things without giving a damn about the consequences and the consequences are the price you pay.

There are some people who make the decision to do things for the sheer hell of it and because they can.  I’m talking about those who pick on a particular individual because that person is a little bit different somehow. Perhaps it’s the colour of their skin or what they believe in. Perhaps it’s because they’re too thin or too fat, too tall or too short.  Maybe they wear glasses or have goofy teeth?  A bit spotty perhaps?  Is it possible that they have some illness or disability?  The problem might be the colour of their hair or that they’re a bit quiet and then we get to the really scary bit, there may simply be no reason at all.

The list seems to go on and on. Is there no end to it? Bullying a person is so unnecessary. Isn’t merely getting through each day tough enough as it is, without causing someone else that extra bit of misery and pain?  I just don’t understand it. No-one should feel threatened or frightened. Everyone deserves to find a little bit of happiness in this world, because life is bad enough as it is without people making it worse.

These things are important to me and always will be because I know how it feels to be victimised, me and the millions of other people out there like me.  And this is what prompted me to write my novel “Mine is the Law”. You see, it’s true what people say about time. It is a great healer and eventually you learn how to forgive but unfortunately what it doesn’t teach you is how to forget.  And in Bruce’s words, it’s the price you pay.

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The Eureka Moment

So, you want to write a novel  – but where do you begin? Firstly, you need to ask yourself a few questions – who are you? Do you know what makes you tick? What are you interested in? What do you feel passionate about? Who or what inspires you? When I was going through this process, I discovered how important it was to embark upon a little bit of self discovery to try and determine my own identity and the things that mattered to me. I soon realised that there were many things I cared about, some of which had been engendered by my own life experiences.

We all know how hard it is to come up with an original idea. Everything you can think of seems to have been done before. I think the best we can sometimes hope for is somehow coming up with a fresh spin on an old idea and we all know how difficult even that can be. There are thousands of books out there. What are you going to do to set yours apart from the rest? I think we’d all love to know the answer to that one! I have heard it said that you should never share your ideas with anyone, especially not with other writers so always be mindful. When you get what I call “the Eureka moment”, when that wonderful idea starts flashing in your head, never tell anyone.  The world will know soon enough after you’ve written your novel and it’s been published but until then, it must remain your little secret.

It’s exciting, isn’t it? That first seed has been sewn and your mind is buzzing. If you’re planning a work of fiction, you will be creating people in some kind of situation. You will be the one who controls what happens to them. You will be the master of your very own universe with power over life and death so use it wisely. Create a structure for your work in terms of what will happen in each chapter and then start putting flesh on the bones.

Thousands and thousands of words will follow and every step will be  hard, but don’t lose heart. Always remember that we as writers are highly privileged beings because we can create and control  and there are very few people on this earth who get to play God.

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The Struggle

Writing is hard!  It’s unbelievably hard!  It takes a lot of commitment, focus and determination not to mention fortitude.  Sometimes it can feel as if you’re climbing the highest mountain, always wondering whether you will ever reach the summit.  Nothing can prepare you for its rigours, demands and frustrations.  We know all this and yet we still do it.  Why?  I guess the answer to that is quite simple.  We are in love with writing and this love helps us to persevere.  Writing can be a cruel mistress, testing your endurance to its very limits but when the rewards come, there are no words on earth to describe them.

When I hear people talk about writing a novel “one day”, it’s often said so casually, almost flippantly.  Do they know what they’re talking about? Do they realise how difficult it is?  Do they have what it takes to climb that mountain?

Fellow writers, I would love to hear your experiences with writing and the publishing world.  I know how tough it is out there but if you want to succeed, you have to be tougher than the rest.

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An Introduction

Writing has always been my dream, my passion, even from a very young age.  As a little girl, I can remember sitting in my room for hours on end, writing short stories and poetry whilst the other kids played outside. I’m 54 now, but I still have the exercise books containing all the work from so long ago. My mother was very sentimental and couldn’t bear to throw away any of my literary masterpieces, so everything ended up being kept. I’m so grateful to her now, because every once in a while, I take them out and read through them. Some of them make me laugh, some of them make me cry but most of all, they make me realise that some things never change.

After many years, I have taken up the pen once again. As a writer, injecting realism into my characters is very important to me. I want readers to identify and empathise with them. I want them to be just like you and me. Unfortunately, our world is such that we can’t all be outstandingly beautiful or handsome or be well accomplished in all walks of life. If we were, just imagine how boring life would be. There would be nothing to aim for, nothing to strive for. There would be no motivation to do anything and without motivation life is pretty meaningless.

What do you think?

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