Joan Zilva

Text Box: An  account of a 14 year old’s WW2 overseas evacuation based on her letters home



Chapter Two Part 2

Text Box: The omens were bad from the start.
Text Box: Up to now I had been with other English children and it had been an adventure that pushed reality to the back of my mind.  Now I was on my own in strange surroundingsText Box: Trying to keep my spirits up!
Text Box: At least I had now learnt that Canada has Provinces, not States.
Text Box: Oh dear! A spelling error.
Text Box: Boys!
Text Box: I had thought it very unlikely that we saw the Northern lights so far south. Since then I have been assured, by an astronomer, that it was quite possible.
Text Box: I remember this well.  For some reason I felt quite emotional.
Text Box: Since I had never been to France and had been taught French by an English teacher, I don’t know that I was qualified to say that the French was “funny”.
Text Box: This “bridge”, which we feared we might not clear, must have been the Victoria Bridge over the St Lawrence between Quebec and Montreal , since that was where we disembarked. 
Text Box: We still seem to be the only country with raised platforms.  Because this brings the levels of the platform and the train interior closer, it is much                                                                                                                                          easier to get on,                                                                                                                           especially with a                                                                                                                                           lot of luggage.
Text Box: I had trouble spelling “professor” for ages.  I’ve mastered it now!
Text Box: They gave us peanut butter sandwiches and Coca Cola as a treat.  None of us had ever had either before, hated both, and surreptitiously put the sandwiches in the waste bin and the Coke down the sink.  I still don’t like Coke.
Text Box: I think that these were students.  I thought they were very sophisticated.  One was dressed in pale blue and I remember her as “the blue lady”. Another new and more successful gastronomic experience.
Text Box: My spelling of Greta seems a bit variable, but interestingly her name is spelt as Gretta on the original Duchess of Atholl passenger list.  For this reason I don’t know which is right.
Text Box: Will new tastes never end?
Text Box: War Guests was a thoughtful name given to us instead of refugees.  It was not only polite, but implied that we would be going home again.  Very well thought out.
Text Box: The Toronto Hospital for Sick Children (otherwise known as “the Sick Kids”) is, of course, world famous.  I visited it very many years later in a totally different capacity
Text Box: Lake Ontario
Text Box: Of course I did pick up the accent, although when I left they still thought I had an English one.  When I got home my father said that he couldn’t understand me - a great homecoming.  I became very self-conscious about it.
Text Box: There it is again - “Proffessor”
Text Box: Oh dear!  Another spelling lapse.
Text Box: I presume this was a Mantoux test.  I was unusual because, in those days, almost everyone had been exposed to TB - even those in good living conditions.
Text Box: Greta and Graham and I, not realizing the distances in Canada, had planned to cycle over to meet for the day occasionally!
Text Box: I remember this wait as most traumatic.  I was one of the last to be fetched.  I looked at all the other “parents” and decided which ones I wished I were going with.  I was very apprehensive. I felt a bit like a stray dog in Battersea Dogs’ Home waiting for a new owner to choose him.  As it turned out, I was one of those who drew a short straw.  I realized it almost at once.
Text Box: The tedious  obsession with  listing meals reflects insecurity and, later, boredom.  The reader will have to put up with, or skip, the descriptions until happier times arrive.
Text Box: I was a guest at the Granite Club many years later, when I could appreciate it. Then I was not used to sophistication.
Text Box: Make-up and perms did not feature high in my list of virtues!
Text Box: I was far from “ladylike” then - or now.  I know that the billeting authorities must have had huge logistical problems, but they obviously didn’t know my tastes and interests.  This was an understandable error of judgment, but they made worse errors in this placing.  More to come.

Continued account of the journey

Montreal, July 30th