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Ursula Owen

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
August 1938
Born in UK, received exit papers to travel to the UK
Mode of Arrival:

Ursula was born in Oxford in 1937. Her mother Emma Sachs had travelled from Berlin to Oxford to give birth to Ursula, as Ursula’s parents believed that it would be an advantage to have been born in Britain. Ursula’s mother had done the same for her brother’s birth in 1933. In both cases the mother stayed for six weeks with family members who had emigrated to the UK and then returned to Germany. Ursula’s father was a chemical engineer and together with his cousin ran metal company called ‘Gesellschaft fuer Mettalurgie’. The company was aryanised and the parents received exit papers to leave to the UK in July 1938. The children were left in Berlin with the grandparents. Six weeks later the German nanny brought the children to Holland, where their father waited for them. From there they flew to the UK.  

And people are quite scornful about assimilation. I mean, I see it when I read books, too. I think a lot of Jews felt that assimilation, the desire for German Jews to assimilate, was partly responsible for what happened. That they kidded themselves that they were part of the society when they weren’t. Lots of stuff like that. And there was a very- quite an antagonistic feeling.

So... I went up the side path [to the house in Berlin Dahlem where her parents used to live], ... and I burst into tears. It was sort of something about... being in the place where you were first- when you first were. And of course you don’t - if you’re exiled you don’t have that. You can’t touch the place where you came from.

Well I don’t feel very English. I never have. And I think- I used to feel myself as an outsider, and then I discovered that most people do. Most people do for this reason or that. When I wrote that 6,000 word piece and people read it in the book. People wrote to me and said, “Yeah, I feel just the same about class.” You know, I think- but I think I did also discover gradually, slowly, and that was partly because of the context of the world we were living in, that... it was a good, quite a good place to be, in the margins.

Yes, well I certainly would say that being an outsider has huge advantages, so long as you can get over the- the anxiety about it.

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@ Refugee Voices 2020

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