In this blog post, Miriam Gould (half of Double Trouble) reflects on the company’s experience of their ancestors’ forced migration and inheriting that trauma as third generation migrants.
Our Grandparents were forced to leave their homes behind as children. They started a new life in a foreign country, losing family along the way, separated from one or more parent. They each coped with this in their own way, including a natural dose of suppression. Or stoicism, depending on how you look at it.
Our parents, and, specifically in this instance, our mothers, dealt with this in their own ways again. I can only speak for my own mother when I say that my Grandmother’s trauma made her hard and eventually bitter. My mother struggled with the need for unconditional love and in so doing she loves the hell out of me. I have never wanted for unconditional love.
Judita and I come from very different families. Judita’s family were eventually able to return to Lithuania and her grandfather was reunited with his father (he had been imprisoned during their Siberian exile). The difficulties in returning to a home from which you have been expelled are numerous and murky. It takes courage and no small amount of stubbornness to return.
My grandmother left Vienna through the Kindertransport, was kept safe (but unhappy) in what had been a convalescent home for Jews in Sussex with at least twenty other Jewish girls from all around occupied Europe. Eventually she followed her mother to St Louis where they had some distant cousins. They never returned to Vienna. It was no longer home and my grandmother did her best to fit in. I don’t need to lay out all the difficulties in being a refugee, we see these all around us on a daily basis. We should know by now how hard it is.
Judita grew up in Vilnius, her family near to her. Feeling the need for something else, she left home and came to the UK to study at the University of Kent in Canterbury. She has struggled with all the subtleties of being an ‘Eastern European’ in British culture, but has made a home for herself, finding love, friends and a career.
My mother left home and moved to Germany where she met my father and I was born. We moved around and, after my father’s death, we ended up in Holland where I spent the majority of my childhood. Family was a distant concept, as was home. I left home to study in England at the University of Kent, where I met Judita.
We share a lot of third generation migrant traits. We struggle with being considered outsiders while needing to belong. The notion of home is a blur, a dream that has either never existed or we hope one day to find around the next corner. Through working on this show, Adventures in Black and White, we have both found some sort of peace, but it hasn’t been easy.
We are aware that we have voluntarily displaced ourselves, and our struggles can never match those of our ancestors. However, it is undeniable that the trauma of our grandparents’ generation has trickled down and into our cells, into our brains, into our hearts. Having dealt with the pain connected to this ‘unsettling’, we have arrived at a place where we want to celebrate the richness within it. Adventures is both the pain and the joy of this.
Finally, we’d like to mention our Archive for the Displaced, a sister-project of the performance of Adventures in Black and White and a continuation of our exploration of what it means to be a third-generation migrant. For this archive, which will be launched online in 2019, we are collecting displacement/migration stories passed down to children/grandchildren/greatgrandchildren.
We spend so much time working out who we are and what we want from life, especially when we are young. We think it is time to re-establish the link between ourselves in the present and our past, where we come from, through the medium of oral storytelling.
We are not born into a vacuum. We are a part of a chain of people and events and some of these have travelled down to us in the form of stories. The beauty of these stories is not that they represent absolute truth, but they touch on something far more real. Our experience of the world and of ourselves is through stories. And the story our grandparent told us in an unguarded moment tells us something about their world, their experience, and ourselves.