My new theatre show, My Mother’s Shoes will be premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe this August. It will be on at the Laughing Horse @ Bar 50 (Venue 151, room ‘Upstairs’) in 50 Blackfriars Street, EH1 1N3, near Cowgate, from 3-25 August (but not Mondays) at 12.15pm (1 hour), box office 0131 524 1989.
The show will look at my late mum’s incredible life and our relationship. My mum lived through deportation to Siberia from Poland during World War 2. Not many people know Stalin had around 1.7 million Poles deported east in four massive waves, and my mum was in one of them.
It was a terrifying time. Imagine, the NKVD or ‘secret police’ coming in the middle of the night for you, three knocks at the door… and just fifteen minutes to pack before going who knew where. They took the fathers first, and then they came back for the rest of the families. Then they were taken on month-long journeys in cattle trains to different gulags across the Soviet Union.
Mum was in Siberia for six years, from the age of two. She lost her mother and sister out there to TB, so she and her brother were, in essence, orphaned. She did not know that her father had been released in 1941 from another part of the Soviet Union, and had joined Anders Army, which involved crossing the Soviet Union, travelling through Persia and fighting at Monte Cassino. It was the Red Cross and its tracing service that reunited mum and her father in England in 1957, seventeen years later.
‘Siberia, Siberia, why do you always want to know about Siberia?’ mum would say. ‘There was nothing there! Just snow and wolves… and sometimes there was no night because of the light on the snow’.
My mum survived all that, but the drama did not end there. While in England visiting her father, she fell dangerously ill. The consequences of her illness – and of all the trauma of being in Siberia – trickled down the generations… to us, to me.
The things mum was quietest about, have proved to be the loudest.
Find out about legacy, history and life with all its twists and turns in this my most personal show, My Mother’s Shoes, this August, in Edinburgh.
Do we walk in our mothers’ shoes by choice or because of how we have been moulded?
For more information, or a press interview, contact Karola via Twitter @karolagajda