by Donna McGuinness
Children cried in fear, terror and confusion. Those years would pass, and perhaps painlessly. Yet the war kept the memories inside, where the scar is buried deep.
Jean was a 5 year old who resided in Hastings, England. As the youngest of 6, she coped with hardships, but her childhood was happy and fun-filled.
Summer came to an end and Germany had invaded France. Officials had backed all children off coastal towns in England.
When Jean entered into the hectic railroad depot, a tall man snatched Jean away from her mum. He proudly wore a British arm band, and mud-stained rubber boots. Jean tugged at the troopers fingers around her wrist, but his grip was too strong. She screamed for her mother.
“Leave her! Please!” said Kath, who stood behind Dora.
“I don’t want to go!” said Jean.
“Luv, I want to make sure your name is in your coat. ‘Jean Waters’ that’s your name.” Kath said with a smile. “Look, you have a postcard with a stamp on it?” She nervously kissed Jean on her tear soaked face, but pretended to keep cool.
Dora held back her tears. “Listen my girl, brightens! Be a brave girl for mummy. I’m sure the man will have a sweet for you? Go on now.” She hugged her tight, but the man was already pulling on Jeans arm.
The official took Jean, still screaming and crying. Dora and Kath were doing nothing, but listening for Jean crying out their names.The lump that began to form in Dora’s throat was now stinging behind her eyes. She had been brave for Jean, but the emotions she felt had to be released.
Jean arrived at a local village with the volunteers and many children positioned themselves with foster families. Jean was picked by an elderly couple who lived in Glasgow, Scotland.
The Campbell’s took Jeans hand to catch the train, but she forced them apart. All she did was continually rub her eyes and yawn. She had made an attempt to keep vigil by looking out the train window, but the trains constant motion eventually sent her to sleep.
Jean finally awoke and Mr. Campbell reached down for her chin with his hand and said, “Lassie, why are ye still crying?”
“I wish to go home.” Jean sobbed.
“Lass, we be going hame soon, and then ye have food. Will ye like that?” Mrs. Campbell sat beside her.
“Yes, thank you.” Jean sniffed, but she still wanted her Mum.
“Well now, the ‘Blue Train’, she’s almost here in Glescae!” He exclaimed, looking out of the window.
The train finally stopped. Jean stood, still upset, but Mr. Campbell picked her up over his shoulder. She started feeling a bit better, yet trembled too.
“Still hungry lass?” Mr. Campbell asked.
Suddenly, she saw a strange look inside Mr. Campbell’s eyes. He said, “Lass, we came a long voyage, now ye ours. Please call us Faither and Mither.”
“I have a Mummy and Daddy!” stamping her feet.
Mrs. Campbell wryly grinned, and said, “Now ye have two”.
Jean was too tired to understand this. They were so helpful on the train? Why were they thinking she was their daughter? She missed home.
The bus arrived, and twenty minutes later they were at home. Mrs. Campbell brought her inside and said, “Would you like a little bit of eggs and fried bread lassie?”
“Yes, please!” answered Jean.
“When you’re finished, go to your room Jimmy. It’s getting late!” Mrs. Campbell said in a trancelike state.
“I’m not Jimmy?!” Jean said shaking.
Mr. Campbell was right behind his wife and heard what she said, “Lass, eat your eggs and go to your room, now!”
“Yea, yea, yes..” Jean sobbed again.
“Stop your sniffling! Mrs. Campbell didn’t aim to call you Jimmy! Now finish!”
Jean rushed through supper, and Mr. Campbell spoke silently with his wife. Jean didn’t know what was mistaken with her?
“Lass, ye our daughter, we are entitled to be called Mam and Pa, we saved ye from the bombs!” Mr. Campbell yelled.
“No!” Jean screamed back.
“You best watch yourself lass, I’m not calling in me markers to take care of a wee devil.”
From that moment on she knew she had to run. “Why were they nice at first? What’s wrong?” thought Jean.
They dragged her upstairs and said, “Since you’re not being friendly to us, you’ll keep to the house. After you wake up, maybe you’ll think again bairn!”
“You’re not my Mummy and Daddy!” Over and over she cried, no one listened. Finally she looked around. This was a large closet with a cot and a window! Jean held her dolly and cried.
Jean didn’t go to sleep. She was set on staying in her coat, it identified her. She looked out the window, the roof was straw, she could slide down. Quietly she tried opening the window, it was old and stiff, but it budged. She grabbed her dolly, and suitcase.
Carefully she clambered onto the ledge. Fearful of falling, she put it behind her. This wasn’t her home. She slide down, landing right on her bottom. Nothing would stop her. Jean rose to her feet, and ran without looking back.
Suddenly she felt a tug on her coat. “Let go of me!” she screamed. Jean didn’t know Mr. Campbell was up before the sun, he wasn’t about to let go of his meal ticket.
“You’ll stay here, BONNIE LASSIE, until I say, but you’ll learn a lesson ye never will forget” with arms wailing at his face, he pulled her like a rag doll. “Now hunker over!”
“No, NO!” Tears began gushing.
“Hunker over or I’ll thrash you till you bleed!” Jean was hysterically crying. She hunkered over and Mr. Campbell took a switch, and whipped her twice. “Now bairn, once for disobeying, and twice for running, next time will be worse. Run down to the house and remember who we are!”
Jean remembered who they were: mean, old and hateful people. The man in authority, who made her call him ‘faither’ worked her on his farm, it’s not like she was a boy. The woman, she had to call her ‘mither’ dressed Jean as her son. Jimmy had died a long time ago and they couldn’t let go of him.
The woman never brushed her hair, or even gave her a bath. She was dirty & nearly starving.
The beatings were continuous. Jean would cry herself to sleep saying, “Kath, you promised.”
One day she found the postcard in her coat with a stamp on it! Her address was already on it and all she had to do was put the Campbell’s return address on. She kept watching for Mrs. Campbell, this was the time when she fed the chickens. Jean ran to the back of the house to make sure Mr. Campbell was milking the cows. He was, but the postcard had to be short, she had one chance:
please get me. everything is not fine. I am being beaten! please?
The postman was due at 10 am. The Campbell’s could not see her by the postbox.
“Good Morning Bonnie Lass,” he said
“Good Morning, Mr. White”. She said “Mr. White, I forgot, the officials told us to send this along to our homes and I forgot, it’s so late now.”
“Ah las, I’ll attend to the postcard, for ye.”
“Thank you Mr. White!” Jean smiled.
“Don’t you worry now. Have a good day!” with that he gave her a wave.
Months went by and no news came from England. One night they were all sitting below having supper. Mr. Campbell never allowed talking and Jean was only allowed minimal portions. Suddenly, a knock was heard.
“Who’s that during my suppertime Mrs.Campbell?!”
“I don’t know? Would you want me to see?” he nodded stuffing his mouth. Mrs. Campbell rose from the table, slowly walking to the main entrance. Jean wasn’t even paying attention.
“May I help ye?” Mrs. Campbell asked.
“My name is Miss Kathleen Waters, I’m here for my sister. I’m not leaving without her!” Jean heard her sisters voice and jumped off the table, knocking her chair over. Mr. Campbell jumped up, tripping over the chair.
“Kath! You came!” Jean jumped right into her arms.
“Darling! My luv, how couldn’t I after I got your post!” Kath said while kissing her face.
“Here, here, you can’t take this lass! She’s mine!” He said.
“No! She’s not yours! She’s my sister! I won’t leave without her on my arm!
“Jean bend over.” Jean bent over.
“What are those scars Mr. Campbell? You bastard! How dare you strike a 5 year old! I’ve contacted the local police force. You lied, saying you’ve never had foster children! You’re an abuser! You both disgust me.” Kath spat out.
“Come here my luv! Get your coat, suitcase and dolly, we’re going home. No one will ever put a scar on you again.”
Michael Shawn says
Excellent! Reminds me of my mum during the war! She would always tell me stories of the war…they’re never forgotten!