Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Book Review: Safe Passage by Ida Cook

Safe Passage

Safe Passage
Author:  Ida Cook
Publisher:  Harlequin (2008, first published 1950)
287 pages

"An autobiography should, I suppose, begin at the beginning of one's life.  So - I was born in Sunderland, Durham, the second daughter in a middle-class family of two girls and two boys.  My father was an officer and later a surveyor of Customs and Excise.  As this work entailed a good deal of moving, we four children were all born in different parts of England.  In spite of this, there was always a tremendous sense of stability in our family life."

Safe Passage is, as the subtitle suggests, "The remarkable true story of two sisters who rescued Jews from the Nazis".  When Ida and her sister, Louise, were young women, they developed a love for opera.  At that time they were both working and still living at home.  They began saving money so that they could attend performances at Covent Garden.   Ida boldly sent letters to their favorite stars and was surprised to hear back from some of them.  The sisters became friends with some of the stars and began attending performances outside of England, in other parts of Europe and even the United States.  It was this travel that put them in the perfect position to be able to help refugees get out of dangerous places and into places were they could start a new life.  They never set out to do this, but just fell into it as one of their opera star friends asked them to accompany a friend of theirs to England.  Only later did they really understand what they were doing.  

The Cook family was living in London when the war broke out.  They had finally convinced their mother to stay with relatives in a safer location.  Mr. Cook volunteered with the Home Defense Service as an air-raid warden, both of the brothers were enlisted in the army.  Louise's office had been evacuated to Wales for the first year of the war.  So, Ida and her father were the only family members left in London during the war.  Ida volunteered for night duty at an East End shelter.  Her descriptions of the bombings and of the people she met are fascinating.  

After the war was over, Ida and Louise continued to help displaced people by working with refugees in camps.  I found this interesting as this was an aspect of the war that I didn't know much about.  

"Most of our work consisted of fund-raising for daily fresh milk provision for children under six, or helping to provide treatment and rehabilitation for the many tuberculosis cases.  But we did sometimes go out to visit our camp, and so we came to know some of our cases personally, as well as the wonderful personnel who worked on the spot."

Both of the sisters have such hearts for people of all kinds.  Neither of them ever married, but their family and friends played a large part in their lives.  Their love for others shines through in all of the events related in the book and makes this a heartwarming, enjoyable read.

If you like first-hand accounts of World War II or historical autobiographies, I would recommend this book.  If you are interested in the history of Opera, you will enjoy this book.  If you are just looking for a great story, I would recommend this book.

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