Off Haverstock Hill

Short, plump, elderly
German Jewish woman
Wandering into the shared kitchen,
Sniffing at my cooking
Saying “how can you eat such food Herr Schaufeld?
Come, have some of my good chicken.”

Mrs Brietman, marching into our small rented room
Changing the light bulb to a lower wattage
Turning off the electric fire
Shouting “I can’t afford this waste,”
Leaving me chilled
Marking exercise books in the semi darkness.

Taking a long holiday
trusting us to manage her flat
returning, only to mutter accusingly
“What have you done with my dressing gown, Herr Schaufeld?”
Before seeing it through bleary eyes
Hanging on its accustomed hook.

Playing bridge half the night
Sustained by endless cups of strong black coffee
One cigarette lit from another
A lone survivor planted in England’s Lane.

Vera Schaufeld

Vera Schaufeld was born in Prague in 1930 and grew up in a very happy Jewish family. Her father was a Czech lawyer and her mother was a doctor. Her mother was born in Germany but finished her medical studies in the German department of Prague University after she married her father. Vera's nurse became her mother's receptionist. Vera's maternal grandmother left Germany in 1934 aged 80 and came to live with her, knowing no Czech, aged 80. Vera met her husband a survivor of many camps in Israel and married in Kibutz Nitzanim. After returning to England they had two daughters and now have four grandchildren and one great-grandson.