Like many others no doubt, I have fond memories of sitting in the cottage next to the National Holocaust Centre, that was home to Marina and Eddie, and enjoying such warm and generous hospitality.
There was a strong sense of being at home, it just felt familiar; just as you would be having a cup of tea and a chat with your grandparents.
Above all, I recall Marina’s curiosity to get to know her guests; she was single-mindedly interested to hear from them; their experiences, reflections and motivations. She was a good listener, and she would be absorbed in people’s stories such that she could then recount them in conversation.
From speaking to many of the survivors who then volunteered and spoke at the Centre, they felt an enormous sense of gratitude. As well as establishing the physical place where they and their audience would visit, there was a feeling that they had been empowered by her drive to create a Centre in their name. Marina facilitated their need to talk which complemented the audiences’ interest and need to hear.
Gratitude also for establishing a place of remembrance, for introspection and where loved ones who perished are memorialised.
On a personal level, Marina wanted to better understand just how the AJR supported our members. It felt, somehow, reassuring for her to know what was being done – in the wider sense – to assist, honour and support Holocaust survivors and refugees and their families.
You will have seen that in the preparation for today’s service, Stephen and James asked guests to consider three words that defined their mother. But, although it’s not possible to summarise Marina in only three words, I would go for “visionary” for conceptualising and establishing a Centre that for a generation has held a special place in the hearts of so many people around the world, and “altruistic” for giving so much of herself to others.
My third word is “gemütlichkeit”, which Stephen assures me will be the first time that word has been used to describe his mother. The translation of gemutlich is much debated among the German-speaking Jewish refugees. Some describe it as cosy or comfortable, which certainly applies to the cottage, but gemütlichkeit itself can translate to warmth, geniality, or friendliness, and seems to perfectly encapsulate Marina, who touched the lives of so many people and who will be rightly forever remembered with great fondness.