Back story: Multi-national and almost middle class

Between them, my parents amassed some five different nationalities – or six if you allow the double-counting.

My father did his bit, going the most direct route. By dint of being born in 1915, in the Southern part of what is now Poland, but then was a chunk of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he was born Austro-Hungarian.

That was a mild and not unpleasant surprise, a few years back, when his birth certificate came to light (in Latin, natch) and i realised what should have been obvious. He wasn’t born Polish: he became so when that nation was born, shortly before 1920.

Later, he came to the UK where, despite having fought on the Allied side during the war, he was afterward classified as “alien” (which i don’t believe was nationality) and required regularly to report to his local police station.

After a couple of years of this, and understanding that his home country was now for all practical purposes barred to him, he “naturalised”, becoming a UK subject.

My mother, born in 1927 (?) and hence, to my gran’s disgust, seriously younger than my dad when they married was English – and a West Country (Plymouth) girl.

Her difficulty was that despite staarting out as English, her marriage to my father automatically converted her to Polish (and alien, also), before bouncing back to English when he naturalised. Nice, paternalistic, piece of law, that.

Netiehr, happily, then changed to Malay – although since they at one time almost settled in Borneo, i guess that was not altogether impossible.

ALl this nationality-shifting leaves me feeling ever-so-slightly left out. My daughter is dual nationality (Italian-English). My brother has converted to New Zealand-ism. And depending on exactly when my dad naturalised, i have often wondered if my sister was technically born Polish.

Tis a complicated world.

Also complicated for us was “class”. Leaving school at 14 and working in the local munitions factory, my mother was probably working class – despite her own mother’s upardly mobile aspirations which in later life “came out” in the form of running a newsagents in Henley.

My dad…we-ell, Polish “class” was never like the UK system. Before the war was a lot like Edwardian England, with a large rural/working class, a fairly small and exalted middle, and a lot of minor aristocracy.

My dad was educated to a high standard: his family had more than one house. He ski’d well enough to be considered for an Olympic team in the 1930’s. In Polish terms, he was “middle” and privileged. He lost a lot, courtesy of the War.

In the UK, as a GP, he was ineffably middle – although without, i suspect, most of the English class instincts. He never understood cricket, although my mother did.



1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Shirley Anne said,

    What is it with Britain and the class system? Mind you we are not alone in that sphere…..look at India, China…..

    Shirley Anne xxx

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