I’m recording this in the midst of the Covid 19 lockdown here in London, which is an event that I guess will go down in history along with others that affected the world psyche.
But I’m also recording this on Holocaust Remembrance Day; another period in our relatively recent past that continues to leave indelible marks in our collective memory for so many of us.
This year the restrictions imposed on all of us have meant that this special commemoration will be marked digitally. And so, it is with sublime timing, (not intended I assure you), that I digitally introduce you to today’s wonderful guest. Her name is Ruth Posner. She was born in Warsaw Poland and was ten years old when World War II started. Her parents perished in Treblinka and she survived the war with her aunt under an assumed name, later coming to England after the war as a refugee—unable to speak English. She married early in life and enjoyed a career as a dancer, teacher, and choreographer. As an actress she worked in six different countries.
It would be fair to say Ruth, ( now in her nineties ) and looking as sprightly as a woman half her age, has led an incredible life, full of joyous moments as well as tragedy, including the awful loss of her young son.
Ruth was the last guest I was able to meet in person before the Covid restrictions were fully enforced, and I feel blessed to have had the chance to sit with her in her lovely London flat so that she could share her story with you. This is Your London Legacy.
“I will begin by saying that I never really wanted to talk about it. I did not want to talk about my background or story—I found it very painful, but I didn’t want to be a victim.”
Ruth’s incredible story starts at a very young age in a suburb of Warsaw Poland. She remembers those days quite vividly and holds dearly onto words spoken by her parents. Wisdom about how choice can’t be made without knowledge and things that shaped her early on all the way to this day. Unfortunately those memories also come with the dark side of the advent of the second World War—her mother being hit in her home, and her family being removed to a ghetto. Miraculously Ruth’s father was able to get her another identity and through a harrowing sequence of events and trials she was able to escape with her aunt.
“[My aunt] said to me one day when I told her I became an actress, she said: Well your Oscar winning performance was when you had to learn that you were somebody else. My name became Irene…I had a whole story that was like a text.”
As Ruth tells her story she is still in awe of the coincidences and miracles that lined up for her to eventually escape the war and immigrate to England. She says it feels like a fairy tale and indeed it sounds like just the stuff modern day war movies are made of. In fact, as Ruth came into theatre and dancing and acting she has had roles in plays that are written about her and her experiences.
She has though taken a backseat to acting in recent years and instead does work for the Holocaust Educational Trust—speaking to youths about her experiences and how hate gets politicized and can change history. Ruth is enthralled and amazed by the response she gets from her story—and it’s a task she is deeply connected to through the loss of her own son to addiction. a story that you can find in two of her memoirs that I can’t recommend highly enough: Bits and Pieces of my Life & Thoughts and Reflections of an Ageing Actress.
I can’t thank Ruth for sitting down with me to tell her amazing story and if you would like to reach out to her you can at RuthPosner@virginmedia.com
Oh and by the way….that special place that Ruth loves and couldn’t recall is https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/