Hornchurch author's new book tells the tale of her family's struggle against antisemitism in 20th century Poland

PUBLISHED: 15:00 29 January 2019

Rosina Purnell has written a book about her family leaving Poland due to the persecution of Jews. Photo: KEN MEARS

Rosina Purnell has written a book about her family leaving Poland due to the persecution of Jews. Photo: KEN MEARS


A Hornchurch author’s new book tells the tale of her family’s long journey from Poland to London’s east end as they fled the persecution of Jews in eastern Europe in the early 20th century.

Rosina Purnell, of Osborne Road, describes the impact the Holocaust has had on her family in her new book – The Past Was a Foreign Country – They Did Things Differently There.

Her grandfather left a small town in eastern Poland in 1911, aged just 17. He came on his own and could speak no English. It was the terrible persecution of Jews there at that time in Siedlce that caused him to leave.

He worked hard and became an enterprising master tailor in Upton Park. His business was extremely successful and he actually made the Mayor of West Ham’s suit that he wore for the Queen’s Coronation in 1953 at Westminster Abbey.

Rosina gave a short talk about her book at a special reception at the Romford and District Synagogue in Eastern Road on Holocaust Memorial Day.

The audience was shocked at the atrocities which had been committed in this very small town, which is about the same size as Romford.

She told the Recorder: “I think it really stunned people to hear my family’s backstory. I’ve lived in Havering for 50 years and I think people should realise these stories are still effecting people, years down the line.

“This book isn’t really about the Holocaust, it’s about the persecution of the Jews from as early as the 1900s – that’s what really caused my grandfather to leave Poland.

“It’s important that these stories are told to future generations, so that they can be properly remembered.”

Rosina, wanted to give in her book a snapshot view of how the Holocaust has affected her family for three generations.

She has made several visits to Poland to do further research.

She has also used this time to find out about acts of heroism and selflessness which have involved Jews and non-Jews over many years.

The book is now on sale at Swan Books in Corbets Tey Road, Upminster.

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