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Sunday, September 1, 2013

In light of today's anniversary and the atrocities being committed in Syria, I would like to re-post a blog from 2009.

Today marks 64 years since the Nazis invaded Poland. The "civilized" nations of the world ignored all the signs, or maybe felt it was not their place to stand up to such despicable acts that preceded the invasion. Fortunately Britain did choose the moral high road and a few days later declared war on the Nazi horde. 

A side bar to my American friends: It was over two years before they took a stand against the Nazi brutalization of Europe. Not until their own sovereign turf was threatened by the Axis powers did they opt for action. It only took the sinking of the Lusitania to draw America into WW I. Partial destruction of the Pacific fleet was needed in '41. US isolationism at its best. Something we haven't seen since.

Today though, after watching the events unfold in Syria and the political rhetoric that has ensued, and also watching a re-telling of the events that brought Europe to its knees in supplication for relief, relief from the outrageous brutality of Hitler's war machine, my thoughts turn to an old friend of mine; Paul Grant. This is a small part of his story...

I have an older client by the name of Paul. He has a wonderful story to tell. I need to share it and I hope that he doesn’t mind.

Paul has an absolute positive outlook on life. He is retired from a rewarding career and now travels each year to Europe to photograph trains, waterfalls and interesting architecture. During the warmer months he tries to spend as many days as he can on the Toronto Islands. This summer of course has been so rudely interrupted by the strike. Paul, just like so many other fixed income individuals and families has been adversely affected by this selfish act. Normally, a few times a week Paul would take the Yonge Street subway line to the Island ferry and then spend the day on Centre Island and Ward’s Island.

Paul’s journey started before most of us were born. In 1938, at the age of thirteen, Paul and his older sister moved to England. His father foolishly believed the wave sweeping over Germany and eastern Europe would subside and Paul’s family would soon be reunited. Paul never saw or heard from his mom and dad again.

A year and a few months later the UK Declared war on Germany. Paul and the other teenage boys in his foster home awaited daily for death notices from their homeland. Many arrived, but Paul never received one. His mom and dad simply vanished, never to be seen again. But Paul strived on.

Paul was later to become a British Subject. He has since considered himself to be English and not German. And as a young man he converted to Christianity. Since then an active member in his church.

But Paul never forgot his roots. And he never missed a chance to help and support someone who had suffered the same losses he had. He met others who had been fortunate enough to escape the Nazis and Stalin but had lost family. And those that needed strength he encouraged.

Unfortunately Paul’s sister was never able to overcome the trauma that engulfed her life when her parents became victims of Europe’s anti-Semitism. Later in life she was admitted to psychiatric hospitals because of this trauma. She was never able to overcome the pain inflicted upon her by the devastation in eastern Europe.

Paul has overcome though. He still lives with the memory of his family destroyed by the Nazis. His mom and dad never heard from after 1938 and his sister who died still traumatized by that loss. Yet he is positive.

In my conversation with him last week he told me that we can all get on with our lives no matter what happens. All we need is faith and a positive attitude.

I haven't talked with Paul in a few years. I hope he's well. I'm quite sure that if he is, and able, he's spent a lot of time this summer on the Toronto Islands, or maybe he's visited Europe again. If he has, and has travelled on the trains he loves so much, I hope the people he meets and journeys with, will be more aware of what is happening in this world than those that travelled those trains some seventy years ago.

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