Many Havering residents, alongside the borough’s dignitaries marked Holocaust Memorial Day at a special service in Romford on Sunday 27 January.
The moving service led by Rabbi Lee Sunderland, Rabbi of Romford and District Synagogue, was held in Coronation Gardens, Main Road and focused on this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme ‘Torn From Home’.
The service gave people the opportunity to remember victims of the Holocaust, as well as subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur.
Also in attendance were representatives of the Council, Havering Police, the Royal British Legion and members of the borough’s Jewish community.
Following the service, a reception took place at Romford and District Affiliated Synagogue where Andrew Rosindell MP and Julia Lopez MP gave a short speech. The reception was closed with a talk by Rosina Purnell, an ex-councillor of Havering Council. Rosina’s moving talk bought tears to the eyes of the many listeners as she recounted the story of her family.
She told The Enquirer: “My talk at the Romford Synagogue was about my family and the Polish town they came from before the war. My latest book is called ‘The Past Was Foreign Country – They Did Things Differently There’ and covers various acts of heroism by both Jews and non-Jews during and after the Second World War’.
Rosina continued “The book is also a tribute to my father who wrote a moving and detailed narrative of his childhood visit to Poland in 1923 with my grandfather.
“Because of his detailed account of the visit we have a unique and detailed record of Jewish family life in the early 1920s.
“My talk was also about the life of my grandfather who came here from Poland in 1911, aged just 17. He volunteered in WW1 and then ran a very successful tailoring business in East Ham.”
She added “My grandfather was an economic migrant who became well assimilated into British life and culture.
“He worked hard and built up a successful business. However, he lost all his Polish family in the Holocaust.”
Romford MP Andrew Rosindell told The Enquirer: “Today is a solemn day, a day we remember the people not just from the holocaust but from all the atrocities we have seen across the world since the Second World War and they are still going on today.
“We pledge to fighter a peaceful world where tolerance and humanity is respected rather than those to seek to spread hatred and division.”