Tuesday, 21 September 2021

The Duchess Highlights the Healing Power of Nature for the Children of Yesterday and Today

It was a day of significant engagements for the Duchess of Cambridge in the Lake District. Kate attended two very different events in Cumbria, covering a cause close to her heart -- the enormous lifelong impact the outdoors and nature has on children -- the children today emerging from a life-changing pandemic, and the children of yesterday desperately requiring a time of healing and recuperation in the wake of the atrocities of World War II.

Ahead of the Duchess' arrival, Kensington Palace said, "The Duchess of Cambridge passionately believes that spending time outdoors plays a pivotal role in children and young people’s future health and happiness, building foundations that last over a lifetime by encouraging active exploration and the opportunity to form and strengthen positive relationships."

Just over two years ago, the Cambridges travelled to the Lake District to celebrate the resilience and spirit of rural and farming communities in the region. During a chat with a local farming family, Kate revealed she had recently taken George, Charlotte and Louis for a short holiday over a recent half-term break. She said they had a splendid time exploring and walking in the fells despite rainy weather. It's understood the Middleton family enjoyed trips to the mountainous area many times over the years, and I wondered if the tradition hadn't continued with Kate and Pippa's children.

In her role as Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, Kate began the day by joining a group of young Air Cadets for fun and adventurous activities, including mountain biking. The late Duke of Edinburgh passed the patronage to the Duchess in 2015, following 63 years in the role of Air Commodore-in-Chief.

Kensington Palace shared a clip of the action.

The Telegraph reports:

'Thirteen-year-old Itelouwa Odipe, from Lancaster, spoke to the duchess, who is Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, as she waited to try abseiling.

He said: "She was about to abseil and I was next in line so she asked me if I wanted to go before her. I was a bit scared so I said no. She said if I did she would meet me down there."

The teenager spoke to her again after deciding not to brave the drop. "She said it was really good and I should try it," he said.

"I think she was very kind. Even though she is a Royal Highness, she still does things normal humans do."'

Time for a spot of abseiling.

The royal visit coincided with the reopening of the RAF Air Cadets’ Windermere Adventure Training Centre following a £2 million refurbishment. The centre will see visits by cadets from all over the UK and enable them to spend time in the Lake District, participating in a number of outdoor adventures which often lead to achieving a Duke of Edinburgh award.

More from the Mail:

'Abby Armstrong, 14, from Lancaster, said: 'I found out this morning we would be meeting her and it was a total shock. I was just like 'wow'. She was very nice and not what I was expecting, she was more down to earth.'

The duchess also spoke to former cadet Emma Wolstenholme, 39, who is planning to row across the Atlantic to raise funds for the organisation in its 80th anniversary year.

Ms Wolstenholme said: 'She thinks it's incredible, an amazing challenge. It's such a great cause. I joined the cadets at 13 and went from being the quietest kid in the school to one of the more confident, outdoorsy and adventurous ones.'

The National RAF Air Cadet Adventurous Training Centre revealed its Windermere centre "operates 24/7, providing 7 day residential adventurous training and leadership courses for over 40,000 RAFAC adult staff and cadets was in a poor state of repair due to excessive use and age. Now thanks to funding the centre can  accommodate 68 bed spaces compared to the original allocation of 43". There was extensive roof work completed, and the buildings underwent a full mechanical, electrical and security upgrade.

A video with plenty of footage from the day's activities.

The Lake District, which was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017, welcomes millions of visitors each year.

From there, Kate embarked on a boat trip with two of the 'Windermere Children'.

The Windermere Children are a group of three hundred child Holocaust survivors who travelled to stay in the Lake District to recuperate and begin a journey of healing in 1945, following the unimaginable trauma and pain they endured in concentration camps and the ghettos of Nazi-occupied Europe.

The Duchess was interested to hear about the support they received at Calgarth Estate, including art therapy and outdoor recreation. Calgarth was a wartime housing scheme built for aircraft factory workers. When the children arrived they were surprised to have their own rooms, but it was vital to give them the privacy they had been so cruelly deprived of for so long. As they settled in, they described the area as "paradise". Survivor Sam Laskier later said, "The experience in Windermere was wonderful. Everyone looked after us tremendously well."

More from the Lake District Holocaust Project:

'Following liberation, June 1945 the Home Office finally gave permission for a thousand Jewish orphans aged from eight to sixteen to be brought to the UK for recuperation, and ultimate re-emigration overseas. The Home Office were made aware that it was unlikely that any documents would be available giving proof of age, and the children rescued from concentration camps would most probably have no identification papers of any kind.

With this fact established, three hundred children were moved from Theresienstadt to Prague and, on 13 August 1945, ten Stirling aircraft of 196 Squadron set off for Prague from the UK to collect the children and other passengers, in order to transport them to the Lake District.

The first UK home for the children who had flown from Prague was on the now ‘lost’ village of Calgarth Estate that stood at Troutbeck Bridge, about one mile from Windermere.'

During the boat trip, Kate heard moving stories from survivors. She was told about the impact their time in the Lake District had, and how it supported them at such a harrowing time in their lives.

Arek lost his entire family.

More from the BBC:

'Following the occupation of Poland, things quickly began to change. The Nazis introduced anti-Semitic laws against the country’s Jewish population. Jewish people were segregated and had to wear a Star of David to identify themselves.

Certain restrictions started,” says Ike. “You couldn’t go to school anymore, you couldn’t go to this side of the town, you couldn’t go to that side of the town. If you saw Germans you had to bow, and you were fearful of going out.”

Families were forced from their homes to live in crowded ghettos in cities across the country. Arek Hersh was 10 years old.

“There were 160,000 people in the ghettos,” says Arek. “I’ve seen people stabbed in the street, dying in the street, starvation was absolutely horrific... That was 1940.”

In 1942 the Nazis began what they called ‘the Final Solution’ - a plan to exterminate all Jewish people across Europe. Roma gypsies, gay and disabled people, as well as black and mixed-race people were also persecuted and killed. Many Jewish people were taken straight from the ghettos and packed into trucks and trains to be transported to the death camps.'

In a brief but deeply moving piece Arek filmed for the BBC last year, he said, "We were told we’re going to England. We just hoped that everything would be OK."

The Palace noted, "The Duchess wanted to be able to meet some of the survivors in person and hear their stories, having previously learnt about the history of the Windermere Children." Below, the Duchess speaking with Ike Alterman.

Ike was born in southern Poland. More on his story from the BBC:

'Survivor Ike Alterman was born in Ożarowice, in southern Poland. “I was very happy there as a child, roaming around,” he says. “I used to love that feeling to go to bed and cuddle up to my grandfather, who had a very long beard.”

Following the occupation of Poland, things quickly began to change. The Nazis introduced anti-Semitic laws against the country’s Jewish population. Jewish people were segregated and had to wear a Star of David to identify themselves.

“Certain restrictions started,” says Ike. “You couldn’t go to school anymore, you couldn’t go to this side of the town, you couldn’t go to that side of the town. If you saw Germans you had to bow, and you were fearful of going out.”

Ike tears up as he recounts arriving at the chalets in the Calgarth Estate: “You get in and there was a bed,” he says, “and sheets, cushions and blankets to cover yourself with. We just put our heads down, we fell asleep, and we slept and we slept.” “It was paradise,” says Ike. “There were boys in a pair of underpants and a vest, running about in the streets!”

People reports Ike described meeting the Duchess as "absolutely delightful", adding they spoke like "a couple of friends". He told the magazine's royal reporter Simon Perry: "We laughed, she asked questions, and she wanted to know the answers. We talked about her kids and my kids, and how we love the lakes. I have two girls and two grandchildren. I told her what happened to me during the war, and when I arrived and how I progressed in business later. I didn't know what to expect, but we spoke like a couple of friends. She was so down-to-earth."

Ike during his time in England.

Writing a personal message on the Kensington Palace social media accounts, Kate wrote: "I wanted to be able to meet...Ike and Arek in person to hear their stories; about how they went on to create their own companies, write a book and to this day, still sneak in the odd round of golf. It was so powerful to hear how their time in the Lakes enjoying outdoor recreation, sport and art therapy, allowed them to be able to begin to rebuild their lives and eventually, their families here in the UK."

Last year, it was revealed the Duchess had photographed two Holocaust survivors -- Steven Frank and Yvonne Bernstein -- with their grandchildren. The portraits were part of an exhibition which brought together 75 images of survivors with their loved ones to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust.

The Duchess was inspired by 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer because both Steven and Yvonne have strong links to the Netherlands. Speaking about the experience, Kate said, "While I have been lucky enough to meet two of the now very few survivors, I recognise not everyone in the future will be able to hear these stories first hand.  I recall reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Her sensitive and intimate interpretation of the horrors of the time was one of the underlying inspirations behind the images. I wanted to make the portraits deeply personal to Yvonne and Steven – a celebration of family and the life that they have built since they both arrived in Britain in the 1940s."

'It is vital that their memories are preserved and passed on to future generations, so that what they went through will never be forgotten."

       - HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

The portraits are now included in a photography exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London, featuring over fifty Holocaust survivors and their families. Kate said she was "honoured" her pieces were chosen. The exhibition is free to view with general admission until January.

The group travelled on the museum's 1902 Steam Launch Osprey.

Finally, at the Jetty Museum, the Duchess met families of survivors and heard about their views on the importance of time spent in Cumbria. Kate also learned more about the work of the Lake District Holocaust Project to preserve the experiences of the Windermere Children.

People revealed more on the conversations which took place:

'Following the boat ride, Kate spent about an hour talking to the families of the survivors.

"I really felt that she was listening and engaged and genuinely interested in our stories. This wasn't a 'by the way I'm meeting these people today' but her genuinely showing she cares," David Shannon, whose uncle and aunt were Holocaust survivors, told PEOPLE.

"She is using her position of influence to engage with survivors and their families," said Shannon. "But what about the future generations? When we talked with her, that was what we discussed.

"The concentration camps are the end of the process, not the beginning. It's important that people learn about tolerance and about right-wing nationalism. I felt she gets that and her part in the process."

The museum's chief executive Rhian Harris said, "We were delighted to welcome the Duchess of Cambridge to the museum and to host such a poignant meeting with Holocaust survivors. The Duchess was able to hear the survivors’ remarkable stories and the support they received in Cumbria after the war. She learned how the Lake District provided access to the great outdoors which helped the survivors to begin to heal."

Kate with relatives of Windermere Children, including British television personality and barrister Judge Robert Rinder MBE (second from left), whose own relatives were murdered by Nazis. His grandfather found solace in the Lake District.

On Twitter, Judge Rinder described the Duchess as a "generous listener", adding "The Duchess of Cambridge spent serious time hearing the stories of our loved ones who were delivered from the trauma of the Holocaust to the sanctuary of Windermere: A community that demonstrated what our nation can be at its best".

The Windermere Jetty Museum officially opened in 2019, owing to a substantial National Lottery Heritage Fund grant. It was unveiled by Prince Charles and carries the Branksome - one of the finest remaining steam launches in the world, which carried the late Duke of Edinburgh on his tour of Windermere lake in 1966. Today, the museum was "delighted" to welcome the Duchess.

There are days like today where the stories shared during engagements are so powerful, sartorial choices are firmly down the list, as they should be. With that in mind, Kate chose an understated functional look -- a mixture of separates perfect for outdoor activities and the boat trip.

The signature piece in the ensemble was Really Wild Clothing's ivy green belted jacket (with thanks to Mallory).

The piece is described as: "Staying true to our British heritage- A fitted, longline jacket crafted from 100% fine Scottish wool in a classic check. Tailored to a slim-fit silhouette for a contemporary take on British sporting style. Pair with the coordinating trousers or culottes and a chunky knit when the temperature drops."

Earlier in the day, Kate wore her Seeland Hawker jacket.

Underneath, Kate wore a knit top. It very much appears it's the Boden Cashmere Top in Smoky Quartz (with thanks to Middleton Maven and What Kate Wore). 

The $140 piece is described as:

'We decided to go the extra mile and knit this simple T-shirt style with cosy cashmere. Well, we actually went further, sourcing the supersoft yarn from Inner Mongolia. Short sleeves and a semi-fitted shape make it a versatile layering piece that's ideal for every season. It features rib detailing across the neck, cuffs and hem.'

The piece comes in a variety of colours including black, pink, green, yellow and aquamarine blue. 

Kate accessorised with a pair of Liv Thurwell Bobble Hoop earrings (with thanks to Chrissy).

Kate sported her See by Chloe Leather-trimmed suede ankle boots.

Kate also wore black skinny jeans.

If interested in learning more about the Windermere Children and their stories Arek Hersh penned a book available at Amazon. Their journey was dramatised last year for a BBC movie. I haven't had the opportunity to watch it yet, but have heard it's wonderful. Below, the trailer. 

If you're just joining us, Kate and William are due to join Charles and Camilla for the premiere of No Time To Die next Tuesday evening. To visit the post and updates on James Middleton's wedding, please click here.

21 comments:

  1. I am so glad it is the Dss, who is doing this. Walking having fun. I am still having lingering tiredness from Covid 19, but I am getting there. Well I am older than she is. Dss Kate enjoy every moment of it.

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    1. I pray for your full recovery from Covid. Your comments about Duchess Kate were very kind.

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    2. I hope you are better soon and regain your strength. Best of luck to you.

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  2. I hope you include on your blog the words from Robert Rinder after meeting Kate today

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  3. Lovely day of events! Kate looks beautiful. I think this is the longest her hair has ever been, stunning!

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  4. I have been reading your Duchess Kate Blog for years, and while it is always very good, I think this is your best work and my favorite. Well done!

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    1. Ditto that G.A.! Have learned so much about so many communities since reading this blog, very happy to be a loyal reader and follower of our Duchess.

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    2. I echo this, G.A.! Fantastic post!! I didn't even know about the 300 children collected from Prague by aircraft in August 1945! I'm going to research more. So far, I've only known about Sir Nicholas Winton and "Winton's children", rescued from Czechoslovakia in 1939. These things should never, never be forgotten. We have a project called "Memory of Nations", an incredible collection of life stories. If anyone is interested, go to https://www.memoryofnations.eu/en

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  5. Thank you so much G.A. I found the stories deeply moving and incredibly important. I wanted to share as much as I could.

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  6. Thank you for your well wishes Shila US and G.A.

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  7. Incredibly moving post! I learned so much- thank you for all the care you put into your pieces. I’d like to check out that movie- the lake is such a beautiful setting for healing. The work Kate continues to do to highlight the Holocaust is to be commended. I like the jacket and think she looks great. What a full, wonderful day with 2 great outings. I love her long hair. Sue

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  8. It is a wonderful "outing" and definitely appropriate for the RF to undertake, and perfect for Kate because she can truly participate! It is so vital to not forget WW II -- when I was in junior high school, one of my friends' parents had been in a German concentration camp. Both of them lost their spouse and children, and they married and had more children when they got to the US. It still makes me cry to think of it because they were so kind to me, and my father was of German ancestry. They had a mom/pop store and refused to sell anything German but they invited me over for Seder and explained the Jewish religion to me. I was about 12 and did not know anything about any religions. It breaks my heart to think of people forgetting.

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  9. This is such an important piece -- the Duchess, gently reminds us that good can come from evil and that good can up lift,
    strengthen, and inspire generations.

    Charlotte would it be possible to provide the name of the book (s) written by the survivors alluded to in today's post?

    Once again, superb reporting. Thank you.

    RW.

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    1. Royalwatcher thank you. I believe this is the book Kate mentioned by Arek Hersh. I will add it to the post now.

      https://www.amazon.co.uk/Detail-History-harrowing-survived-Holocaust/dp/1910167770/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=arek+hersh&qid=1632319430&sr=8-1

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  10. Wonderful post, thank you! Very excited to see an evening gown appearance again. No one shines on the red carpet like our duchess!
    Yes, so lovely that Carole's gown was worn by Alizee. I think it speaks volumes about these two ladies. What a close knit, fun and sweet family! The dress looks perfect on Alizee. So feminine and free-spirited.

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  11. Amazing post! Thank you, Charlotte. So touching. I am grateful to learn of Windermere, and delighted to see Catherine chatting so sweetly with these gentlemen.

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  12. This seems like the best day out for Kate. She was in her element with the biking and repelling! Repelling while being photographed has to be nerve racking! Then the boat ride and how engaged she was! The scenery was gorgeous too. So glad to see her out again.

    Hope from USA

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  13. Loving these kind engagement ❤️ I think she was enjoying it plus the fact the scenery was nature I bet the duchess enjoy it hey love photography and she loves adventure and photography at the same time

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  14. Theresa - Austin, TX22 September 2021 at 20:27

    Such an incredible, moving, informative post! May we never, ever forget.

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  15. The jacket looks wonderful, just the right touch of formality. Love her hair like this, long & natural-looking.

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  16. As the DIL of a teenage survivor and the wife of someone whose grandmother was murdered on arrival at Auschwitz, I appreciate Kate taking Holocaust issues seriously. That contrast with the historic neutrality of the Royal Family softens some of the hardness of the Crown’s standard position on the topic. I especially appreciate her focus on the importance of meeting and speaking with people who personally experienced the Holocaust. Thank you for reporting on this.

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