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Ruby, my advice to you is:  “Be kind to yourself and others (primarily yourself), listen to your head and heart (you need a balance) and have fun and adventure”’

Gillian's Story

Gillian is my 75 year old grandmother who we refer to as Grandi. She was born in London, England on the 28th of March 1946 a year after the war ended.

Grandi’s family consisted of her brother, Colin, who is five years younger and her parents, Metatia and Laura Mirzaioff. The family initially lived in a relatively small apartment in Stamford Hill but when Grandi was sixteen they moved to a nicer, more enjoyable flat in Finchley. Grandi has a large extended family. One of her grandparents had eight children and she had 22 cousins all together! 

She went to a primary school in London called St Helens from the age four till eleven. Grandi then went on to Skinners Grammar School up to age sixteen, and then studied market research at North London College up to twenty. Grandi enjoyed her time in Skinners the best as she had lots of friends and enjoyed the school environment and culture. Grandi’s brother Colin went to a local primary school and then attended Westminster. 

Colin and Grandi had a mutual friction where he would say that she is bossy and she would pull his hair. When we visited Colin in Israel my brothers and I would ask him why he was bald and he would always joke that “my sister used to pull my hair out when she got angry with me that’s why I’m bald, so blame her.” Their relationship always made me and my brothers chuckle, oblivious to the fact that our relationship between us wasn’t much different.

The war didn’t affect her that much. However, Grandi does remember the ration books that determined how much of certain items they could buy - for example they were only allowed six eggs at a time. She clearly remembers her ration book being stamped every time they went to the market. Grandi was too young to fully understand what her parents did for her back then, but now she realises that they were immensely kind and put their children’s well-being above their own. Grandi’s parents would often sacrifice their share of food to give it to their children, for example eggs, if there wasn’t enough to go around.

Grandi and her family went to synagogue every week. Whilst Colin went twice a week to Hebrew classes, Grandi went to the ‘confirmed’ program in her synagogue with another eight or nine children all around twelve or thirteen. Since the synagogue didn’t have Bat Mitzvahs all the members’ daughters would instead be ‘confirmed’. Grandi’s father didn’t think that being confirmed was so important and chose to attend his wife’s nephew‘s Bar Mitzvah instead of the confirmation service. I sensed Grandi was a little sad and disappointed about this. At her ‘confirmation’ Grandi read from the Torah (like me) and went back to the synagogue to teach the other students their portion. Her brother got Bar Mitzvahed in Finchley.

At the weekend, Grandi would go to Jewish dances and had loads of fun with her friends. At the age of 17 she was at one of these dances in Belsize Park and was asked to dance by my grandfather, Papi. They went out for two years. He studied in Manchester and she in London, so they met every other weekend and one of them would take the four hour train to meet the other. When Grandi was nearly 20 and Papi was 21 they got married and lived in Wembley where he got a PhD and she worked in Market Research for two and a half years. Papi got a job in America and they moved there by a five day ship journey. They are now back in Belsize Park living happily together in their cozy apartment.

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