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Week 30 — New Project, New Perspective

I’ve been in the editing grind this week. Another 25,000 words have been checked for spelling grammar and style, and I’ve spent some 5 hours listening to my robotic PA reading those same words aloud to me. I can’t say it’s the most stimulating of work.

But with 99 days left until publication I must crack on, that’s what a pro writer does. 

Luckily though, I’ve been able to mix things up a bit. I mentioned last week that I’ve been working on another project.

A couple of months ago I received a delightful email from an elderly gentleman who’d read my book ‘A Foolish Voyage’. I’ll call him ‘Tony’. He was very complimentary about my writing, and went on to tell me something about his own amazing sailing experiences.

I love getting emails like these, and pleasingly they arrive regularly. It’s so rewarding to hear that my writing has made a connection with someone, and fascinating to hear about their adventures.

This particular email stood out however. ’Tony’ wrote in great detail about the many boats he’d owned, his life in general and more. He attached some wonderful photographs.

Over the weeks that followed we continued to correspond and my amazement at his life experiences continued to grow. I’ve suggested he write a book of his own!

One of his emails came with a PDF attachment. It was the handwritten autobiography of a Polish man, now deceased, who’d been adopted by ‘Tony’s’ mother after the war. This man had survived the concentration camps and had later been persuaded to tell his life story by a friend.

‘Tony’ explained that it had never been intended for publication, and had only been released to a few people. He thought I’d find the story compelling. He was right.

By the time I’d read the first few chapters I knew I had to do something. Stories like these must be protected.

The manuscript runs to some 185 handwritten pages. It contains many references to places and events, many words and phrases most people would not understand, mistakes and corrections.

It’s not an easy read.

So, I’ve taken it upon myself to honour and preserve this man’s story.

I’m going to transcribe the words into my writing software. Then I’ll do some research and add explanatory footnotes and photographs if I can find them. I’m calling it the ‘Romek Project’.

Once the work is completed, I’ll get it all formatted into eBook and print ready formats and return it to ‘Tony’.

What happens then is up to him. Perhaps it can be placed in an appropriate archive. Perhaps made available for purchase with profits going to a related charity. We’ll see.

Whatever happens I’ll have got my reward. 

I got out on the SUP on Wednesday. A great 3-mile paddle around Trefusis Point from Flushing to Mylor and back. 

The previous day I’d been transcribing a part of the story where ‘Romek’ arrives at the Flossenbürg Concentration Camp. Here’s an excerpt:

I can’t remember how long the journey took, but we came to a final stop with the hideous cacophony of trucks crashing into one another and lurching to a standstill. After a momentary silence we heard men shouting, dogs barking and the sound of trucks being opened. “Raus! Raus!” was being yelled above the eager yelping of dogs held in check. At last, for the first time since we had set off, the door of our truck was rolled back, and we jumped fell or were pulled to the ground. Close confinement and sickness had made our reactions slow, but the harsh reality of our situation soon had us on our guard. The snarling dogs, the shouting S.S. men and the rifle-butts wielded sent us scuffling into lines for the uphill march to our new camp. It seemed a long way and a hard climb. Perhaps it was the effects of hunger, exhaustion, fear, but as we marched towards the gates we couldn’t make sense of the words carved in stone next to them: ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (Work Sets You Free).

Here’s a photo I found online:

I bought it to mind as I paddled. 

Enjoy your freedom this week eh?

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