Letter: Willing and able to take in refugees

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The Independent Online
Sir: In 1956, at the time of the Hungarian uprising, the television pictures of refugees were so distressing that my mother asked me, through journalistic contacts I then had, working at ITN, to find a refugee family who needed a temporary home.

Lajos Lederer, then East European Correspondent of the Observer, was rushing around London like a madman, organising support for Hungary in its hour of need. I applied to him. Before long my mother and I had moved out of the top floor of our house in Barnes and a Hungarian farmer, his wife and three young sons had been installed there.

I will never forget that time. It was very difficult and uncomfortable, having these strangers in the house whom we couldn't easily communicate with, who had lived under Communism and found life in Britain totally baffling. Their ways were not our ways and I know that from time to time my mother wished she had not yielded to her impulse of compassion. But she helped them, and in due course they found their feet, eventually moving to Canada, from where we received grateful messages and Christmas cards for many years.

I look back on that time with pride and I would like to follow my mother's example now, with the Bosnians. We have some spare accommodation. Is there any organisation that could advise us how we can help in a similar way?

This may be the best way to persuade our Government, mean-spirited, miserable xenophobes that they are, to relieve the national disgrace of allowing in fewer refugees than any other country in Europe.

Yours faithfully,

LYNNE REID BANKS

Beaminster, Dorset

5 August

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