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Safe Passage

Safe Passage - Ida Cook An autobiographical story by Ida Cook of her life with her sister Louise. They started out as young office girls in London who scrimped and saved to buy their first gramophone and ten recordings, which incidentally included an opera recording -- not their original intent. They become enthralled with opera and start going to the opera. From there, their scrimping and saving continuing on a grand scale. They scheme to go to the US to see some opera -- with a savings plan for 2 years of eating buns only for lunch and the like. They pull off the trip, and many others to Europe and around England. Ida moves from civil service work to writing, becoming a successful writer of romance novels. Eventually WWII looms and through their opera friends and travels in Europe, they innocently end up involved in helping the Jewish refugees. They smuggle out jewelry to England where it can be sold and finance the "guarantees" required to get the refugees visas to come to England. They begin financing guarantees themselves, and banding together friends to subscribe to a guarantee. They speak at church groups, etc. All in all, they get 29 people safely out of Europe. Once the war begins, there is no opera performances to speak of, and Ida describes their wartime existence in London during the Blitz, etc. "You never know what you can do until you refuse to take no for an answer.""We still traveled third class on the Continent. We still sat in the gallery during the season. And, except for the glorious extravagance of my flat, we continued our old style of living. Why not? It was no hardship to arrange our lives as we had always known and enjoyed it."Speaking of no longer being able to do her refugee work on the Continent: "I think the sudden severing of those tremendously human ties had left me dry of inspiration. Not that I ever wrote of our experiences in my novels -- far from it. But when you are very close to people and seeing life in terms of big, simple essentials, your top spins and your perceptions are immensely quickened.""Will anyone ever forget that May day when it was suddenly all over? Well, not quite over. For of course, in theory and, to many people, in hideous fact, it was not "all over" until August. But perhaps Londoners may be forgiven for feeling their own special war was over on that wonderful sunny afternoon when the voice of Churchill -- that voice that had sustained and inspired us through so many months and years of mortal struggle -- told us that the war in Europe was over and we knew then that the bombing had ended too.It was a superb day in every sense of the word. All London drifted happily through the streets and the parks, milling around the palace and calling for the Royal Family . . .. For a few hours, it seemed that we must all live happily ever after. Grim realities were something in the past or in the future. On that day of days, I think we all recaptured something of the artless, carefree joy of childhood. We had come out, literally, into the sunlight once more, and we could only blink at each other, smiling incredulously.""When I had answered Rosa's letter and settled down to a normal routine again, Louise and I decided that, on the anniversary of Ponselle's London debut -- the never-to-be forgotten May 28 -- we would give a party for as many of the old fans as we could cram into the flat, and we would have a ten-minute Atlantic cal with her....None of us had ever spoken on the Atlantic telephone before, and this attempt to bridge both time and distance was strangely unnerving."After the war, Ida and Louise resume their life of opera stargazing and travels. They also become involved with displaced persons work in Europe, a smaller scale operation and less dramatic than their refugee work, but satisfying to them. They continue to have several trips to America, by air. In 1956, Ida is featured on the TV show, This is Your Life. "Ida Cook (1904-1986), writing as Mary Burchell, authored more than 120 books over the course of five decades. A lifelong devotee of opera, she counted Amelita Galli-Curci, Rosa Ponselle and Maria Callas among her close friends. In 1965, with her sister Louise, she was awarded the honor of Righteous among Nations from the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Authority in Jerusalem."