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November report

The last meeting of the Kings Somborne W.I. took place on 10th. November when over 20 members and guests met to hear Mike Reynold’s talk entitled “Two Immigrants”.

After a short business meeting chaired by our President Sarah Pennington, Mike introduced us to the first immigrant, Nicolai Poliakoff, who was born in 1900 into a poor itinerant cobbler`s family in a part of Russia which is now Latvia.  Nicolai ran away from home when he was only 8 years of age to join a travelling circus.  He stayed with the group touring the country until, aged 15, he joined the army.  After spells first with the Red Army and then the White Army he defected to join a Mongolian Dance troupe and toured with them until he joined the State Circus in Moscow where he became famous as Coco the Clown.  In 1929, Coco and his wife Valentina came to England where he joined Bertram Mills’ Circus and stayed with them for 35 years.  Coco worked with ENSA during World War 2 and became naturalised in 1949.  He then had a serious road accident after which he started working, in his free time, for ROSPA promoting Road Safety, especially with children.  Mike was working for Lyons Tea when they sponsored Coco to work on Road Safety Projects in schools and he got to know him and his wife well, visiting them in their winter quarters in Olympia where, after retiring, they continued to live until Coco died in 1974.

The Second Immigrant was Ludwig Guttman who Mike met when he was working for the Spastics Society. Ludwig was born in 1899 to a middle class family in Poland.  He studied medicine and became a respected neurosurgeon.  After 1933, in Germany, Jewish doctors were only allowed to treat Jewish people and life became difficult for Ludwig and his family. However, on a visit to England in 1938 he met other doctors and Ludwig was given the opportunity to move to England and work at the Radcliffe in Oxford.  In the Second World War, many members of air crew suffered severe spinal injuries which in the early 1940s had a very poor prognosis; so, because of his expertise in neurosurgery and experience in dealing with paraplegics, Ludwig was asked to run a new RAF hospital for injured servicemen at Stoke Mandeville.  He pioneered the treatment of paraplegics stressing the importance of exercise, physiotherapy, competitive sport and hope for the future.  This led to the starting of the first Stoke Mandeville Games in 1948 and to the first Para-Olympics in 1960 and to Ludwig’s subsequent knighthood.  He retired to Aylesbury and died in1979.

Lind Aucock, our secretary then gave a vote of thanks to Mike for a most interesting talk.

Our December meeting will take place in the Village Hall on 8th December at 7.30pm, when Simon Morgan will make a return visit to tell us more about “My Life of Music in the Royal Marines” and the evening will end with Festive snacks and a Secret Santa Raffle.

Nola Macintosh


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