My Family’s Immigration Story
by Emma Thomson
My Family’s Immigration Story
My family has benefited, and been formed in part, due to immigration mainly through my mother’s family. Here is my family’s story. My maternal Great Grandfather, Tadeusz Suszka, also known as Ted, was born in Poland in 1923. At eight years old he and his family moved to France to live. When he left school- he was due to begin Art school in Paris- However, he joined the French Resistance when the Second World War broke out in 1939. I like to think this was perhaps partly due to the Nazi invasion of his home country of Poland.
Sometime between the Second World War and the aftermath of it, he moved to Scotland. This is where he met my maternal Great Grandmother, Elizabeth Ewan, who was born in 1930. They then got married and in 1948, my maternal Grandmother, Elizabeth Suszka, was born. Elizabeth spent many happy years of her childhood in Crieff, Scotland. When she was sixteen years old, she joined the British Armed Forces where she trained to be a nurse.
My Grandfather, James Baxter was born in 1948 in Dunfermline, Scotland. James grew up in Fife and trained to be a Field Medic in the British Armed Forces. This is how my maternal Grandparents met. They then later married in Hong Kong. Due to them being in the Armed Forces, my Grandparents were posted to several countries, one of which included Cyprus, which is where my mother, Maria Baxter, was born in 1973. Some of the other countries they were posted to include Vietnam, Singapore, Malaya, and Germany.
Unfortunately, my Grandmother died from Pneumonia in 1998. After she passed, my Grandfather went traveling and met his current wife, Merlyn, who was born and grew up in the Philippines. They got married and in 2001 my Uncle James was born in Saudi Arabia, where they were living at that time. During this time Merlyn applied for a visa to come to the UK as a resident and eventually applied for immigration status to become a British citizen.
I created artworks to go alongside my project, including drawings, photography, and embroidery.
For one of the drawings, I drew my hand and forearm using chalk and charcoal. I took a photo of this and printed it out on another piece of paper, I then used red thread to embroider the veins into the picture. I did it to create the idea of ‘blood lines’ to relate it to my ancestry. Afterwards, I came up with the idea that a forearm and hand together looked like the trunk and branches of a tree. I then used photoshop to make it into an image of a tree and embroidered leaves onto the image to resemble my family tree.
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Concerning my family history and ancestry, I am currently working on an art project focused on the latter half of this story, tied to immigration. As part of my project, I carried out oral history interviews with my Grandfather and Merlyn.
Oral history is a way of conducting research and gaining insight into someone’s story and personal experiences. Sometimes the subject matter is a person’s recollection of an important historical event and other times it is about their life, family, or experiences. The purpose of oral histories is to help people learn about the life and experiences of others, as well as to create a historical record of important events.
For my oral histories, I interviewed my grandfather about his time in the Armed Forces and Merlyn about her childhood in the Philippines, and her experience of immigrating to the UK.
Through the interviews, I found out that during his free time in the Armed Forces, my Grandfather liked to go swimming, shooting, sightseeing, and orienteering. As for my Grandmother, her hobbies included knitting. She knitted many beautiful sweaters for my Grandfather and my Mother.
During the interview I recorded with Merlyn, she expressed that her favourite subject at school was Mathematics and that she also learned English and Filipino. Her school day was from 7:00 am until 5:00 pm, and it would take her around three hours to walk to school, which I was very shocked to learn. She also told me that every year they have a fiesta in the Philippines in which they traditionally cook a pig and the family gather to celebrate the fiesta.
Image courtesy of Emma Thomson
Emma Thomson is a writer and a Fine Art student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design (DJCAD). Her main forms of art are embroidery, collage, and photography, and she enjoys creating art about political and social issues, mental health, and disability.
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