A couple of years ago a member of my whanau went on a bit of a pilgrimage to the Middle East to sort of retrace his father’s war-time exploits and to pay homage to our and other NZers forebears who had made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’. One of these was my namesake, my father’s brother Norman Murray (no, I’m not called ‘Norman’) who died in the defence of Maleme Airfield in Crete, 20th MAY, 1941, and lies at rest in the Souda Bay Allied Cemetery.
While on the island my cousin left an entry in a visitors’ book, and not one to use few words when many can do just as well, he left a decent amount of information. Probably thinking no more about the visitors book he continued his hikoi and ultimately returned home tired but well satisfied with his efforts.
Some months later I received from him a group email in which he let the family know about a Polish couple who had been holidaying in Crete, had read the visitors’ book entry, were intrigued and had contacted him. They intended returning for another holiday to Crete in the not too distant future and very generously inquired as to whether they could take anything to Souda Bay to Uncle Murray’s grave for him.
I thought this ‘random offer of kindness’ was at least worthy of a reply and so I did with a general introduction of myself, my relationship to the author of the visitors’ book entry, and a sincere thanks that they should make such a generous offer. I included a message and a family photo. In a very short time I got a reply from Malgo and Roman, a Polish couple who live in Lodz, letting me know that they would, indeed take my message and print the photo that I had sent in digital format and place it on the grave of our uncle.
I subsequently received another email from Poland with photos attached of Uncle Murray’s gravesite with our family photo and I have to admit there was a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye as I read the kind message and opened the attachments.
What wonderful people Malgo and Roman are- total strangers thousands of kilometres across the World who read an obscure entry in a visitors’ book and offered to carry wishes and objects for no other reason than that they are wonderful people. I am happy to say we have developed our relationship through the convenience of email, have exchanged gifts and family details, and I am now delighted to consider Malgo and Roman good friends.
I am looking forward to my daughter visiting them in Poland as part of her OE some time later this year, and am quite jealous of the welcome I know she will get from this delightful couple. Who knows, one day we may even shake each other’s hands! (…although I think I would prefer a kiss from Malgo- after all she is part of my World Wide Whanau!)
What a better place this world would be if a lot more people had the same friendly, unselfish and helpful attitude of the Grzybowskis of Lodz, Poland.