Edinburgh International Book Festival: Chitra Ramaswamy's story of migration, racism and belonging is a stand-out event of the festival – Angus Robertson MSP

Very happy 75th birthday to the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Writer Chitra Ramaswamy's book Homelands tells of her friendship with Henry Wuga, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany (Picture: Robert Perry)
Writer Chitra Ramaswamy's book Homelands tells of her friendship with Henry Wuga, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany (Picture: Robert Perry)

In this Scottish Year of Storytelling, there has been no better venue to hear the range of stories told by their authors and even their subjects.

I was lucky enough to attend one of the stand-out events of the festival, the presentation of ‘Homelands’ by the talented Edinburgh-based writer Chitra Ramaswamy.

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Her book is about her unlikely friendship, as a British-born daughter of Indian immigrants, with a Jewish refugee, Henry Wuga, who arrived on the Kindertransport from Nazi Germany.

It is a book about common ground: a story of migration, anti-semitism, racism, family, belonging, grief and resilience. It is extremely moving.

There was hardly a dry eye in the house during the presentation by Ramaswamy, which used a mixture of images, sound and performance, to look at Scotland’s past and present through the lenses of immigration, community, family and the desire to belong.

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What made the event even more special was the presence of 98-year-old Henry Wuga, who was loudly applauded at the end of the presentation.

As the son of a German refugee, there is much I can relate to about the loss of homeland, and also the Eau de Cologne which was featured, the favoured scent of Wuga’s parents as well as my mother.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is a jewel in the Capital’s festival month. ‘Homelands’ by Chitra Ramaswamy and the story of Henry Wuga reminds us all about the power of stories, writing, books and hope.

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Angus Robertson is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary