Cover Photo: Jenny T, Pat G, Andrea F, Laraine A, Gill B and Marguerite J next to the new BWC sticker on the back of a Rolling Douche mobile van. BWC Charities raised over € 19,000 in 2021. HOORAH!
A very Happy New Year to all of you — we hope that you were able to relax, have fun and enjoy some good company during the Holidays.
We are gearing up for another BWC year full of opportunities to meet, laugh, eat, get fit…fill in the blanks…while honouring COVID regulations. Last year, we proved beyond a doubt that we are a bunch of very creative women who will find ways to stay connected and have fun, all the while keeping ourselves and each other safe and sound.
As the Clubhouse will remain closed in January until COVID restrictions ease up, we have moved most of our January activities online or outdoors. So please do check the Dates for Your Diary section below, as well as the BWC Weekly News for the latest updates.
In the meantime, enjoy our first issue of Passport this year!
BWC President firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: Please share any of your holiday photos or anecdotes with Passport Editor Sheila E at email@example.com before Monday 24 January.
To start the New Year, Sheila E is introducing us to some of the women included on the BBC’s List of the 100 Most Influential Women, 2021.
100 Most Influential Women of 2021
by Sheila Emmett
The BBC published this list in December 2021. On looking through it, I found only a few names I recognised, including Dame Sarah Gilbert (co-developer of the AstraZeneca vaccine), Vera Wang (fashion designer), Rebel Wilson (Australian actor and producer), Melinda Gates (The Gates Foundation) and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (Human Rights lawyer). There is also Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and worthy of a whole article to herself. The BBC decided to choose 50% of the list from women in Afghanistan, to show solidarity with this group of oppressed women, since the sudden and brutal return of Taliban rule this year. Many of these women do not have photos or full names on the list in order to protect their identities and avoid possible reprisals.
Let’s start the New Year 2022 by looking at just a few, less well-known women from the list. I have chosen one political leader, one successful author and two women from Afghanistan.
There are very few women in the world who have ever been Prime Ministers, fewer still who have headed governments in developing nations. One of these is Fiamē Naomi Mata’afa, the recently elected Prime Minister of Samoa. Born in 1957, her father was the first Prime Minister of Samoa, so she grew up in a political environment. After studying in New Zealand, she entered the political arena at the age of 27. She has held the roles of Minister for Women, Community and Social Development, Minister of Justice and, between 2016-2020, she was Deputy Prime Minister. Her main focus is fighting against climate change, with all its threats for her island homeland. She was given the Ocean Stewardship Award in 2017 for her work in trying to protect our oceans.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a bestselling author and feminist. She was born in 1977 in Nigeria, but now also has US nationality, after going there to study at the age of 19, obtaining, amongst other degrees, a Masters from Yale. Her books have been translated into more than 30 languages and she has won various prestigious awards. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, was published in 2003 and won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for a first novel. In 2008 came Half a Yellow Sun, an eminently readable book about the Civil War in Nigeria and the short-lived state of Biafra, after whose flag the book is named. This book won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007. She has also written Americanah set in the US, exploring the lives of Nigerians living there and issues of race. This novel was included in the Top 10 list of books in 2013 by the New York Times.
Angela Ghayour is an Afghan teacher. After the Taliban takeover, she set up The Herat Online School for girls who are no longer allowed to go back to their Secondary education. There are around 1,000 students
and 400 volunteer teachers. The school offers more than 170 classes via Telegram and Skype in a whole variety of subjects, both academic and more creative. Angela knows from personal experience what it’s like to miss out on education. As a child, her family fled to Iran to escape the civil war in 1992 and she didn’t go to school for 5 years. She was later able to catch up and train as a secondary school teacher, but she now lives in the UK, so is not at risk from the Taliban.
Masouma, however is another Afghan woman who remained in Afghanistan, and is in hiding for her own safety. She was formerly a female prosecutor there, gathering evidence and building legal cases. She is a Law graduate and spent 5 years working in the Attorney General’s office. When the Taliban came back into power, they released many prisoners, including hardened criminals and Islamist militants, some of whom Masouma had helped to convict, thereby putting her life in danger.
You can see the whole list on the BBC website here.
Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated each year, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. This year it is on Thursday 27 January. Ann E has written about an amazing act of heroism that took place in Belgium, when many people were able to flee from a train heading for the death camps.
An Amazing Act of Heroism
by Ann Englander
On 19 April 1943, members of the Belgian Resistance stopped a train on its way to Auschwitz and freed a number of Jews who were being transported from the Mechelen transit camp on the 20th convoy. In the aftermath of the attack, others were able to jump from the train too.
Three young students and members of the Belgian Resistance including a Jewish doctor, Youra Livchitz, and his two non-Jewish friends Robert Maistriau and Jean Franklemon (armed with one pistol, a lantern and red paper to create a makeshift red lantern to use as a danger signal), were able to stop the train on the track Mechelen-Leuven, between the municipalities of Boortmeerbeek and Haacht. Despite security measures, Maistriau was able to open one wagon and liberate 17 people.
In all, 233 people succeeded in escaping from the train. 89 were eventually recaptured and put on later convoys. 26 others were killed, either by shooting or by the fall, but 118 succeeded in escaping. The youngest, Simon Gronowski, only 11 years old, and Regine Krochmal, an eighteen-year-old nurse with the Resistance, also escaped. Both survived the war.
To commemorate this brave and unique act, a memorial was unveiled in 1993 at Boortmeerbeek station. In 2005, the memorial was extended to include a commemorative plaque.
Etienne Desmet, a Ghent-based sculptor, came up with the design of a sober pillar. The three hands on the pillar are a symbol of resistance and refer to the three young men. The memorial explains the story in four languages – Dutch, French, German and Yiddish. There is also a memorial board, with photos, near the rail tracks in Zoutleeuw.
In 2014, Simon Gronowski met British composer Howard Moody at the Monnaie Opera House in Brussels.
Simon told the composer the story of his escape and his life, ending with the phrase “Ma vie n’est que des
miracles”. Moody was so moved that he promised to write his next opera about Simon that night. His opera
‘PUSH’ tells the story of Simon’s escape from the train and how his mother pushed him off the train, thus
saving his life. The opera was recently performed in Brussels to great and moving acclaim.
BWC Themed Lunches are back!
One of our favourite activities at the Club is to meet up over a nice meal. So we have the following Themed Lunches at the Clubhouse in store for you (COVID regulations permitting).
As we believe in the adage ‘the more, the merrier’, the BWC Committee agreed in December that from now, members can also invite male guests to enjoy these special events. So do feel free to invite any of your female and male guests if you like.
Details on actual menus and how to sign up will be coming your way at least two weeks before each event. But for now, make sure to mark your calendars!
Burn’s Lunch: Wednesday 26 January
Chinese New Year’s Lunch: Wednesday 2 February St David’s Day Lunch: Wednesday 2 March
St Patrick’s Day Lunch: Wednesday 16 March
2021 Charities Retrospective
By Gill Best & Andrea Ferro
As 2021 has come to an end, we have been reflecting on the year’s achievements.
A little bit of background: not only was the role of Charity Coordinator new to us, we didn’t know each other or have any idea if we could work together. Still, we both dived into it with gusto and fortunately, the Andrea & Gill partnership worked extraordinarily well. Very quickly we were bouncing ideas off each other and turning those ideas into action.
We were bowled over by the enthusiasm and energy of all the people who got involved in helping to organise the activities, and who took part and raised money for our two charities: Rolling Douche in Brussels and Face in Cairo.
So, what did we do? We set about creating a series of events that we hoped would include a wide range of BWC members.
The first initiative was the 12 ‘Château to Shelter’ walks, open to all, and which were really well attended. Out of this a walking group was formed –‘Walkers United’ — that is still going strong. A big thank you to all the amazing lead walkers who devised and organised the glorious walks around the châteaux and the beautiful Belgian countryside.
The next event was the Brussels to Cairo 10,000 km Virtual Challenge Competition. Some might say we were mad, asking two teams of 10 women, the Walkers and the Golfers, between the ages of 50 and 80, to compete by exercising their way over 10,000 km from Brussels to Cairo and back again in the shortest possible time, raising money for BWC’s two Charities. We set ourselves a six-month goal but did it in under five. The commitment from everyone was inspiring. The feedback from participants was that they loved having a target and knowing that they were doing it for a good cause; it motivated them to get out and exercise every day. Some loved the competitive element, but all of us felt much fitter as a result and were sad when it ended.
We want to acknowledge the enormous contribution from Jenny Todd. Jenny devised a way we could monitor each team’s progress on a weekly basis and track it on a map. It was exciting to see our progress and which team was winning. In the end, the Walkers crossed the finishing line first and the Golfers covered more kilometres. That was definitely a win-win!
Our themed charity take-away lunches, thanks to the super supportive Carol J and Helen E who devised and cooked the delicious meals, were a great success, as was the ‘Tea and Talk’.
In November, we paid a visit to Rolling Douche to see the new vehicle that the BWC money raised this year will help support. We were also delighted to present them with a BWC logo sticker for the side of the vehicle.
Towards the end of the year, we created the BWC Reading Challenge. This is great fun for anyone who enjoys a good read and a natter about books in general, and will continue next year.
The Fit for Xmas Group also came to an end. Maybe we are not physically much fitter as a result, but we certainly did not lose our sense of humour and were in a marvelous place mentally to face Christmas. Thank you, Kathryn, for your hysterically funny asides!
We also want to give a massive thank you to the BWC Golf Club, who every year raises a huge amount of money for our Charities. 2021 was no exception. Not only did they form one of the teams in the Brussels to Cairo challenge, they also held their Annual Summer Charity Golf Match, which was a terrific success. Thank you, ladies, for all your support.
So how much did we raise in 2021? The total is….drumroll…€ 19,919!
None of this would have been possible without the support and participation of BWC members, friends and families too.
What happens next? We are pleased to announce the results of the BWC 2022 Charity vote: Community Kitchen at Holy Trinity won the Belgian Charity category and Mbedza, Malawi won the Developing Countries Charity category.
Congratulations to both charities! Both are excellent causes. Many thanks to all those members who took the time to vote.
This past year has certainly been an experience beyond our expectations, and we can’t wait to start again next year. We will be spending January creating a programme of events and activities for 2022, inspired by the chosen 2022 charities.
Rest assured we will be calling on you to help us by getting involved, and we look forward to another year of fun, frolics and fundraising with new and old friends. Happy New Year to everyone!
BWC Art Gallery: Patricia Couton
By Kathy Whalley
Kathy W is inviting all to view a new exhibition of paintings in the Clubhouse until 3 February, by the artist
Patricia Couton. Do pop in when you are picking up a book or a meal!
Born on 23 March 1968 in Montpelier, France, Patricia completed her university studies in art and plastic arts. As soon she had finished her studies, she became fascinated by the colours of Provence in France. As a watercolour painter, Patricia left France at the age of 23 and moved to the island of Ibiza in Spain.
After coming back to the mainland, she moved to Brussels, Belgium. Up to the present day, Patricia still enjoys painting the ancient city of Brussels, more particularly the ancient buildings that make the city so beautiful. Her creations can be found in many exhibitions shown throughout the city.
We are very happy to welcome Patricia to exhibit her paintings at the Clubhouse until 3 February.
So do pop into the Club and look at the paintings while you are picking up a book or a meal. The paintings are very suitable as gifts as they are sold for € 120-150 and represent well-known scenes of Brussels and Bruges (Grand Place, Dandoy, Chez Vincent…), so they would be appreciated as a leaving gift or birthday present.
Patricia Couton, in her own words:
In 1993, I met a Belgian, my Belgian! In 1995, I visited Brussels, wandering around in search of a small place to put down our suitcases. And how surprised I was, when on an icy November day, I find myself as a spectator of a continuous ballet taking place on the most beautiful square in the world.
After I observed the architecture and its multiple aspects of Brussels, after I was dazzled by the richness of the cobblestones and after I strolled through the animated life of all these multi-coloured districts, we decided to stay. Brussels adopted me.
With a small, cheap Polaroid, I eagerly explored the city, street by street, seeing all this magnificence, which little by little, became my city. I loved, I love and I will continue to love Brussels with all my heart. And today I am delighted to share with you the pleasure that I feel when I describe the charms of Brussels with my paintbrush.
Dick Annegarn sang “Brussels, my beautiful one” and I have hummed it often. I wish with all my heart to be able to seduce you with my palette, and my strolls through this beautiful city.