Being Ernest

Paperback: 146 pages
Written under the name 'Rebecca Kirk'

BEING ERNEST was written in honour of Rebecca's husband's grandfather, who was a Polish fugitive on the run from Nazi rule during the Second World War.

Rebecca spent six months taping interviews with Ernest and then a further eighteen-months collating, typing up and editing his life story. This not-for-profit project was not only written to celebrate Ernest's extraordinary life, but also to raise money for the hospice in which he passed away; 84 copies of BEING ERNEST were pre-ordered on a local level, with £144 donated to Overgate Hospice through buyers along the way.

In 2016, BEING ERNEST was accepted into the Imperial War Museum, seeing it archived permanently and made available for study. This is Royle's second WWII book to be recognised in this way, with FROM A NEW ANGLE also now archived as an official war document.

Being Ernest received wonderful, heartfelt feedback from both family and strangers alike.


Now, after having read finally said book, I got very impressed of it. Really it is not a simple CV but in fact a realistic empathic free account of [Ernest]’s life, all that presented in very interesting form. The whole book is based on his own recollections, passed over to the interviewer - often in irregular sequence - during friendly talks, accompanied by personal impressions and comments. All that complemented by addition of memories and impressions of his family members and friends, as well as supplemented by plenty of photographs, makes a very interesting document not only for the family files. When reading it I felt myself sometimes like if I were listening to Ernest’s free personal narration. Of course not always the facts might have been presented with highest exactness, but considering his age and memory after so many years passed, the result of the whole presented can be considered as a very good one. The value of that publication is supported by photographs enclosed and a very good professional editorial elaboration. Summarising the whole : Rebecca and Gregory form a talented writer and high class editorial company!
Aleksander Niemczyk (via email)
Beautifully written, unbelievable and heartwarming story , in tears, but enjoyed every word. Thank u Koecks
Laura Warren (via Twitter)
I just wanted you to know I have read from cover to cover all in one day the book about Greg's grandad. What an amazing had me hooked! What an amazing childhood he had and what he went through was just amazing and then to end up in brighouse after what he had been through was just amazing!!! I had tears steaming down my face when he got the phone call from his brother & then when he found his mother father & sister it was just beautiful.... The way you have wrote it makes you feel like you are there in the moment. You should be very proud of yourself lady! Katy & Casper will love to read & pass this down to there family as I'm Sure all the Kirk family will.
Thank you for such a lovely read!
Sara Linton (via email)
A compelling life story, an amazing read.
Lucy Dawson (Via Twitter)
You have done a superb job in interpreting the many hours of work you put into researching your book for the love of Ernest Kirk… Thank you for the time and effort and excellent work you have done in producing your account of Ernest's life story - superb stuff ! And what a man! Because of my long standing friendship with Ernest and the esteem in which I held him, and his family, and of which my family was aware of - I bought my two daughters a copy of your book - each! Well done Becky !! You've done a great job!! I am savouring your comments and enjoying every minute of your book, but like the best works of literature - I dont want to get to the end too soon !!!
Noel Moroney (via email)

An excerpt from Being Ernest

I don’t talk about my escape as often as I ought to… Occasionally, when I look back now, I realise that I did what I did out of sheer fright. When you’re desperate, you do things you’d never normally dream of.

...It was January 1940 and very, very cold, when we left Groedel in a hurry. All our furniture was left behind because we could only take what we could carry. We made it to the train station, where there were about 30 young fellows all waiting to get onto the same train as us. However, before it pulled in, a Russian convoy arrived and my family and I watched as they were all unexpectedly picked up. I have no idea where all those men were taken, but I do know that if I’d have been just that little bit older, they’d have taken me as well. It’s just absolutely dreadful to think if they had been put onto one of the Siberia trains to spend days and days all cramped into a cattle truck with no food – as many of our friends and neighbours had been – half of them will never have survived. We knew we might well be about to board a similar environment, but at least mMother had brought water and a pillowcase of rusks to eat and, for when they ran out, some silver to exchange for food.

I was only fifteen and so as we waited for the train to take us in the general direction of Czechoslovakia, in some respects it all felt like a big adventure. We just hoped that in my father’s country we’d have a better opportunity and future than we’d have had staying where we were under Russian occupation. We hated the Russians, but we did not have the same feeling for the Germans. We felt they would be more civilised.

Sure enough, our railway wagon pulled in and our endless journey to nowhere was to be taken in a wooden cattle truck. It had a sideways opening door, two shelves with straw on them, and a stove in the middle. The conditions were cold and absolutely dreadful. Other families – also having escaped the settlement – climbed into the truck with us, ones we hadn’t known before (but had all the time in the world to get to know now). During the blur of days and nights we were on-board the train, we families banded together to help each other as much as possible.
We shared our rusks, but they became so scarce so fast that our bits of silver quickly came into play instead. Once my family and I had bartered all the silver away at the local stations and villages that we stopped at en route, I took to exchanging some of my stamp collections just to be able to survive. Anything we had that could be exchanged for food, was, but I can’t remember the rest of the food we had… the situation became just too horrible to recall.

We must have been on the train an eternity before we were eventually allocated a refugee camp. The horrific conditions there are just beyond description. You see refugee camps sometimes on the television, and this was no different. It was an old building, filled with desperate people.
The camp’s intention was to help us, but really it was like a prison with a workhouse mentality. They didn’t know what to do with us because there were so many people. It was like a place of no return. My parents acted strong as much as they could… they had to. We were given family quarters, but we couldn’t have any privacy. The quarters were like classrooms without doors, with only straw for beds. The food was impossible; the swillage that we were given to eat meant that children were dying at a rate of about 30 or 40 a day. I didn’t see the bodies because I didn’t go out looking for them, but they were there and we all knew many were dying. Oh, it was absolutely deplorable.

Being Ernest book cover