Many decisions made by our ancestors have had a direct impact on what and where we are today. Sometimes these influential ancestors are not generations away from our memory, but have lived in our recent history, still leaving us a legacy of choices made and stories to share. Fareed Zakara, host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS, immediately knew the story behind the 1944 UK Incoming Passenger List we found for his father, Rafiq Zakaria. Rafiq had won a scholarship and first-class passage to the University of London during the 1940s in the throes of World War II. People said he was crazy for going to London in the middle of the war, but Rafiq saw it as an amazing opportunity to earn his Ph.D. The young man arrived in London as a research student' on 7 July 1944 on the ship Strathmore via First Class, as promised. What kind of environment did he willingly enter' What was the scene in London on 7 July 1944? UK, Incoming Passenger List, 7 July 1944 (Ancestry.com) In June of 1944, the Germans began blasting London with flying bombs' known as V1s and V2s. This time of the war was so devastating, it was later known as the second Blitz. With wartime censorship, it was unlikely that Rafiq knew the devastation that had begun that June. The news was made public by Winston Churchill only a few days before Rafiq arrived in London. The very day that Rafiq finally arrived, the word was out. The New York Times had a headline that read, London Is Flying Bomb Target, 2,752 Killed, Churchill Reveals. Rafiq had truly entered a warzone. The New York Times, 7 Jul 1944 The howling sound of World War II air raid sirens would signal the approach of the V1 flying bombs. The V1 bomb was one of the first pilotless, weapon-carrying aircraft and was designed by the Germans as a vengeance weapon. Thousands of these bombs were targeted on London. The Royal Air Force was able to deter some of them, but too many found their mark and wreaked havoc in the streets of London. The haunting sound of the flying V1 engine cost a psychological price to those on the ground, just waiting for the engine to stop and the bomb to dive to its random target. An eyewitness wrote of this experience:
The drone of the flying bomb grew ever closer, and I crouched low in this dark cramped spaced'. I waited, heart in my mouth, hoping that the engine would not cut out, but fearing that the bomb was about to drop. As the engine sound increased I grew really scared, until it suddenly stopped, and all was quiet for a few moments, with a silence that could almost be felt. Then there was a tremendous crash.Her written account has been joined by hundreds of others, gathered together by the BBC in an online archive of wartime memories. Life in London during the war. View of a V-1 in flight. c. 1944. (Ancestry.com) Once these flying bombs found their target, entire streets were decimated. Thousands of lives were lost during these last months of the war. Less than a month after Rafiq arrived in London, a bomb only five miles from the University killed more than 70 people. The opportunity for an education had come at a trying time for Rafiq, but it would shape his future and the future of those who came after him. A British flag lies among the rubble of homes smashed by the Camberwell Road rocket explosion. c. 1944 (Ancestry.com) After four years in England, two during the war and two following, Rafiq completed his studies with a Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. His 1948 UK Outward Passenger List revealed his latest occupation. Rafiq Zakaria was no longer a research student' as he was when he had arrived to London's bleak backdrop four years prior, but had returned to India a press correspondent.
-- Mrs. S. Gaylor