Hackney Marshes

Just walking; just talking.

Walking through the vast expanse known as Hackney Marsh, I passed between a gate and entered the wildlife sanctuary. There stood Paul; I positioned myself to his side and we spoke cameras and he told me about the birds.

He then told me about South Africa.

A South African, he had become embroiled in perhaps the most tumultuous period of his country’s history – apartheid. Engaged in opposing the system he spent time in townships and other areas of severe unrest and angst. He even located himself on the front line of the Soweto student uprising in 1976, where an estimated 600 protesters were killed and 4,000 injured.

Unfortunately, the duration of our conversation was limited by the steady fall of rain, but while returning to shelter he began to talk about his crutches, and why he had left South Africa 20 years ago.

Seized by the South African Bureau of State Security (BOSS) “a mixture of the SS and the Gestapo”, he spent eight years in detention for his active opposition to the apartheid system. In this time he sustained severe injuries that have now made crutches essential. When released, he was deported to the UK where he remains today.

Despite his injuries, he walked, and walked and walked further. He clambered over small walls and shot up over a bridge. His determination was infectious and astounding.

Enter Paul

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