Peter* and Mary* have been favourites of ours for years.
At the height of the farm invasions, this wonderful old couple was referred to us by neighbours after the family had been given 24 hours to pack up and leave the farm they had lived and worked on for decades. It was a traumatic experience and two of the couple’s sons left Zimbabwe with their families to start new lives while the third remained in a nearby town battling to keep some portion of the farm through court action.
Two of us went round to their small flat to do an initial assessment and listened enthralled to their story:
Born in England, Peter could hardly wait until his 18th birthday to join the army as World War II was in its fourth year. He enlisted in the Royal Armoured Corps and straight away, though he didn’t know it at the time, started training for the D Day landings.
Sure enough, on the third day of the landings on Sword Beach, Peter’s unit reached the shore in their tanks and came under immediate fire.
There ensued months of fighting through France, Belgium and into Germany where Peter witnessed first hand some of the horrors of the extermination camps.
On 8 May 1945, Peter celebrated, with thousands of allied soldiers, Victory in Europe.
He proudly showed us his medals and campaign memorabilia including the order-of-service booklet on VE Day – these were things he had chosen to save from the farm.
After the war, Peter met and married Mary and the couple went out to then Rhodesia to start a new life – they began by working as farm managers and eventually saved up enough money to buy their own place.
Here they raised their family of three and all the children developed a deep love of the country of their birth and life on their beloved farm which they hoped one day to take over and run themselves with their parents living nearby.
This was all shattered in 2002 with the 24 hour notice to leave their farm or face the consequences.
With the family in turmoil – the next generation too had lost home and livelihood and had their own children to educate in a new country – there was little money left over to look after the old folk.
They, not wanting to add further burdens to their traumatised children and grandchildren, played down their plight.
Peter’s service in the armed forces all those years before, now came to his rescue and ZANE was able to sign him up to receive grants from the Royal Armoured Corps – he and Mary often told us that these grants saved their lives but we told them that it was people like Peter who volunteered to fight the tyranny of Nazism who had really saved lives and he should see these payments not as charity but as a demonstration of the deepest gratitude.
Peter died last year and we miss him terribly but Mary still receives her grants and her loving family, finally re-established elsewhere, visit whenever they can. We treasure our involvement with them and find it a privilege to tell their story.
If you can contribute to ZANE and help us bring light and dignity back into the lives of people like Peter and Mary, please visit our website and make a donation.
* Names and images have been changed for security reasons.