In March 2022 as we mark IWD, we see women and children caught in the awful war in Ukraine, or seeking to flee. As I look at my children and my hopes and fears about their future – as I nag about homework and putting muddy rugby kit into the wash basket – I simply cannot imagine being caught in a warzone and having to worry about keeping them away from bullets and bombs.
Looking at the amazing women of Old Square Chambers, I remembered the life story told by Diana Brahams on her retirement. Her parents had met on the beach in Ostend in 1933, and after a glamorous romance, married in 1936 and set up home in Belgium where they had a son. As war spread across Europe, as Jews, they had to flee. They went to France – and in June 1940 boarded the last ship to leave Bordeaux before it fell to the Nazis, travelling to Southampton. 3000 refugees were on board a ship designed for 300 passengers… history does not relate how many had valid visas. Amidst falling bombs in 1944, Diana was born in Middlesex Hospital.
This child of refugees decided law was for her – and alongside her husband, Malcolm, raised three children whilst also forging a career at the bar – two of them are now solicitors while the third is a teacher. Called in 1972, Diana was the first ever female pupil at the leading Chancery set of 11 Old Square, and developed a practice in property law at 5 New Square. Despite co-authoring a book on Rent Review and Lease Renewals, she was always most interested in medico-legal matters and in 1981 because the legal correspondent for the Lancet. She joined what was then 15 Old Square in 1991 and was one of the founding members of Old Square Chambers specialising for many years in clinical negligence law until her retirement in 2007. She continues to edit the Medico Legal Journal – and now also has time to indulge in non-legal writing.
It is widely reported that the current refugee crisis is the most acute in terms of numbers since World War II. While pictures and stories of the amazing acts of human kindness, from those sharing their homes in Poland (a country which has its own unique memory and perspective of our last World War) to those driving through danger zones to deliver much needed aid and medical supplies warm up, the reality is frightening. Few could fail to be moved by stories of babies born in shelters and children traumatised trying to escape from a place which had, until so recently, been a place for normal days attending school, laughing in playgrounds and enjoying time with family and friends.
So, this year, in honour of Diana, to assist those facing extreme vulnerability because of the war in Ukraine, we are donating to World Jewish Relief’s Ukraine Crisis appeal who are “prioritizing food, cash, medical, material and psychological support for the worst affected, whether fleeing their homes or unable to escape violence”.
We hope that on IWD 2022 you will join us in donating to this, or another cause, of your choosing, too.
William Meade (Senior Clerk)