Commemorating Black History Month – Kiki Hatzer

Throughout Black History Month, Calderdale Council staff have been celebrating how their own diverse stories contribute to the richness of their work, plus personal accounts of their families’ journeys and contributions to the UK.

My story begins on 4th May, 1949 when my Nana and Grandad were married here in Calderdale at the Calderdale Register Office.

They’d met a few years earlier during the war whilst my grandad was working as a railway track layer. Daphne, my nana was of Armenian heritage and Tommy, my grandad was of Irish heritage. Daphne and Tommy went on to have 10 children and as an unusually large family, they often featured in the Halifax Evening Courier.

Nana and Grandad lived at 27 Ovenden Green in Halifax when they first married. Nana spent most of her working life at Rowntree Mackintosh (now Nestlé) and Grandad was a painter and decorator by trade – he was even contracted to repaint North Bridge during his career. As the children grew up and started families of their own, Nana and Grandad made sure all their children’s life partners and children felt loved, welcomed and accepted as part of the Hatzer family. It was just how they were.

Some of their children found love, chose to marry and started families with partners who had immigrated to England; and some of the children of these multi-ethnicity, and in some cases interfaith couples also went on to find love and start families with other multi-ethnicity or minority ethnicity partners. I’ll come back to that. So far, the ever-growing number of grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law have heritage from Carriacou, St Lucia, Persia, England, Pakistan, Bulgaria, India, Guyana, Jamaica, Kenya, Poland, Ukraine and Scotland.

The 10 children produced 26 grandchildren, over 30 great grandchildren and 10 great great grandchildren so far, with heritage from over 10 different ethnicities to date starting in the 1960s. This was way before any equality and diversity legislation or training, before political correctness was a thing, before BAME was a thing, before any community cohesion projects and at a time when verbally and physically violent racist attacks were everyday occurrences.

That’s a pretty big family – you could probably call us a tribe – and quite a lot of the tribe are still here in Calderdale. Some of us see more of each other than others and years can pass between some of us catching up but we all have this unwritten and unspoken knowledge that if ever we need each other, we can always rely on our family to be there when needed.

People who have grown up with us and our family here in Calderdale just accept us as the Hatzer family and we often have people approach us and say, ‘you’re one of the Hatzers aren’t you? I went to school with so and so.’  I love it when that happens – it reminds me how well respected my family is and it’s part of the reason I’ve kept my mother’s maiden name and passed it on to my children.

Often when I meet people for the first time, the first things they want to ask me are about my name and skin colour, where they come from and what ratio or percentage of my heritage is what. I sometimes feel like I’m being placed in an invisible equality and diversity tick box or a maths equation. I hate it when that happens. I can remember being on holiday in Tunisia in the 80s with my nana, siblings, cousin and nephew, and people kept approaching us to ask us how we were all related yet all have different skin colours and hairstyles. Nana would give them a cold stare and say, ‘they’re all my children and grandchildren and none of them would be here if it wasn’t for me.’ The rest of us would just look at each other and laugh.

I’m so proud of the way my grandparents brought their children and grandchildren up to see all people as equal but individual, and how they wholeheartedly embraced and welcomed so many people of different ethnicities and religions in to their family.

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