As one of the Guardian’s first female foreign correspondents, Hella Pick reported on events that shaped the world in the second half of the 20th century, from Martin Luther King's civil rights activism to Watergate, the Gdansk shipyard strikes to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Born in Vienna in 1929, she was raised by her mother who, in March 1939, put her on a Kindertransport train to Britain to escape the Nazis. Her mother was able to follow her to England a few months later and Hella spent her formative years in the Lake District. After reading Politics at London School of Economics, she worked as commercial editor of a London-based weekly publication called West Africa. After she left, she offered her services to The Guardian – and spent the next 35 years or so with the paper. While UN correspondent, she worked alongside Alistair Cooke in New York and subsequently held posts as European Integration correspondent, Washington correspondent, Eastern Europe correspondent, and diplomatic editor before retiring in the mid-1990s. Since leaving The Guardian, she has nurtured a new career as a writer, publishing a biography of Simon Wiesenthal and a book about Austria’s post-war history. BOOK: Scorn by Matthew Parris LUXURY: Recliner armchair FAVOURITE TRACK: Mozart's Marriage of Figaro Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
BBC sounds music, radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert island for rights reasons, the music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening the my castaway this week is hell, epic. As a journalist, she covered the stories that shape the twentieth century. She was there for Martin luther kings march from selma, the paris protests of nine seen, sixty eight, the water. Scandal in america and the gdansk ship.
Strikes in poland, one of the very first female in correspondence. She spent thirty five Is it the guardian and says it's no accident that foreign policy was her specialists and she arrived in the uk alone on it? Kinda transport train as a ten year old refugee from nazi occupied austin? celebrating her ninetieth birthday next year, she's far from retiring she's published a buyer. Were fee of Simon visas tall and is currently working with the think tank, the institute for strategic dialogue and with sussex university to establish the vital felled institute of jewish studies. I have a deep sense of belonging to britain. She writes, but I still wonder whether anyone not born in this country is ever wholly accepted or integrated. This kinda transport person needs to know there are also wider horizons that remain to embrace her and to embrace hella pick welcome to desert island disks.
Thank you and how are you one of the first women to occupy the role of foreign com? london, our conscious, while you that you didn't fit them old at the time, well, conscious, because my very first job was mostly in west africa, we're going back. Tonight and fifty eight fifty nine and I was virtually the only european woman journalist covering the whole field soap, Obviously I was young. I was quite good. Looking but it was running me, but in the nicest possible way I got to know all the leaders of west africa and I had a very good time and the answer european male journalists took me in and treated me as a comrade. Now. Have you to mention your formidable reputation that you earned for yourself. There is, I think, a possibly apocryphal story about a cluster of dignitaries hiding from you in the gents. What really happened?
this? Was the nervously guardians emerging nations correspondent, those days round lunchtime the diplomats for gathering elegance lounge drinks and the judge had access to that didn't, you know we would all going tongue talk to them, and I was trying to write some story and I was desperately looking for One of the members of the british un delegation couldn't see any of them Finally, the isles of french diplomats. Have you seen of the research fund? What's happened to them? They said We were all in the men's cloakroom hiding from. Hope you got them in the end. I do have to cover wanted their lunch. Now, what the music that you ve chosen forest today? What placed his music having your life music has its roots clues. I couldn't live without music. And a lot of time going to concerts and opera is really one of my very favourably.
Mutations of another Increasingly, when I'm working now, I'd like to have some background music and that's bad, because it's just sort of somewhere in the background and you're not really listening, but it's a good companion. Nevertheless, well, let's see in a fast track that you're going to take with you, the island. What's it going to be helping? Well, it's going to be sure, that's trout, quintet list the sultan special meaning for me because as a school child, I went to school in the lake district There was a small group of adult refugees over musicians and my mother used to take me to these concepts, and
One of the things that I remember they played, though, was the schubert's quintet.
That was the fifth movement of Schuman. Strength, quintet performed by jacqueline do pray, Daniel barenboim, Itzhak, perlman, pinkus, sick man and zoom in matter. So your Hello, pick covering many of the major event of the twentieth century. Also, of course, lead you to interview the major players from every part of the political spectrum. When you look back at those encounters which have stayed with you most vividly with accuracy too
completely contrasting. Once both relation to poland, I was, who to interview general brazil skilful. This then the ruler of poland and its opposite, indifferent, to get that into view and then, on the day, the other supposed to interview him breton of died. So I thought That's the end of my interview, because young gel scheme will be rushing off to moscow to the funeral. Instead I was told he will see me about evening and others taken through doc corridors to his room and he presented, Maybe the large bunch of roses and then gave me written answers to the questions I had written for him and then allowed better. Interview improperly for about half an hour next morning, I openly parting newspaper, and there is my interview on front page of the paper. Over and above the story
about oppression of staff and I think that it is a significant moment in terms of poland's relations with then soviet union than the polish interview was really not credit interview. I was in the church in gdansk with balanced on the day that she received his nobel prize. He was not allowed to leave the country, it is not about to go to receive the prize and the must have been about six or eight of us in the church and then in side room, and they had one bottle of champagne and with that bottle of champagne, we all of this, the draft of his health and talk to him, So that does this mean the interview, but a very special occasion, time for so long they call a pig. Tell me about your second disk will is something that reminds me and serves as a reminder to me that
I'm jewish, I'm proud of being jewish, but I'm not at all religious, but I've chosen dish reaches the song when the pressure which has said at funerals but which is really a praise of god. The internal lasting existence of god and chosen ravel's kaddish, which is particularly beautiful. I first heard as a memorial service for a very friends and move me deeply. When I heard it, and so I think, on the desert island, I should be reminded that jewish among Many other things, The yeah
the it ain't. The it the an incredible piece of music and I think Even if you didn't understand the language he would know that was a prow recorded in.
Nineteen, twenty eight that was reveals a miladi outbreak, Kadesh sung by near cushats. Hella pick your parents announced Joanna divorced when you were small, and it was just you and your mother. What was lifelike for her before you left, Austria should came from a middle class background. It didn't go to university, but she went to finishing school. I still have a handwritten now, rather tatty cookery book that she wrote. While she was at this finishing establishment, very good recipes in his except she always just puts the quantities into it. Never said you know what comes next of first and so you'll just have to learn, and I did and then she was a very good cook- and I did learn from her later in life- austria was annexed by nazi germany in march. Nineteen. Thirty eight tell me what happened to your
only then, will my father emigrated to america and I never saw him again because he died in fifty seven fifty eight and he had in fact taken no interest in my existence it on my mother's mother. She was widowed already in thirty eight, but she was too ill to get a visa to come to england. She got as far as prague and in france it was arrested and was sent to theresienstadt, which was of is one of the concentration camps and died the wheels notified during the war by the red cross that she died. My mother, she was picked up by southern in one evening, unfortunately returned invisible music cannabich tell me about your next track spoke quite quoted lot of time.
In vienna, I always enjoy going back I've chosen. None of this difficult the unease, songs and sung by the man who drives the Fuca, which is the horse carriage, which you'll still see in vienna today for tourists and is just a reminder of the sort of atmospherics of the core and the route of the other. Eve It adds that mats agnes. Neither am I saw the advancement van snake saying a badge is: oh, yes, our passwords about us tat S, mother, involve problems, start waters,
me miss green pats. Ok, it's not about money. Seeks sosius, helps me. It is, in my opinion, as a cool, it's gonna stay that way. About us, no bigger and see how can eat hell a pig when you were ten. Your mother made the incredibly difficult decision to put you on a kinda transport train alone, to get you out of vienna and to the uk, and you arrived at victoria station, march: nineteen. Thirty nine. What do you remember that day I knew no english, One word
because I was always for much, that is to say, good bye. So the way this worked with the kinda transport children was that arrangements were made. Here for these children to be taken in by individual families most and we came to Liverpool street by train and our future Guardians without waiting for us, when I was introduced to mine. I said goodbye, however, immediately put me school and three months later I go to school report where I seem to be speaking english of coping with the work. So I must have learned very fast: even your mother settled in the lake district. Happily, you were united after you came to the uk on an urgent problem thirty nine and she managed to get to britain about six weeks. For the war broke out
as woman on the only thing He was allowed to do because she lost everything. She came just with yourself and you could only do domestic work and she became cook of foam. Four days later became, nor should it and he loved austrian food that's, why she got the job and the? at a house in the lake district as well as in london. I in the meantime had been with foster parents. They asked me to join my mother and come to the lake district and lay later became my family, the shoulders. I mean people talk to me about that. The refugee experience, how much of the shape that your life took? Do you think is shaped by the experience of being uprooted at a young age. It did set in train a particular sequence of events. I'm quite sure I think
We'll never loses a certain sense of insecurity. State with one month so life, and I think it's shaped. Lot of my life, often to my disadvantage, to my loss, because I've grasped the things just simply to be secure in their personal lives in my personal relationships, as distinct from my journalism. I think A lot of mistakes that I made on that meant. A lot of mistakes were very largely due to the sword. Basic sense of insecurity that I always needed to be reassured degree which was unreasonable. Halibut. Tell me about your fourth disk today after after the for time. I did some research work for one of the professors and then started looking for jobs and answered Does this month for commercial
editor of weekly paper gold, west africa, of which I had never heard tonight, basement? I was offered the job, so my very first job have the title of commercial editor which, needless to say, impressed me. That, much and quite early on in london, I had to write a review about a west african dance troupe called the ballad of kite, affordable. The baddies have cut for the book, and this is one of the songs that
most play julie dancing in the desert island disk studio to cater for data on african, somebody with carolinas. So after writing for west africa, which was a weekly paper, you started
working for the guardian, and that was a major national. How different was that experience? It was different and at the same time it had a lot of common characteristics. But I was on a sharp learning curve and I was very lucky. I owe so much in my working life to luck when I left west africa I went to the guardian and said the first nonaligned conference was about to meet in belgrade, asked if I could help to cover this summit, because out of the african leaders that I've got to know with fever and the gods said. Yes, I could work with love them. Chief differ correspondent, richard Scott and some have rich failed to arrive for the opening from eating off this conference, so I had to covered by myself and the next day I, the splash led store in the guardroom. Well, you can imagine that that was rob pleasing then richard did arrive. P norma
they went to the un general assembly, but he invaded never like new york, and he went back to london and said it would be quite a good They sent me instead. Let me ask you about the states one of the first people at you. As the guardians. U S, correspondent in nineteen, sixty seven was the journalist and broadcaster alister cook. He was a very influential figure. Yes, obstacle was the chief cause. The garden. In those days he became a really really close friend and my first meeting with him. I have never forgotten because he came to meet me at the united nations and he bought me a decorate and I had never drunk it actually perform. I liked it so I had a second and third one, but I did walk out of the buildings. Far as I can remember What did he tell you by writing? I think, apart from anything else, he always said
don't say in your first paragraph watch your stories about, then forget it, because people will stay with you and he had this incredible ability to darted one point and end up somewhere else and the whole thing fitted together. It was a complete story and it always made sense. He was an artist with words and to nodded thing. Anyone replicating time for some easy calorific. Tell me about your fifth. This is some pablo causes. Songs of the birds. This is catalonia, song and cousins himself sense, but the birds sing. The singing peace, peace, peace. I heard play this man. I was looking at the: u n and I've gone to purge veto on how to do it together with someone dogs sleeping with them.
And we both and it was intensely moving. I The the and the
the pablo casals, the song of the birds with pablo casals, on cello and me: a cheap workforce off scheme on piano recorded, live at the white house on november the thirteenth nineteen sixty one with unity in the audience hell, epic, who you met rope meetings, Slight exaggeration, I've got to know quite well pierre sullen, Jehovah's canada's spokesman. Invited me to join the morning high on sport, now today home for parted and penal, took me up to cabotage and somehow managed to stumble in full straight into his arms. But it is a very brief comment, while in
who s he reported on the nineteen. Sixty five selma march, lad, of course, by martin luther king to Montgomery alabama. Tell me about that. Experience will in many ways forget about it was such an event that margins in red mistakes. I realized the duck very well have been matters on that day, because I've lucky enough to be able to rent a car, and I had both the way but always went back to the car and at the end of the first days march I was talking to one of my colleagues from the washington post leave is black and, I said Let me give you a ride back rich regions and, of course, that the sooner an invitation to be shot because that too and juno people were shot because, like woman, black man mecca sitting sitting together, simply simply not done, but we got back
but when we got back to the hotel when they went to the bar, they asked him to leave and I come it's a lot of the other civil rights events during that period and it wasn't nasty and the whole march at the end. You knew something change. Life was never going to be quite the same again time for me, Color pick tell me about youth sixth disk. Today, it's a boot, ovals, piano, sonata, I've asked foods to be played by The famous russian pianists risk- and this takes me back to poland and from time to time, russian artists used to come to give concepts in warsaw and my friends sentiment of. Quite apart from the pleasure of hearing these wonderful artists, you will also have the pleasure of being able to buy wonderful copy
because the russian artists, however eminent always came supplied with copy of which was then old during the interval for hard currency. So all the far those weapons in both the copier- and this record reminds me of those rather curious times, because which is one of the artists who came to, and on this recording. He plays the publicity The
The the The the beethoven's piano, sonata number, eight in sea, minor, performed by slough richter, helping you because the guardians eastern europe, correspondent in nineteen. Seventy five. How quickly did you just your do? Surroundings? Well-
I was based in london and at the time it was a great psychological help to me, because I was going to marry ralph dahrendorf, who the director of the london school of economics and that at all completely fallen apart, and I was really quite distraught. I'd given up man job is washington, correspondent to come back to london to be with him and then it all unraveled and the guardian gave me eastern europe instead. So instead of in marriage. I caught caught up in the cold war and very close quarters, and I spent a lot of time in poland, but I also spent quite a lot of time in east germany in romania and in bulgaria. East germany have dissolve is very trying because you were followed, you will listen to you had knocks on the door at night
and it was tough going, but the saving grace always was to go to yugoslavia and in those days it was still yugoslavia- and I remembered the man periods in yugoslavia in belgrade that I particularly enjoyed- and I shouldn't say this- but this was the time when tito was known to be dying and the world's journalists landed in belgrade waiting for tito to die to see what would have marked him. He was still very, very big figure in those days as a symbol of indifference
it's within european communism and again, I'm afraid that this brings me back to caviar again them. I'm quite ashamed of myself. But one of the time magazine correspondents who was based in moscow at the time had brought large supplies of caviar with him to belgrade, and a small group of us used meets in his rooms at the end of the afternoon and asked the hotel to send us a toast that we would sit there drinking our vodka consuming a toast with cubby who, which was really rather pleasant, wrong nice days in belgrade, waiting for teton stuff, what an awful thing to say, but still at the time we enjoyed it, and at the time even the american ambassador was briefing that yugoslavia would survive beyond tito and, of course, We were all wrong. Time
Some low musical epic tell me about your seventh disk this really brings me now to london, to the women of all and to my love of good singers, and one of my favorites very terms is a wonderful person called thomas class, tough he's a solid, a mind victim and his two sets of the most wonderful voice and his cycles that the whig hall were always the great experience, and I very much
I just wanted to include a recording in this broadcast and in the end I decided for schubert's good, not from the bin to rise of birds. Ooh ooh ooh neat urge Let us move on
me see that scrutiny from winter, I saw some by thomas fast enough with charles spencer on piano hell, epic. As someone who knows the business better than most What do you make of the health of journalism today often could single difficulties for the law?
almost twenty years I've been working for small, think tank from george landfills in situated strategic dialogue. I did a lot of work on the media exchequer, between european and chinese journalists, but for the whole region He was changed and is in many ways and labelling perilous situation, because the challenge to preserve the professionalism in journalism as a time when some major love anybody to become sort of. Doesn't gentleness and to remove professional to be distinguish truth from fiction and to be able to distinguish reporting. Facts from comments is something That really is essential, but something that you have to understand and to learn to know how to do and the co problem is how to be today
no major organizations. Fine business models works. Let allowed them to maintain. Professionalism and indeed allow them to continue their existence, and it is a huge problem and I think of it is searching for the answers and you are it be cut off from news and current affairs on our island. Of course, hella pick, how do you think you'll cope with that? I tried to go for the and I've lived alone, often quite a long time. So used to being all know- I do it's come to new, but somehow I'm going to have company. In my mind and in my memory- and I hope to have lovely whether I hope I can swim. I don't have to worry about re, not anything like that and that of the desert. Is big enough for me to be able to walk. I think I can confirm we can do lovely whether swimming and walking. Absolutely no problem. Let's have some more Is it what's it going to be your eighth disk? Will it's going to be,
The last seen from the marriage of figaro opera is one of my great loves and Mozart offers even greater love and the marriage is figure- is really one of my great favorites and I've been all this use every opportunity. I have to see a good offer production. Ben. Is Why the
the the, the the gentle genteel. Allow me from the finale of boats, marriage of figaro with bring tearful as figaro, rodney, gill free as the count and he levy martin Palko, as the countess conducted by John elliot, So we turn now has a pick two, the books. I give you, the bible and the complete works. If shakespeare and you can choose one,
look of your own. What's it going to be well, my book is gonna, be matthew, Paris's book called school on. This is a book. Contains witticisms expressions of contempt insults through the ages. Ever page. You owe me, John. You find something that will make love, so it's really worth taking with me and it's all yours and a luxury two to toil between taking all the loose photographs tat. I have that I've never stuck into an album to remind move of my life and happy times, but then the end undecided. What I really want is one of those customers arm chairs. Let's put your legs out your arms up. I don't want it sleep on the ground. All the time is bound to be rough, so I want to be comfortable, I'm on the island. So that's what I'm going to have
really comfy recliner with, but with especially chosen fabric. Of course, ok well I'm going to do some research and get not meda if something wonderful and if you could only keep one of your eight discs, which would you safe Well, in the end have decided it's got to be sought, so it will be. The marriage figure had a pic. Thank you, very much for sharing your desert island discs. Thank you been wonderful,
I really like the image I have of heller with a feat open, comfy, chair, listening to her music choices. I hope you enjoyed our conversation. Other journalists and foreign correspondence featured in the desert island discs back catalogue include Christina ma. Am robert fisk john pilcher and Alex Crawford a corresponding to also witnessed many significant world events is deemed annesley sue lowly cast her away in two thousand and four she is, she admits quote not unlike peachy, would has his fist and Agatha, who h broken bottles and war by
barbed wire next to the skin. She is and leslie or not, and that that's an image you would necessarily promote, as I understand it, when you're out in the field, because you like playing the kind of brainless bird done well in sort of countries, I tend to work in the very contemptuous of women and the way to get round this problem with them was is to be as bird brains as you possibly can, because they don't see you as a threat, and I always remember dame Freya stark, who is the wonderful adventurer who used to get mad bad and dangerous countries, and she wrote that the great advantage of being a woman simply can always pretend to be more stupid than you are, and everyone believes you
what she meant was every man believes you. So I go round looking frankly like some bird brain dem bow, and I have a huge handbag which is full of rubbish, which I then empty onto the parish x desk saying I have called the permissions. I just can't find them and of course he can't stand this rubbish and also I remind him of his mother, and he just wants me out of the room that is worked with people rather more dangerous than just sort of people at visa desks hasn't. It is worked with kind of gun, toting guerrillas. It works very well at checkpoints, a particularly worked on the vulcans, which are always manned by people with gold or silver teeth. He knew they were killers and you'd turn up one of these checkpoints and what I used jews fish out. My handbag pictures of my daughter, and they would take out of there stained of blood and vomit caked uniforms pictures of their
waters their songs and everything, and they would just then, after that weeping sentimentally. Let me through. Whereas if I came in looking like a war, correspondent they'd know what to do with what you've used your femininity hemmed you in in less dangerous situations and that wasn't a pepsi is more dangerous. I mean didn't you. Do the dolly bird act in order to get a scoop out of muhammad ali back in the sixties. On the whole, I always try not to look like a journalist and muhammad Ali was coming into london for a big fight. I knew nothing about boxing, so I dressed up lots of eyelashes and fur and makeup and at stood apart from all the journalists, and I knew that muhammad Ali had a lot of people in his entourage who are extremely interested in dolly birds.
And one of them, flocked me and asked me I'd like to meet the champion, I said sure, and he showed meandering your envy. You showed me into the back of my daddy's roles and as we drove off with all oppress, noting that we have a new blonde by his side. I rode down the window and shut it. I'm endlessly the daily express actually I've scooped you and Mohammed Ali thought. That was incredibly funny and we got on my cousin far off the bat demon leslie, you can hear that programme. On b. We see sands, where you'll find more than two thousand editions of desert island discs, which you can download and listen to whenever and wherever you like. My guess. Next time will be the artist jeremy deller. I hope you'll join us. The.
Transcript generated on 2022-06-12.