THE first Freewoman of Blaenau Gwent County Borough is holocaust survivor Eva Clarke.
At an online meeting of the council, last week Mrs Clarke received numerous tributes and compliments from councillors who could remember her fist talk for the Holocaust Educational Trust in Blaenau Gwent Abertillery over a decade ago.
Council leader, Cllr Steve Thomas put forward the motion and said: “It’s an absolute pleasure to be able to do this today, to mark Eva’s commitment, dedication and devotion to spreading a message of hope in darkness by outlining the harrowing story of the holocaust to combat racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism.
Cllr Thomas added that it was also to recognise the ties Mrs Clarke had with Blaenau Gwent, having started her talks in the county borough in 2013.
Deputy council leader, Cllr Helen Cunningham said: “We’re so proud to grant you freedom of the borough and are looking forward to seeing you in person shortly.
“Eva is also the first woman we’ve bestowed this honour upon, and it’s important to note that.”
Cllr Julie Holt said: “Congratulations Eva. I remember sitting in a little room in the Civic Centre when you delivered your presentation and it brought me to tears, education is the way forward.
Cllr John C Morgan: “I remember your talk in Abertillery.
“It’s one I shall never forget, I have lasting memories of that evening when we walked back to Nantyglo in the rain, it was extremely thought-provoking.”
“I remember that well when we marched to the bridge with a lantern parade,” added Cllr Tommy Smith.
Cllr George Humphreys said: “You are an inspirational woman and if the world was full of people like you what a fabulous place it would be.”
Mrs Clarke said: “I really do feel overwhelmed by the honour and all your very kind comments.
“I also distinctly remember that evening in Abertillery in the pouring rain holding our candles walking across the bridge it really was a wonderful occasion.
“My parents would be so gratified by this unexpected consequence of having arrived in South Wales as immigrants in 1948.”
She explained that her father had come to work at a textile factory on the Treforest trading estate near Pontypridd, when her family settled in Cardiff. Her links to Blaenau Gwent come through her husband, Malcolm Clarke.
His father Kenneth was a senior partner in legal practice in Ebbw Vale.
Mrs Clarke continued: “For over 30 years the Holocaust Educational Trust has worked in schools across the country teaching young people from all walks of life about the holocaust.
“Tens of thousands of young people have visited Auschwitz-Birkenau the Nazi death camp in Poland, as part of the flagship lessons from Auschwitz project creating new generations of passionate and committed young ambassadors.
“I’m delighted there will be five Welsh regional ambassadors from the trust present next Wednesday all of whom heard my talk prior to their visit to Auschwitz along with two of the trust Welsh educators.
“My main aim in telling my mother’s story has always been to try to commemorate those millions who perished in the holocaust, to try and make the history come alive in the recounting of just one family’s experience and to try and counteract anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice in any form.
“I just can’t thank you enough and I look forward to seeing you in Ebbw Vale.”
On Wednesday, April 5, the official freedom of the borough ceremony will take place at the General Office in Ebbw Vale.