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This audio clip is from an oral history interview with Gaby Koppel recorded by Centre for the Movement of People, Aberystwyth University, in February 2022. In the clip, Gaby talks about language and identity.

Gaby Koppel – a short biography.

Gaby Koppel was born in Cardiff in 1957. Her parents, Henry and Edith, were both Jewish refugees – her father from Germany and her mother from Hungary. There was a small community of Jewish refugees in Cardiff, many of whom worked at the Treforest Trading Estate in Pontypridd. Her father worked at Treforest as an engineer for Aero Zipp, which had been founded by Gaby’s grandfather Joachim Koppel in the 1930s. Unlike many refugees, Gaby’s parents regularly returned to their home countries on business or on holiday. Gaby now works as a journalist and producer in London.


So, one of the things that I struggle with the most actually is language, so one of the sort of clearest connections to a nationality is language, but English is the only language I really speak fluently. And my parents spoke German at home, and German was very much the lingua franca of all our…so, our kind of milieu in Cardiff all spoke – well, they were from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Vienna, Germany, Hungary, all over the place, and many of them were multilingual, but they all spoke German together. So, I’ve been brought up in a German-speaking environment but I don’t really speak German like a native, and I don’t speak Welsh, I don’t speak any Hungarian. And so, you feel as though you belong to those identities, but it’s very tenuous somehow, there’s something a bit…if you don’t actually speak the language, your relationship with the identity is much more tenuous, I think, and so you feel, I feel a bit of a fraud, [be]cause if I’m in a lift with people who speak Hungarian to each other, I know they’re speaking Hungarian, I can recognise Hungarian – but I can’t say anything to them—“Look, I’m Hungarian, mate!”—but, you know, so, you feel as though you’re a little bit…it is, it’s all a bit intangible.


Centre for the Movement of People, Aberystwyth University, Oral history interview with Gabby Koppel (February 2022)

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