Yolanda Ropschitz-Bentham

Born in Derby in 1953, Yolanda grew up in West Yorkshire, in the north of England, a region famed for its wild and barren heather-clad landscapes. Her home town was barely a stone’s throw from the windy moors of Haworth, the home of the Bronte sisters.   These bleak vistas etched in her a deep and enduring love of nature, heath and moorland.

With an extended family in mainland Europe, USA and Australasia and a multi-lingual father, the love of travel and learning new languages was instilled from an early age along with an enjoyment of amateur dramatics and choral singing.  At school she regularly contributed to magazines and plays, studied French, German, Latin and Russian while thanks to regular continental holidays she could “get by” in Spanish and Italian. A brief stint as an au pair in Geneva, followed by a two year period of study in Manchester consolidated her French and German language skills.

In 1974 Yolanda travelled to Israel where she worked for three years in a multi-national travel agency in Tel Aviv. Her proficiency in languages, now including Hebrew, proved invaluable for working with tourists from all four corners of the globe at events such as the annual Tel Aviv Fashion Week and WIZO Conferences.  She continued specialising in Israel travel in London and later in Philadelphia. In 1979 she returned to academic study, graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology at the University of Bradford in 1982. This led to a period of two years working at the pioneering Caldecott Therapeutic Community for vulnerable children in Kent.   In an imposing Victorian building surrounded by extensive grounds and woodland, staff lived alongside children in emotionally supportive family groups.  With children in her care, she would take long walks in the deer park, foraging for wild food in the hedgerows and developing the children’s culinary skills with produce from the kitchen garden. Her creativity was also expressed in the comedy sketches she wrote for the children and staff to perform.

In 1984 she relocated to Bristol where she met her husband. They settled in rural Somerset where they established a small holding, raising three children amid ducks, geese, chickens, sheep and apple orchards. It was not quite the Yorkshire moors but was often wild and windy!

In 1992 Yolanda began teaching Psychology, a career which was to span 25 years. In between teaching, raising her family and wild food foraging she turned to writing comic pieces, two of her stories being featured on BBC local radio.

In recent years, Yolanda has worked as a volunteer presenter on local radio, interviewing guests and delivering her own contributions on a variety of topics including highlights of a trip to India and the Tibetan plateau and a 12 month feature on World War 1 and its impact on the town.

A love of language and writing is a family trait. Yolanda’s cousin Lillian Roxon was a celebrated New York rock music reporter and author in the 1970s, her brother Manfred Roxon was a radio and TV news journalist for many years and her mother Lorraine Roxon’s account of life in the East End of London during the Blitz has been published online.

Following retirement in 2016 Yolanda turned to her late father’s manuscript, “Ferramonti.”  Researching his autobiographical novel over the next few years led to regular visits to the Ferrramonti di Tarsia camp museum in Calabria. Through these trips she was lucky and honoured to meet former internees from the 1940s and their descendants. This connection, culminating in the publication of “Ferramonti: Salvation behind the barbed wire,” has produced one of the most rewarding periods of her life so far, affording Yolanda cherished opportunities to travel to Italy, Israel and South America. Life stories from former internees are now forming the basis of her next book: “The People of Ferramonti: Then and Now.”

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