Virginia Gorna

Arrivederci Virginia Gorna, e Grazie

My mother, Virginia Gorna, was born in Manchester on 20 January 1942 and, after a lengthy tussle with cancer, died at the beautiful St Johns hospice in London on 3 February 2021.

At her funeral, I gave the eulogy with her husband Maurice Forsythe. Together we reflected on her rich, lively life – my mother was seriously ahead of her time.

With Maurice, & SAUS friends Sylvia Kelcher and John Austin

She found real happiness in her work as a Youth worker on the Highfields estate in Leicester – the most multi-cultural part of the UK in the mid-1970s, with rotten high rise flats bulging with Asian families fleeing Idi Amin’s regime in Uganda and people from multiple Caribbean nations. The Windrush generation. She taught me about the complexity of the various communities who were forced together. And she made me join the local steel band, not because she thought I had any musical talent, but she decided that it would be good for me to learn about racism by being the only white kid in the group. While I did not thank her at the time, when #BlackLivesMatters exploded in 2020 the concept of White Privilege was certainly not strange to me. She was delighted that my new job focuses on diversity and inclusion and saw it (as do I) as the culmination of her life’s work.

Her commitment to diversity was never worthy or just about her work. She lived her values as something intensely personal. She became life long friends with so many of the people she encountered in her many roles. She was especially proud of spending over two decades as a governor, and at times Vice Chair of the governors, at Berrymede school in Acton. Their new – and intriguingly acquired – garden will be named in her honour according to the Headmistress, and her dear friend Lubna Khan.