This is Sir Nicholas Winton, he is a WWII hero. When it comes to having a list of heroes, Sir Nicholas for me is in my top 10.
Sir Nicholas Winton, now 100, arranged eight trains to carry 669 mostly Jewish youngsters from Prague through Germany and on to Britain just before the outbreak of the war. In the 9 months of the run up to the outbreak of WWII, he help to organise the trains later known as the Kindertransport.
Their fate would have been almost certain death in Nazi concentration camps. Many of them never saw their parents again, as they mostly perished in Auschwitz. The last train to leave on September 3rd 1939 was sent back, as by then Germany had invade Czechoslovakia and they were turned back by the Germans.A steam train to mark the 70th anniversary of the mass evacuation of children from Czechoslovakia set off from Prague to London a few days ago and will be arriving in London on Friday.
A statue of Sir Nicholas was unveiled in Prague before the train left.
The former stockbroker will be in London on Friday to greet the trains 170 passengers. They include 22 he saved. Strange thing is that up until 1988, the year my Patricia arrived in the World, this quiet kind man's humanitarian work had gone unnoticed, that was until his wife Greta found a detailed scrapbook in their attic. The scrapbook with many of the original documents are now in The Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem
How did this man save my life?
Simple really, word was out in Prague about what was happening and what was coming and people were scared.
You may not know this, but my mother is from Czechoslovakia and is the youngest of 9 children. While she came from a very poor farming family, my Grandfather was a very clued up man and had friends and family in the city of Prague. Many of who were intellectuals, the first people really to realise what was about to happen.
Grandpa, was warned of what was to come, I don't know how they knew, just that they did. My Grandmother was expecting my mother when they first started to hear the rumours of what was heading their way. At this point the British Government had not decided to accept any refugees, eventually they did give refuse to 10 thousand children, but not their parents.
After much discussion, my Grandparents decided that the only way to save them selves and their family was to leave, but being farmers and money tight the only way they were going to leave as a whole family was to walk. And so began an epic journey to escape and get to safety.
My Grandmother wrote in her diary at the time,
"How do I choose from which child is to go and which is to stay. What will become of this unborn life. Are they not all worth saving. What is to become of us."
Thing is how do you chose from 9 children, which ones to send and which ones to keep, they didn't have the money to send them all and I know that they had no desire to be parted from any of them.
My Grandparents left and walked away from the horrors that were to come and they were the lucky ones, if they were here today they would tell you that the hardship they suffered on that journey was worth very step that took them away from the hell that ensued. So in the May of 1939 they left, with little more than what they could carry. They weren't alone there were others who traveled with them. What courage they had, to venture off into the unknown and with children in tow.
My Grandmother eventually gave birth to my mother on July 13th 1939. Funny thing is that while they know the date of her birth, no one actually knows where she was born and on her birth certificate that was given to her after the war, it simply states under place of birth "UNKNOWN".
Whenever I feel that life is too hard to cope with, I think about my mothers birth and the epic journey of my family. My Grandmother gave birth in a wood, with no pain relief and yet Grandad told the story of a woman who made not even the slightest sound for fear of giving away their where abouts.
My last 2 births were without pain relief and in a nice warm, cosy , safe hospital, with all the mod-cons you can throw a stick at, you should have heard me scream. My husband told me after the birth of Callum, that had never heard a noise like it and that it made his blood run cold and yet here was my Grandmother giving birth in terrible circumstances silently.
Such unbelievable courage and strength, how could I not draw from that at times of hardship for me, my life while having ups and downs has been blessed and charmed. But mostly, I was blessed to have some wonderful people in my life who with great courage took chances and changed lives.
While I have never met Sir Nicholas Winton, I do salute, his courage and determination to help those most vulnerable in society and for helping to get the message out, so that others were warned and could make their way to safety.