Part of the reason I started this blog was to share; share things I knew, things I tried, things I have learned and things I think and feel. Nice and broad isn’t it, pretty much gives me a license to write whatever… oooh the glee.
When I was in High School we learnt about the Holocaust… a LOT, please don’t get me wrong I think that the Holocaust was one of the most disgusting and depraved things humans have ever done to other humans and I do believe it is important that youth are taught about it. If they do not learn of our horrific failures in our past, how can they learn from our mistakes to hopefully prevent this ever happening again? What I didn’t value about the curriculum was the fact that we learnt about it for over a semester for 3 years running and for the most part we were shown horrific videos and images that are scarred into me until this day. I am not ashamed to say that I cried during some of these videos, they were that awful. I think it is important that we were shown these images so that we have no doubt of the terror of that time, but we didn’t need to see it multiple times. I would have liked to learn a lot more about some of the people that did whatever they could to help in a time where so many people needed it.
One of these people is Sir Nicholas Winton, if you have never heard of him it is time you did. Nicholas was 29 when he organised the rescue of 669 Czech children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia during the 9 months before war broke out in 1939. Those children have grown up and had children of their own and now have grandchildren and great grandchildren, approximately 6000 people in the world today owe their lives to this man, giving the gift of so many lives perhaps he is the real Saint Nick.
Nicholas was living in Britain at the time and when a friend told him of the problems there he travelled to Prague for a two week holiday. He set up a small office there to meet with people that wanted to get their children to safety. Nicholas wrote for help to many countries, but only Great Britain responded offering assistance, even with their promise of aid the action was painstakingly slow and Winton and his colleagues were running out of time. To save the children they forged documents such as visas, this increased the risk they were taking, but at that point they felt there was no other choice.
8 trains full of children successfully made it to Great Britain where families were waiting to care for them. A ninth train with 250 children on it did not make it out of Prague, the children were on the train, but war was declared and transportation was suspended.
Winton is very humble and thus for many years not many people knew what this amazing man had accomplished against all odds. One day Winton’s wife found a scrapbook in their attic, it had the name of every child he had rescued, who their parents are and the families they had been placed with. 80 of these children were found to still be living in Britain, they were brought together in 1988 during an episode of the BBC program That’s Life. Winton had no idea that the audience was full of the people he had saved and describes it as one of the most emotional experiences of his life.
Sir Nicholas Winton has recently celebrated his 105th birthday! Congratulations Saint Nick, I hope you have many years of joy ahead of you.
His daughter Barbara Winton has written Nicholas’ story in a book called “If it’s Not Impossible… The life of Sir Nicholas Winton”, I personally cannot wait to get my hands on it and I urge you all to check it out too.