JBD

 

Oct 2009 Journal

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‘Inspiration by Goodness’

Of the 669 Czech children who travelled on the original eight ‘Winton
Trains’ from Prague to London in 1939, only 22 were on the new ‘Winton Train’, which left Prague on 31 August 2009 and arrived at Liverpool Street Station, the same destination as the original trains, on 4 September. I was one of the 22.

Readers of the Journal may have seen some of the extensive TV footage already shown on the BBC News Channel, whose film crew and commentator were present throughout the journey. The idea of commemorating the earlier event was, in fact, conceived by the steam train enthusiasts of Czech Railways. If you have seen pictures of the train, you will have noticed not only the steam engines, which drew crowds of photographers all along the route through Bohemia and Germany (this had been publicised in advance) but also that the trains - the same applied to the train from Harwich to Liverpool Street - were made up of heterogeneous pre-war carriages of several nationalities, including a Hungarian restaurant car manned by Hungarian staff serving Hungarian food and wines, and in England a Pullman coach as well as one from the Royal Scot. The rest of the train occupants, apart from the several volunteer Czech organisers and the very welcome presence of Sir Nicholas Winton’s daughter Barbara, consisted of family members of the ‘22’, some of whom had come from as far as Israel, Canada, the US and Australia, and a considerable number of young people mostly in their twenties who had distinguished themselves as prize-winners in various artistic disciplines and had been awarded their prizes on the evening prior to the departure of the train at a ceremony in the splendid surroundings of the Prague National Museum.

Travelling on the train too was the Hottentots Orchestra, which supplied daily teatime music in the bar car and at the stations where the train stopped overnight.

So much for the ‘externals’. It is, of course, impossible to generalise on what this repeat journey after 70 years meant to the original children, let alone their own children and grandchildren. In 1939, none of us could have foreseen with any certainty the events which were to commence so shortly after, let alone the then unimaginable horrors which were to befall our families! Speaking for myself, I felt we were participating in a great adventure, and the thought that we would never see our parents again did not occur to us. Having been to Prague a number of times since the ‘Velvet Revolution’, what struck me most forcefully as my wife and I wandered through the pretty, well-cared-for streets of Prague this time, was how awful life must have become so quickly for them as the anti-Jewish regulations were enforced - what with no work, not much money, no travel on public transport and the yellow star.

The highlight of the journey for us was, of course, the chance to see and talk to our rescuer, the 100-year-old Nicky Winton, both at Liverpool Street and later at the Czech embassy. It was wonderful to be able to thank this modest man once again for our lives. The motto for the whole event – ‘Inspiration by Goodness’ - could not have found a truer living representative.
 

 

Harry Stadler

previous article:The first AJR local groups (Part I)*
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