It’s 25 years since Diane Samuels’ powerful drama first moved audiences, with something that was new to many. Since then the story of the Kindertransport children has entered public consciousness, thanks to high-profile real-life stories as well as a succession of productions of Samuels’ play. This anniversary production is especially timely, coinciding with the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass), when the Nazis incited violence against Jews across Germany – a chilling curtain-raiser to the Holocaust. It also has new urgency, chiming with the stories of families fleeing persecution across the world, desperately seeking refuge, facing separation.
Sir Nicholas George Winton MBE 19 May 1909 – 1 July 2015
At the age of 106, Sir Nicholas Winton peacefully passed away in his sleep at Wexham Park Hospital on 1 July 2015. The poignant day also marked 76 years since 241 children – of the 669 Sir Nicky saved from Czechoslovakia – evacuated Prague by train. Sir Nicky was a true humanitarian; on the eve of the Second World War he instigated the Czech Kindertransport, which saw hundreds of children escape safely to homes that Sir Nicky had arranged for them in Britain. For this selfless act Czech President Miloš Zeman awarded Sir Nicky the highest honour of the Czech Republic, the Order of the White Lion (1st class).
In May 2003 I had the honour of meeting this extraordinary man. Sir Nicky was in his mid-90s at the time and I was lucky enough to be asked to make a feature for BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour with Sir Nicky and the daughter of one of his “children”, pilot Judy Leden, a world champion microlight flyer. She had planned a very special treat for his 94th birthday – a spin in a microlite aircraft. It made Sir Nicky the oldest person to fly in a microlight and by doing so he raised money for one of his favourite charities, Abbeyfield, who provide housing and support for the elderly.
Recording their in-flight conversation as they circled his Berkshire home was quite a challenge, but a total joy. I got to record him at his home afterwards too and he was witty, charming and welcoming – a truly great human being.
By Judi Herman