US daily Washington Times reported today that Jaroslav Kurfurst of the Czech Embassy in the USA and his colleague Dominick Chilcott of the British Embassy honoured a modest British citizen Nicholas Winton, who saved lives of about 669 Czechoslovak children, mostly of Jewish origin, during the years of Holocaust. The diplomatic reception took place yesterday, January 27, 2009, in Washington on account of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Mr. Winton, who is 99 now (born 19 May 1909), didn’t manage to visit the ceremony in person, but one of the children who rescued then named Alice Masters was present at the reception. American students who were invited to visit this event held in the framework of annual educational program dedicated to victims of Holocaust also watched a documentary on Mr. Winton’s life and his heroic exploits. Jaroslav Kurfurst distributed some copies of a new English translation of Nicholas Winton’s biography "Lottery for Life."
In December 1938 when this story began, Nicholas Winton was a 29-year-old stockbrocker from London. One of his friends Martin Blake asked for help. As Mr. Winton recollected later: "I found out that the children of refugees and other groups of people who were enemies of Hitler weren't being looked after. I decided to try to get permits to Britain for them. I found out that the conditions which were laid down for bringing in a child were chiefly that you had a family that was willing and able to look after the child, and £50, which was quite a large sum of money in those days, that was to be deposited at the Home Office."
Nicholas Winton managed to organize some kind of rescue mission later named the Czech Kindertransport. He cooperated with the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia and the Czechoslovak travel agency Cedok to organize transport to the UK and find foster families for kids. All the children Mr. Winton managed to save were doomed to die in Nazi death camps. He never discussed his activity with anybody and even his wife Greta learned about his heroic past only in 1988 when she found old papers while tidying up the attic of their home in England.
Mr. Winton was awarded a knighthood in the New Year's honours list published on 31 December 2002 and, thus, became Sir Nicholas. His activity inspired Slovak filmmaker Matej Miná─Ź to create two movies based on his biography - the drama All My Loved Ones (Všichni moji blízcí) (1999) and the documentary The Power of Good: Nicholas Winton (Nicholas G. Winton: Sila ─żudskosti) (2002), awarded an Emmy Award. And in 2008 the Czech government nominated Sir Nicholas for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.
Photo: Sir Nicholas Winton in Prague in 2007, by Li-sung (wikimedia.org)
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