Friday, 1 June, 2012
Last night, 31 May 2012, Roberta Atherton attended a showing of Nicky’s family, hosted by the Refugee Council at the beautiful Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) in St John’s Wood.
In her introduction, Rabbi Alexandra Wright reflected on what an appropriate venue the Synagogue was to show the film. It is a calming place of sanctuary, just as Nicky’s family reflects the deliverance of 669 children from the horrors of World War II to the safety of their new families and lives in the UK. With over 100 years of history of raising funds and providing social services to the destitute in London, the LJS was also a fitting place for the Refugee Council to appeal for funding to continue their crucial work with displaced people.
The film Nicky’s family recounts the remarkable story of a seemingly ordinary young English man, who became aware of the plight of refugees and their children fleeing Nazi occupation in Czechoslovakia. After hatching a plan to save the lives of as many children as he could, Nicholas Winton faced huge diplomatic and logistical challenges and was acutely sensitive that timely action was vital. But with his trademark dogged determination, a flair for the creative and an active sense of humour, Nicholas Winton never gave up and was able to successfully organise the mass rescue of the children as part of what is now known as the Kindertransport. What he never anticipated were the incredibly far-reaching consequences of his actions.
While the refugee children were adjusting and growing into British life in at times devastating, heart-warming and funny ways, Winton moved on with his own life. In fact his story became buried for around 50 years, until the production and airing of an exceptionally poignant episode of That’s Life in 1988.
Nicky’s family pays tribute to the vast and inspirational impact of the actions of one unassuming man in communities across the world. The Kindertransportees, and their thousands of international descendants (Nicky’s ‘family’) have often gone on to achieve great things and draw inspiration from the story of Winton, to whom they all quite literally owe their lives. In fact, as a result of people from numerous different countries being moved by the story of Nicky and his family, educational and humanitarian programmes have commenced in his honour all over the world.
Nicholas Winton has just celebrated his 103rd birthday, in a lifetime of quietly taking actions to support his community and people of other communities. We can take inspiration from his story, by learning about and reaching out to those who have fled persecution and are starting new lives in Britain today. We can respect each other’s differences and make sure we are doing our part to prevent hatred and discrimination in our country.