Nicky's Family (2011) Movie Script

There are some stories
which we are not only an audience to,
but may become their participants.
Until 1988 it was all a mystery.
This old man saved my life
and that of hundreds of others
in the 2nd world war.
Yet for 50 years after our escape
from all but a certain death,
we knew nothing about him.
Not even that he existed.
Now he is celebrated as a hero.
He insists that what he did
was nothing to make a fuss about.
His story came to fascinate people
the world over, especially children.
They wanted to know more, much more.
And they had questions.
Why did he do it?
How did he manage to succeed in
what seemed like mission impossible?
So along with others
I set out to discover
and tell the story in a film.
Given that I owe my life to him
I couldn't have done no less.
Nicky's story came out by accident
after this scrapbook surfaced
after gathering dust decades.
Once it did, though, it set about
a whole chain of incredible events.
Oh, hey guys, that's me.
-Before I left for England.
The scrapbook is filled with
photographs of children
caught up in a lottery of life
and death, some of their drawings,
urgent telegrams and pleading letters
from their desperate parents -
messages from a long ago past
that brought on
a rush of childhood memories.
Memories of the 1930's,
of the pleasures of childhood
in Czechoslovakia -
the country we all came from.
As I remember life in my own hometown
of Bratislava,
the capital of Slovakia,
it was a pleasant, tolerant,
multicultural and multilingual place.
I learned to greet my mother's
women friends
with the then standard politeness of:
"I kiss your hand."
It was, and I remember it still:
"Ruku bozkavam" in Slovak,
"Ruku libam" in Czech,
"Ich kuess die Hand" in German
and "Kese czokolom" in Hungarian.
What I remember most vividly, though,
are the small things
like going to a caf with my father.
And he used to play chess
and we used to get hot chocolate
with lots of whipped cream
on top of it.
From my childhood as a family,
we were very patriotic.
My father encouraged us to go to all
the Czech wonderful manifestations
that took part because Czechoslovakia
was for the first time
a country of its own and we all
believed in its great future.
and enjoyed many good things.
My brother was marvelous.
He invented all kinds of wonderful
games for us to do,
which were usually a bit risky
and a bit naughty.
And I would have done anything
with him at all.
We lived in a small village
in the foothills of Tatra mountains.
And we had a very happy childhood.
We spent a lot of time in the woods,
picking strawberries and mushrooms
and wild flowers.
And we had animals.
I had a chicken, and we had one cow,
and we planted vegetables.
And my mother taught us all
the Slovak songs
and we sang together a great deal.
We used to go every Sunday
to Karlovy Vary along the promenade.
My father was an amateur dancer
and won many prizes
and it was a well-known
family outing.
We had a good life
till the Nazis took over in 1938.
Before Nazism was born and grew
and strength in Central Europe.
It started with Germany's
Nazi dictator, Adolph Hitler,
instilling hatred in Germans
from childhood up for everything
he considered foreign, most of all
for Jews, Gypsies and Slavs.
And he used the hate he had whipped
up to prepare his nation for war.
You could hear Hitler's voice
raving on the radio.
You could see the Hitlerjugend -
Hitler youth,
marching through our streets
and you could feel the danger
getting closer and closer and closer.
We were 7-year-old children
in 2nd grade (in German school)
and one day a girl comes up to me
and slaps me on the face,
and she said:
My father told me to do that.
So I was stunned, I was
flabbergasted. How can she do that?
I was only about 4 or 5 years old
(living in Sudetenland),
but I hit my head on
the central heating radiator
and I cut my head open and I remember
my father taking me to the doctor
and the doctor looked at it
and he said:
That does need stitching,
but I don't stitch Jews.
The hatred coming from Germany
didn't just endanger Jews,
but also the Czechs as well.
They turned out to protest Hitler's
demands for a chunk of their country,
the so-called Sudeten borderlands.
The Czechs mobilized
to defend themselves.
But they needed help
from their allies in the West.
Neither in Britain nor for that
matter in any other democracy
was there any great will
to confront Hitler and risk war.
So the British and French
prime ministers went to Munich
and ended up signing
a humiliating deal with Hitler.
The word Munich has ever since
then stood for cowardly appeasement.
At the time, though, when
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain
returned here to parliament
and waved that piece of paper
and declared it to have brought peace
for our time
a wave of relief swept
through most of Europe.
But not in Czechoslovakia, of course.
We lived in Sudetenland,
in the town of Pohberovice,
which is near to the border
of Germany.
It all happened so suddenly.
My mother took us 4 children,
we didn't manage to take anything
at all, we just ran for our lives.
This was frightening for children.
I remember standing in front of
a shop window
where there was
a map of Czechoslovak republic
and in black ink was marked
in the part,
which was handed over to Hitler.
And there were people all around the
shop making all kinds of bad remarks:
Well, you can't do that, we will
fight, we will fight, we will fight.
I remember the following day
loading all our few belongings,
there weren't too much, on a horse
and cart and we were out of there.
My parents, my brother and I
and that time I was just 6 years old.
We had no clue what was going on.
There was a new refugee in our class
and I was most surprised to see
that she had no shoes on her feet.
When break came,
I ran across the road
and took out of my wardrobe my best
shoes and brought them to her.
I told mother what had happened.
Tears appeared on her face
and she hugged me.
And she said: You did
the right thing, my little girl.
The first pages of the scrapbook
and of our story
came to be written in December 1938.
You look at the pictures
and the list of all of us
and you have to wonder
what made a 29-year-old Englishman
do such a thing?
In a way,
what Winton did was surprising.
The world was his oyster.
In the depth of the Great Depression,
his job as a stock broker
allowed him to enjoy the good life.
He was a champion fencer also loved
to sail, to ski and to travel.
In 1938, with Christmas approaching,
Winton had his mind set on going
to Switzerland for a skiing holiday.
He wasn't exactly
the kind of young man
you would normally associate with
a passion for altruism.
At least not until that phone call
that changed his life,
my life and the lives
of so many others.
The phone call was from Prague,
from Martin Blake,
a friend with whom Nicky had planned
to go on that skiing trip.
Blake said he couldn't make it
because he had gone to Czechoslovakia
to help people in trouble
with the Germans.
So Nicky decided to forget
the ski trip and join Blake
to take a look at
what was going on there.
I went to Prague with the background
knowledge of people in England
who felt they knew much more
about what Hitler was up to
than the present government.
The first thing I did then
was to go around the camps
where all the people endangered
by the Nazis
were living in misenhuts
with one little stove in the middle.
And the conditions
were pretty terrible.
It was very cold, snow on the ground;
a lot of the refugees were
in a very bad shape.
They felt that their days
were numbered
before the Germans were going to
arrive in Czechoslovakia.
But how could they save themselves?
What could they do?
Where should they go?
They were stuck.
While Winton was in Prague,
he was given a map that shook him up.
He showed the map -
a map of German plans and ambitions
for territorial expansion to friends.
It says: Ein Volk,
ein Reich, ein Fuhrer.
One people, one empire, one Fuhrer.
Gross Deutschland.
And what it showed was
that the Germans had an ambition to
take over the whole of Europe.
Nobody had believed it.
There were many other people refugees
like us, small children.
There was a fire, smoke from cooking
and heating and...
I remember being given something hot
because it was cold weather then.
The desperation was not just
among the poor in the camps.
In Prague and elsewhere,
anxious parents,
having heard about
this concerned Englishman,
headed for Winton's hotel.
Well, I didn't get much sleep.
I got to bed very late
and there were people knocking
at my door in the morning.
I saw those people
who were in difficulty, in danger,
people on Hitler's black list
for whom there was nobody to help.
I thought, at least I ought to
try to save the children.
Everybody in Prague said:
There is no organization
to deal with the children.
We can't deal with them.
Anyway, nobody will let
the children in on their own.
But if you want to have a go,
have a go.
And I have a motto that if
something isn't blatantly impossible,
there must be a way of doing it.
So he started writing letters,
here and there, asking for help.
And he had no hesitation about going
right to the top -
writing to the White House,
to president Franklin Roosevelt.
A few weeks later, he got a reply.
Not from the White House, though,
from much lower down on
the diplomatic foot chain.
From this building here in London
which at the time housed
the American embassy.
And the reply said:
The United States government
is unable to permit immigration
in excess of that
provided for by existing laws.
But Winton wasn't about to
let this stop him.
He and his helpers started making up
the list of children
without actually knowing whether
they would be able to help them.
This is the caf
that I came down every day.
I wasn't sitting there
for more than two minutes
before the first people
came to talk to me
and find out how they could get
their children to England.
And this went on
the whole time I was here.
As word of his campaign spread,
it drew the attention of the Germans.
They suspected
that Winton's efforts
were about something more
than just getting out a few children.
When their distant observations
produced nothing,
they decided they needed to
get closer to him.
Which they did - using one of the
oldest tricks in the spy business -
the lure of a beautiful woman.
They met, as if by chance,
at the hotel Sroubek.
Nicky was enchanted
and not just by her beauty.
Her name, she said, was Kerstin
and she was the Prague representative
of the Swedish Red Cross.
I do say she was very beautiful.
I mean, it's traditional for a spy
to be beautiful, isn't it?
You can't have an ugly spy,
it's a contradiction in terms.
She told him she had the permission
to bring the children to Sweden.
Winton's hopes soared.
Finally, a chance perhaps,
to get some children out.
Friends warned him
that she was a known Nazi spy.
Nicky forged ahead anyway
and kept on seeing her.
And it paid off.
Kerstin got 25 children
admitted to Sweden.
In fact, she flew off to Sweden
with them
and disappeared
from Nicky's life completely.
My parents tried every way
to get us out of Czechoslovakia.
We tried to get to America, we tried
to get to England, to Palestine.
But all the governments said:
Our borders are now closed.
My mother got up every day
at 4 o'clock
and went to stand in queues
of different consulates -
for getting papers to Uruguay and
some other unmentionable places.
And there was no way out.
We knew that the timing
was absolutely essential
to do everything now and quickly.
The number of children
who were in urgent need of leaving
the country for safety
was certainly over two thousand.
Nicky kept of meeting
with the families,
working on a list of children.
Then suddenly his work was threatened
by a phone call from London.
The call was from his boss.
My boss from the stock exchange
didn't think that what I was doing
in Prague was important.
He didn't think it was necessary.
He said: Why do you want to
stay in Czechoslovakia
and help those far-off people the
people don't know anything about?
He was just a money chap
on the stock exchange.
Completely non-humanitarian,
with bags of money
and all he thought about was money.
Winton, to the relief
of his co-workers,
decided to defy his boss
and stay in Prague.
Nicky Winton's efforts
came to the ears of all those
who had decided to send
their children away
that my father also approached
this Refugee Committee.
My mother took me to
the Winton office on Hrubesova ulice.
We stood in line
on a winding staircase for hours
till my turn came
and I was registered.
The parents exchanged
their hopes and fears
and we children eyed each other
for potential friends.
You had all these refugees
who were fleeing from Hitler
and who were in danger of their lives
if Hitler made another move
into Czechoslovakia.
This was the day
the Germans occupied Prague.
There were convoys approaching,
Germans with motorcycles
in front with sidecars
and behind them
there were the big trucks,
open trucks with soldiers
seated on two rows.
People on the streets were screaming
at them, women were crying.
Finally, a very large Mercedes drove
past with Hitler standing there,
with his arm raised,
with three officers sitting behind.
It was so quiet, it was like
you could hear the pin drop.
It was a very disturbing feeling
to me, I was 10 years old.
As soon as Hitler came in,
a Nazi officer came to our school
and said:
Who are the Jewish children?
And another child and I
put my hand up.
So he said: You will sit at the back!
Jewish children sit at the back!
When he went out the headmaster
came in and he said:
From now on,
the back seat is the seat of honor.
Only the best children sit there.
That was Czechoslovakia.
Winton wrote all over, looking for
countries to take in these children.
Only one responded positively -
his own country, Britain.
The rest of the world
closed its eyes, its ears,
its hearts and its gates.
Winton started his work
in London from scratch.
There was no organization,
no existing pipeline
and he was convinced that time was
running out, that war about to come.
From this house
on London's Hampstead Heath,
Winton conducted his campaign
to get the Germans
to let the children out,
the British Home Office
to let them in,
to find British families
to take them into their homes
and to raise the money
to make it all possible.
One of the chief problems was
that people said
that the English government
would never allow children in
on their own without their parents.
I asked the Home Office
and they said yes.
And they gave me certain conditions,
which were difficult.
I had to find a family,
which would look after the child.
And each child had to have
a guarantor of 50 pounds.
It was a hell of a lot of money.
When I say the Committee in London,
it was me and a secretary
working from home.
I mean, we had no office.
We weren't an official body at all.
So all I had to do was to buy
some notepaper
and print British Committee
for Refugees from Czechoslovakia.
And at a very special meeting
I had with myself
I them appointed
myself Honorary Secretary.
Then I had the police 'round
asking me why I had so much
correspondence with Prague.
The situation in Prague was serious.
There was active menacing hostility
from the Germans.
When Hitler came
and Germans occupied Czechoslovakia
I had to leave school.
We couldn't go to the movies,
to the opera
or to concert,
everything was forbidden.
Father was driving
along the Karlovo namesti,
saw that the Gestapo
made an action there -
and they were taking people out
and putting them on a truck.
Every family was scared.
Which family wasn't scared?
Every family was scared.
Whenever my father left
for the office in the morning
my mother was terribly upset
and quite often cried
because she was so worried
that he might never come home again,
being arrested by the Germans.
One day, some German officers
came to this Jewish town hall
and demanded from my father
a list of names and addresses
of the Jews in Prague.
And he told them that he
didn't have anything like that.
My father was a wanted person.
And he was warned to leave.
A few days later the Gestapo
did come to look for him.
They took my mother away
for questioning.
Well, I was beginning to pick up
tension and worry in the grownups.
My uncle and his wife
committed suicide.
And then, the next day,
someone came to our house
and said Brno was burning.
I was terrified of fire.
That was the day then
that there were 3, 4 synagogues
burned down to the ground.
As the despair of the parents grew,
so did the pressure on Winton.
With photographs of applicants
continuing to flow in.
A simple snapshot could often
decide the fate of a child.
We received the pictures
of the children from Prague
with details of each child.
We enlisted these pictures
in the local press,
the national press, in Picture Post,
which was a journal
which helped us enormously.
What made Winton so effective
was that in the addition
of his skills as a salesman,
he also had a creative spark
and willingness to experiment.
We put 6 or 8 of these children
together on one card
merely to speed up
the process
of getting the British families
to choose.
If somebody said: We'd like to take
a child, we just said: What sex?
And then we said: What age?
We gave them pictures of
half a dozen children
and then we asked them to
choose a child,
which was rather a commercial way
of dealing with it,
but it was quick
and effective and it worked.
And in most cases it went right.
When somebody wanted to take a child,
say they were up in Newcastle, from
London which is a long way away,
we got somebody in Newcastle
to see that the family was ok.
Then we got to send them photos
of a number of children.
My father came home
with his eyes shining,
grinning from ear to ear and said:
We think we may be able to
save a child.
And my mother said: That's all very
well with your head in the clouds,
always saving the world,
but how can we afford it,
an extra child coming into our home?
And my father said:
There's a child in need,
we will work out
"Can we afford it?" later.
And he got from Nicholas Winton
two photographs
and put them in front of me and said:
Now, these are little girls
now you must choose.
This isn't just a game anymore,
you have to be serious.
So I chose Vera Diamantova.
How did you feel
when you were told or asked
that you were going to go to England?
We were sitting down
around a table having supper.
But mother wasn't eating and suddenly
she put her knife and fork down
and looked at father
and said very quietly:
I heard today that both Eva and Vera
can go to England.
And my father looked up and there
were tears in her eyes as he said:
We have to let them go.
There was a lot of sadness
in the house
and also a sort of
peculiar atmosphere.
My father looked sad, my mother,
obviously, was devastated.
One day I remember
my father called me and he said:
You're going on a long journey.
You're going to a country
called England.
We can't come with you.
The pressure from the parents
was incredible.
We in London at that time thought
that there was going to be
a catastrophe at any moment.
And for us time was
absolutely essential.
We cut all kinds of corners,
even having faked passports
or travel documents
made at some time because
the Home Office was a bit slow.
It was a forgery to bamboozle
the Germans, really,
not to bamboozle the British.
We didn't bring anybody in illegally,
we just speeded
the process up a little.
Two days before I left
with the Kindertransport,
my parents took me
to some resort near Prague
where there was a lake where
they wanted to be alone with me.
I saw a very pretty young girl there
and I offered to teach her
how to row
and I got completely lost
in this activity.
Finally when I came back my mother
looked at me with great relief
and reproach and said:
Is that what you do to your parents
one day before you are leaving?
And I felt very guilty about it.
I have a dress that my mother
made for me.
She made everything herself.
She sowed for us to have clothes
not only for the age
that we were at the time,
but for...
she didn't know how long it would
last, how long we would be away,
so she sowed for a year ahead or so.
Then the day came
when we had to leave.
We went to the train.
Everybody was there already -
my grandparents and all our friends
and all our neighbors.
And they came to say good-bye.
My mother with a friend of hers
took me to station.
And I can still see the tension
on my mother's face, looking anxious.
There were German soldiers
standing nearby,
lots of other parents seeing
their children off
and a clear sense of tension,
which even a 6-year-old child felt.
My mom, she's crying so hard and...
She was hysterical.
And she's asking us over and over:
Are you sure you want to go?
Are you sure you want to go?
I am frustrated -
why is my mother crying like that?
The transport was due to leave,
I'd get a message from the Germans:
We can't let the transport go unless
you give us so much more money.
So they were terrible.
You just had to find the money.
There's no way you can cancel
a big operation like that.
Was it easy for you to leave
and to go to England?
I have to say, it was
because I was looking forward to it.
Here I was a kid from Central Europe
and I was going to England.
So then the last thing my dad
said to me was
I should be his brave,
cheerful little girl.
And I think I have been.
And he said: See you soon.
My mother was beside herself.
My little sister was crying,
my mother wanted to hold her,
she took my sister through
the open window off the train.
We kept on telling my mother
to keep her
when she took her out
of the window and she held her...
I know how much she suffered,
really. I can just visualize it.
It just makes me cry
when I think about it.
And if she hadn't put her back on
she wouldn't have survived.
Decades later, I would catch myself
looking at my own children,
trying to recapture a fraction
of the dread those
and my parents must have felt.
Today you have to realize
the sacrifice our parents did for us.
They didn't know
where they were sending us to.
It was the courage of our parents
to send their children away.
We all had one little suitcase
and a little blanket
and we sat on these benches
here in a carriage like this
and there were a lot of children...
a lot of crying...
everybody was crying.
It was a long journey and so I
climbed up on the shelf like this
and I could stretch my legs
and it felt good, I was happy.
70 years after we left for Britain,
many of us found themselves
making the journey all over again
on a special train.
It was a time to remember
and reminisce.
They put me in charge of you.
And I put you on my lap and we
started playing Hop, hop, rider.
-You still remember that?
-I remember.
Hop, hop, rider
If he falls he will be crying.
If he falls into the ditch,
He will be eaten by the ravens.
If he falls into the mud,
The rider falls with a splash!
Then the next day
when we were crossing Germany,
we were passing through
these railway stations
bedecked with Nazi flags, uniforms.
Then there were big portraits
of Hitler and swastikas everywhere.
We arrived at the German border,
there were lots of Germans
crowding around
and we wondered
what was going to happen.
There was something
very frightening
about the way they walked into
the cabin, looked at our luggage.
There was a feeling that
there was going to be trouble.
We were terrified that they would do
something like maybe arrest us.
We didn't know.
I mean we had the biggest fears.
We were dumbfounded.
But finally they got off
and we were delighted
and we breathed the sigh of relief.
We finally arrived to Holland.
Through the entire train
there was an atmosphere of relief.
It was like coming out of a tunnel.
It was very strikingly different.
As if the sun started shining.
We came to the windows
and we started shouting:
Hitler, Goehring, Goebbles
"do prdele!"
"Do prdele" means into the ass.
And we were very happy about this.
I remember very well that the first
stop in Holland
was at a railway station
where there were a group of ladies.
Some ladies dressed in Dutch national
costumes entered and they smiled.
Although we couldn't understand
a word they said,
they didn't have to talk.
It was clear that we were going to
get something good to eat.
They gave us cocoa, the famous Dutch
droste cocoa, which was delicious.
We received white bread.
We had never eaten this kind of bread
and I felt that either it was wet,
or somebody wetted it,
made in cold...
It seemed kind of odd to me,
kind of pap that I didn't like.
-The bread?
-It is very difficult to describe.
It's indescribable!
We finally did reach the channel
coast and boarded a ship.
The ship just seemed huge to me
because the only ships
I've ever seen before
were paddle steamers.
And being little boys we were
fascinated by the ship
and looking around, climbing up
and down the gangways.
It was fun to go on a boat.
I've never been on a big boat
to cross the channel.
That night, as we crossed
the English Channel
suspended in the calmness
of the ship,
I heard voices from nearby cabins,
singing the Czech national anthem.
Where is my home, where is my home?
It was a question that remained
unanswered for many of us for years.
The question that for a few remains
unanswered to this day.
Liverpool Street Station -
this is where we arrived in London.
It's all changed, of course,
except for all the noise.
What I remember most is
one of those little odd facts
that stick in your mind
your whole life
and that is getting off the train
that you didn't have to climb down
to the rails,
but the platform was even
with the train door.
I was very, very impressed.
Liverpool Street Station saw the
arrival of another group of refugees,
cargo thrown overboard
by the ruthless call
of the modern European temper.
A special effort is being made to
help the refugees.
Then the train arrived and you had up
to 200-250 children getting out,
and you had to get the right child
to the right family.
And you had to treat it
as a business.
When you got the right child
to the right family,
the family had to sign for the child,
so you had some proof of delivery.
They assembled us kids in the corner,
there were bunch of grown ups
behind the barrier,
craning their necks,
waiting to pick us up.
A lady behind a wooden table
called my name. Ben Abeles!
A lady my mother's age came over,
embraced me and kissed me.
I remember when I arrived having this
uncomfortable string around my neck
and a big placard on my chest
and I was just totally alone,
with nobody around me.
I was waiting for the family
who was going to pick me up.
And I was just 3 years old.
There was bound to be
troubles and difficulties.
Some children got left behind
and the police looked after them
until we could sort things out.
It was fairly chaotic,
but it worked out.
There were 5 boys
sitting on suitcases,
waiting for somebody to pick us up.
Nobody picked us up.
It was late at night and
a taxi driver came over and asked us:
You've been here since 7 o'clock
in the morning, are you hungry?
And he drove us not far away from the
station, to a fish-and-chips shop.
I remember him showing us
putting salt and vinegar
for the first time onto the fish.
I know to this day that
the fish and chips was very good.
Later, he took us to his own wife
and small child
in a single bedroom apartment,
in which he put us up,
the five of us.
English people as a people
are extremely kind
and I would say
the poorer they were,
the kinder they were.
And we all were ushered
into a big hall
and there were
hundreds of the children.
I had no idea where I was going
and child after child,
hundreds of these children,
one after another went,
and I was left sitting there,
trembling at the knees.
And suddenly the door opened
and a little lady ran towards me,
laughing and smiling at the same time
with tears streaming down her face
and she hugged me and she spoke words
I didn't understand then
and they were: You shall be loved.
And that's the most important words
any child can hear.
Mr. and Mrs. Num, the family
that took us in, were Methodists,
farmers in Redgrave in Suffolk,
East Anglia.
Their cottage had a thatched roof.
I have never seen a thatched roof.
My cousin and I were going around
the walls knocking -
we were afraid it may fall down.
And the toilet was outside.
There was no electricity.
And they were good to us.
They were true Christians,
in the real sense of the word.
And the only people who objected to
what I was doing
was when one day a couple of rabbis
arrived at home
and said that they understood
that some of the good Jewish children
I was bringing over to this country
were going to Christian homes.
And that must stop.
And I said: Well, it won't stop and
if you prefer a dead Jew in Prague
to an alive one who is being brought
up in a Christian home,
I said that is your problem,
not mine.
My guardian came from
a distinguished Scottish family.
She had an enormous influence
on my life,
she provided me
with an ethical yardstick.
The lessons from her life were
the extraordinary unselfishness.
Marnie gave me this wonderful dog,
a great dane, and I was very small,
I could ride on his back,
on the dog's back.
-We used to play mothers and
fathers. You remember? -Yes.
We just played happily together.
We did. And then we played
cowboys and Indians.
My first day in London, Audrey,
my guarantor's daughter,
took me to Harrods here.
There were so many new sights for me.
We had a great time.
I decided I was going to marry
Audrey, even though she had pimples.
But I wanted to live
in that rich house of theirs.
Once the children had arrived
and were with their new families,
I had no contact with them anymore.
I knew that they were being
well looked after
and some went to the Czech school
in Wales.
We had many pillow fights in school.
And many times these pillows burst
and the feathers blew out
and we had to clean it up.
I liked it there.
It was a good atmosphere
with boys and girls together.
Let's face it: I couldn't run down
those stairs like that any longer,
but I do remember those days
as though they were yesterday.
Despite the separation
from our families,
despite the fact
that we missed them so much,
those were some of the happiest
times in my life
and in that of many
of my schoolmates.
We also did things in the community.
We went to old-age home
and spent time with the people there.
We learned that you are not
the center of the universe,
that there are other people out
there who had problems and needs
and maybe
you can do something about it.
So it was fun, it was great fun.
Also, we acquired an education.
We were all crazy about the boys.
All of us girls, you know.
We tried to attract their attention
in every way it was possible
and when I look back at it,
we were absolutely nuts.
I was inexperienced with girls
and I asked my brother
how to arrange girls
when I finally took them out.
His advice was I should take them
to the cinema
and when the lights went down,
to put my arm around her
and everything else would follow.
So I'm afraid his advice was good
in theory,
but not very good in practice.
Month of August, which is normally
a happy month of holidays,
has been passed in Europe
in the shadow of war.
Hitler demanded Danzig
and the Polish corridor.
I've got a letter here, which my
father wrote to the foster parents.
You will, I suppose,
feel how it aches us
to be separated from our own child.
Here the possibility
to care for her suitable future
is smaller with every day.
As the moths passed,
Winton knew the end was near,
so he kept on pressing even harder
for permits for more children.
I mean there were
thousands of children on the list
who wanted to get out.
We had organized
8 transports from Prague.
No transport completed the operation.
I mean it was an operation
without end.
For the beginning of September,
we had arranged
our biggest transport,
which could have comprised
250 children.
All the paperwork was done,
all the families were prepared,
all the children were waiting
in the train...
We shall defend our island,
whatever the cost.
We shall never surrender.
I was in London.
We watched the planes coming over,
dropping bombs.
I remember the houses fell down
like cards or domino sticks.
Just collapsed.
I was afraid to go out
on the street afterwards.
It was a terrifying experience.
And our neighbors got a direct hit
on their shelter in their garden
and all of them were killed.
During the Battle of Britain, bombs
were raining down on us every night.
I was then in an apprentice cook
at the Bailys hotel in London
as a dishwasher and a pot washer
and every night, practically,
we ended up in the air raid shelter.
I was sitting next to a maid
and when a bomb was falling,
she clutched my knee.
And I asked her whether we could
share a blanket and she agreed.
And then I put my hand on her knee
and she didn't object.
And my hand started roaming
and she didn't object, either.
So I really looking forward to
these air raids.
But then there was a lull in the air
raids and I missed her so much.
My mother was absolutely heartbroken
and she wrote us long letters.
My dearest children, I am very happy
that you are over there
and don't know about evil.
All Jews under 50 here
must work in labor camps.
We will come through somehow
and you mustn't worry about us.
But I am very happy
that you are not here.
If you were,
I would have many more worries.
We learned about
the concentration camps
and the possibility that our parents
might have been taken to them.
We all hoped that nothing awful
happened to them,
that they were well.
The last letter from my father
came in 1942.
He wrote that they had received
orders to pack up,
that they would be transported
somewhere else.
And in which he wrote his sons,
telling them not to forget
the precepts they were taught at home
and he hoped the almighty would
allow us to grow up
into just and decent men.
And that was last thing
I heard from my parents.
Our greatest regret was
that our biggest transport,
which was 250 children,
which was due to leave
at the beginning of September,
was canceled because war started.
And almost none
of those children survived.
Nothing that happened
prior to the war starting
was really
of any importance anymore.
What was done was done,
what couldn't be done
couldn't be done.
Once you can't stop a war
and there is a war
you go to the defense
of your country.
And I joined the RAF.
I joined the royal air force,
our Czech squadron number 31 1
and our job was to look for
enemy shipping.
I volunteered for the Czech RAF
and I was able to help
to hunt German submarines.
I wanted to help to liberate my country.
We decided to go to town to see
how everybody was celebrating.
Trafalgar Square, I remember,
in London
where everybody went around
putting up their two - V for victory,
everybody laughed - that was so gay,
we were dancing
with American soldiers.
We returned to Prague
with the whole squadron,
all of us really happy to be home,
there was a huge parade in Prague,
in which I took part as well.
All the girls were dressed
in national dress
and all of us enjoyed it.
The war was over.
But still no news of our families.
I came to Prague,
here to this building behind me,
which served as a clearinghouse
for separated families.
Inside, wall upon wall
filled with notices
put up by people
looking for their missing loved ones.
Of my parents, though, not a trace.
I know they were deported to Poland,
but to this day, I am not certain
how they came to die.
My first stop in Prague was the house
from which my parents
were deported to Terezin.
There was a minimal chance
that they would have come back.
I lingered for a while as if I were
waiting for them to appear suddenly.
But in vain.
My mother and my brother
together with about 10 other children
arrived to Auschwitz
and were sent to the gas chamber.
An old friend of the family
who took care of the dead bodies
immediately recognized my mother.
He told her: Please,
take your children in,
sit down in the corner
and start to sing with them.
Because if you sing and you inhale
the gas, you will die very quickly.
When my parents went to
concentration camps
and when they saw other children
around them,
young boys and girls
being taken to gas chambers
and so forth that they
must have then...
they must have then realized
what they had done...
when they sent their children...
My family, my parents -
none of these people survived.
So after the war we had to continue
living, to overcome the past.
We were all young, we were beginning,
we had to build careers.
We spread all over the world,
some of us in Canada, in the States,
in Israel, in Australia, in Britain.
Wherever we ended up,
the most important thing for us
was to start a new life
with new families.
I hadn't got a clue
where all these 700 children were.
I wasn't in touch with any of them.
For me it was an episode
and it was something that happens.
So many to me more important things,
happened in the meantime.
He is very keen on his gardening
and he spends a lot of time
in the garden.
But he is a very
domesticated husband,
he does a lot of helping out
in the house.
I get annoyed
because he is very untidy.
I am not all that tidy,
but he is really very untidy.
I'm fairly happy with Greta.
With what we do together.
-Fairly! I like that!
-Very happy. Very happy.
Any good marriage
is a marriage of compromise.
The only thing was,
Greta compromised more than I did.
She was quite a very special person.
If you're in love with somebody,
everybody says when that person dies:
After time things will get better.
It's not true. It gets worse.
Instead of living you just exist.
And I spend my time with carpentry,
mending the bicycle, photography.
I listen to music and I do my
embroidery, I do a bit of gardening.
My father has been involved
in helping charities all his life.
A lot of his work has been
with a charity helping old people.
I'm just building
a home for Alzheimers.
It costs 4 million pounds.
He still acts as if
he's half his age.
He's still very active
and still likes making mischief.
His current plan is to
try to be arrested
to show what a silly law we have
to do with helping old people.
Well, I drive
and I like driving quickly.
You got a speeding ticket last month.
What were you doing?
I got a speeding ticket
in a one-way road
where there was no other car
and I was doing 50 miles an hour
in a 40 miles area.
And the police said: Have you got any
excuse, why you were for doing it?
And I said that I had to go
to the lavatory.
Being so active must be
a recipe for longevity -
just to keep going and not stop.
Nicky, last words before you go?
My words are that I hope
I will come back.
One thing I've learned
from grandpa is
that you should always
try to help people.
I don't mind if you tell the truth.
Of course I love my grandpa.
With all heart. Everything.
When you're young
you take everything in life,
including survival, for granted.
As I grew older
I began to wonder more and more
how it was that when so many died -
our parents, friends, families
and millions of others -
how it came to be that we,
the fortunate few on those trains,
were spared.
That is, until 50 years later
when this scrapbook surfaced.
Then we knew.
The scrapbook and its story
gathered dust for decades
in the Winton's attic until one day,
Nicky's wife Greta found it,
opened it, became fascinated,
and yet was puzzled.
And so 50 years after it happened,
Nicky finally told his wife
what he had for so long kept secret.
I suppose there's number of things,
which husbands don't tell
their wives.
And his wife went to London
and she tried to give this story
to several people,
but nobody was interested
until she came to me.
I was given the scrapbook
and this list of names
and I thought it was very moving
because there were ordinary names
of people and Czech children,
for instance Berman Thomas,
Bekefi Jiri, Benedict Ruth...
and we wrote to every one of them
and from these over 600 names
we got 250 answers.
And most of the children
were delighted,
they didn't know who saved them
and didn't know their own story.
It caught the eye of Esther Rantzen
who was working for the BBC.
So we did some search and we managed
to track down some of those children,
now adult, living in England.
We were absolutely thrilled.
This lady said to me:
What's your name?
So I said: Pinkasovic.
When I saw my name and my brother's
name printed in this -
the biggest shock of my life.
I couldn't speak, I couldn't breathe,
I had goose bumps all over my arms...
All these years, 50 years.
Nobody knew
who masterminded our rescue
and then, out of the blue,
I was asked to take part
in a television show That's Life
where, to my joy and...
oh such fulfillment I came to face,
face to face, with the man
who saved my life.
They got me there in a way
under false pretenses.
Then I was sat in a seat, which was
focused on the camera and...
I became part of this program.
I didn't know I was going to meet
for the first time
the children that I brought over
so many years before.
...who managed to save 664 children.
This is his scrapbook.
There are all sorts of fascinating
pictures in it, perhaps you can see -
this is a picture
of Nicholas Winton himself
with one of the children he rescued.
If you look at the very back
of the scrapbook...
fascinating things in it, but back
here is the list of all the children.
This is Vera Diamant,
now Vera Gissing.
We did find her name on his list.
Vera Gissing is with us here tonight
- Hello Vera -
and I should tell you
that you are actually sitting
next to Nicholas Winton.
Thank you.
I wore this around my neck
and this is the actual pass that we
were given to come to England.
And I am another of the children
that you saved.
Can I ask, is there anyone
in our audience tonight
who owes their lives
to Nicholas Winton?
If so, could you stand up, please?
We are part of his family.
He has now accepted us
as a sort of the honorary father
and he is accepting our children
as the honorary grandfather,
hes the head, I think,
of the biggest family in the world.
When our memorial train from Prague
arrived in London,
the man who had waited for us
at the station in 1939
was waiting for us once again.
This time, though, at age 100,
we knew who he was.
It was a wonderful thing
that Nicky Winton did
and without him nobody in this room
would be sitting here.
I wouldn't be here,
dad wouldn't be here.
So it's quite a wonderful thing
that he did.
A lot of us have a feeling
that we have to somehow
repay Winton for all what he did.
We do it by doing work,
which is useful and good
and help other people.
For the last 12 years I work
as a volunteer
at the Schneider's children's
hospital and I enjoy it.
I did some work in research
on ballistic missiles,
but after that
I changed my career completely.
We built this church first
and then a home for adults
with severe mental handicap.
I've always felt that I owe something
to Nicky Winton,
to my parents who were so courageous
and sent me off.
And so I always felt I need to
help people
and I've done that in a soup kitchen
and throughout my life I've always
tried to be very helpful.
I spent most of my professional
career working on semiconductors.
We invented the thermoelectric
power generator,
which provides electric power
to the spacecraft Voyager I and II
on the way to Jupiter, Saturn
and the outer planets.
Nicky's deed is like a small stone
thrown into a small lake.
And the ripples and the waves
from that stone
are getting wider and wider
and wider.
And the wider it gets, the more good
is being done in the world.
Nicholas Winton saved grandma
and he didn't have to
and that made me
want to help people, too.
And I heard about people who had
cancer and lost all their hair.
And I cut 10 inches off my hair
and they made it into a wig
for one kid who had cancer.
And I feel very good about doing.
This summer, I helped organize
a peace camp for girls.
There were 7 Jews and 7 Arabs.
We realized that we're the same
and that we are living in the same
place and we need to find a peace.
Right now I have 7 new Palestinian
friends, which I very much like.
Any young people
from different countries
were eager to show Winton what good
they themselves were doing.
They started filming
their activities,
interviewing various personalities,
all for a special program
which they will present in Prague.
In Australia, we shipped our clothes
to people in Ecuador
and it was nice getting letters
back from them as they were writing
and expressing how appreciative
they were to us
that their lives have changed.
Winton is showing that with
perseverance and determination
you can achieve anything.
In Cambodia when we arrived we have
seen children dying on the street.
Then there was no organization
helping HIV positive children.
And we have decided that we have to
help these children.
The problem was that everybody
was against this idea,
saying that what two Slovak people
can do in faraway Cambodia.
But we have decided not to give up.
I remember Nicholas Winton said
everything is possible
if it's fundamentally reasonable.
All stories that help children
grow in a world,
in which humanity is being
celebrated and inhumanity denounced -
these stories are important.
Everybody can help.
Children can send their letters
to the kids
to show them that there is somebody
faraway thinking about them.
It's a big help.
We have saved and treated
over 5 000 children,
but still we have
a lot of work to do.
A lot of children
are still waiting for us.
We need special effort to bring up
our basic nature of human beings -
Here is example of Nicholas Winton -
we should learn from his motivation
and from his courage, from his act.
We must carry his spirit
generation to generation.
Then humanity's future
will be brighter.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Sir Nicholas Winton!
We've been so much impressed
with Nicholas Winton
that we started our project,
Suitcases for Cambodia.
Suitcase is our symbol
of help for children.
I think that every single person
on the Earth needs to know
that they are special,
that they're loved.
Nicholas Winton has influenced
so many people all over the world
to help someone
who is very ill or in danger.
If you have ever helped
someone in need show it now.
You don't have to be a politician or
a millionaire to make a difference.
All you have to have
is some ambition and courage.
Hello, Cambodia!
I never thought what I did
70 years ago
was going to have such a big impact
as apparently it has.
And if it is now got a story,
which helps people to
live for the future,
well, that will be an added bonus.
Everything is possible
if it's fundamentally reasonable.
Nicholas Winton
There are some stories
which we are not only an audience to,
but may become their participants.