Yesterday we heard the sad news that Sir Nicholas Winton had died aged 106. The Refugee Council joins others in paying tribute to this incredible individual, who, now famously, brought 669 unaccompanied refugee children to the UK, saving their lives in the process.
As is now widely known, Sir Nicholas was asked to go to Prague by a friend where it had become apparent that these children’s lives could be saved only by enabling them to leave Czechoslovakia before it was invaded by Germany, Sir Nicholas and his friend made plans for them to be brought by train to live with foster families in the UK. Similar but separately from the more well known Kindertransport, eight trains brought the Jewish children to live in safety in the UK
These heroic acts were only made public in 1988 when the BBC reunited Sir Nicholas with some of the children he had saved in its programme, That’s Life.
Sir Nicholas and his family kindly agreed to assist the Refugee Council in our work with unaccompanied refugee children today and we had the pleasure of hosting an event to screen the film of his life, ‘Nicky’s Children’ to our supporters, some of the children he rescued and those young people we work with today, who have fled to safety in the UK and are helped by our specialist services.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said
“The word hero is often used inappropriately these days; but in describing Sir Nicholas Winton it feels wholly inadequate. Here was a man who, when faced with the realisation that children faced almost certain persecution and death, chose to roll up his sleeves, take considerable risks and do what he knew to be the right thing.
Unaccompanied children fleeing persecution today come from different countries, but their heartrending stories are remarkably similar and the protection, understanding and care they need is exactly the same. Mercifully, and despite the hostile Government and media rhetoric about refugees today, the courage and compassion exemplified by Sir Nick is alive and well in the UK today.”