One of the 669 children rescued from the Holocaust by Sir Nicholas Winton in 1939 has led the tributes after his passing at the age of 106.
“We owe him everything,” said close friend Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, who was with him at his home in Maidenhead just two weeks ago.
He used to say that getting us out of Czechoslovakia in 1939 was just eight months out of his very long life. But it defined him in history.Lady Grenfell-Baines
“He used to say that getting us out of Czechoslovakia in 1939 was just eight months out of his very long life. But it defined him in history.”
Sir Nicholas, whose bravery earned him the title “Britain’s Schindler,” died peacefully in hospital on Tuesday night with his family at his bedside.
Lady Grenfell-Baines, who was granted the Freedom of Preston in February, said: “I was with him on his 106th birthday on June 19 and that was the last time I saw him. He was very frail. I used to visit him every six or seven weeks and as I left to fly out to Prague he said he wished he could come with me.
“He was a wonderful man. When I visited we used to have lunch. I would take him his favourites – cauliflower cheese and rice pudding. He loved them. Two weeks ago I had three hours with him. He really enjoyed having visitors.”
In 1939 Sir Nicholas organised eight trains from Prague to London to carry children away from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia when he feared they would be sent to concentration camps. Lady Grenfell-Baines, nine at the time, was on the last train to get out.
He also helped to find foster families for the children once they arrived in England, but he did not reveal his astonishing bravery for half a century. Last year, after being awarded the Order Of The White Lion by Czech president Milos Zeman at a ceremony in Prague, Sir Nicholas thanked the British people for welcoming the children.
Lady Grenfell-Baines was with him at the ceremony, which followed his knighthood in 2003 and a Hero of the Holocaust medal in 2010.
“He said he was called to Prague by a friend who asked him to help get children away from the Germans,” she recalled. “He was only in Prague for three weeks, during which time he gathered nearly 2,000 names. Then he came back to Britain to find families who would take them in. Like the others I owe him everything.”