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On the heels of a recent post by @Jon about legacy, I read a story about a man who, at the tender age of 29, began to create a legacy that would not be revealed for 50 more years. Jon asked the question, “How do you want to be remembered? Sometimes fate answers that question for us. Even in the midst of the darkest of times, a light was shining brightly, illuminated from a quiet soul with no thoughts of legacy, who rose to the challenge of his day.
In 1938-1939, Nicholas Winton single-handedly began to rescue Jewish children from the Holocaust. He brought 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to Great Britain, in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport, helping them to find new families who gave them a home. Most of the children’s parents would perish in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. He never mentioned the children he rescued to anyone.
One day, some 50 years later, his wife, Grete, found a notebook in the attic containing the names and pictures of all the children that her husband had saved. Grete gave the notebook to a journalist and Winton was invited to appear on a television program. He didn’t know the audience was comprised of all the people whose lives he had saved. Now adults, they came to express their profound thankfulness. When counting the 669 children that he saved, along with their offspring of children and grandchildren, Nicholas Winton saved the lives of over 15,000 people.
The people whose lives he saved never knew who did this kind act until contacted by the television program. They came with tears and joy, hugging and kissing the man who helped them escape the gas chambers, many who now have children, that would have otherwise never existed.
As a six-year-old, former Labour MP, Lord Dubs, was one of the children who was put on a train out of Czechoslovakia.
He paid an emotional tribute to his rescuer as “just one of those very special human beings”. “The real fact is that he was a man who saved my life, and a lot of us who came on the Kindertransport owe him an enormous debt.
“His legacy is that when there is a need for you to do something for your fellow human beings, you have got to do it,” he said.
A legacy was being written on the pages of history by a person who never mentioned a word of his heroic deeds all those years ago, when evil seemed to rein, yet heroes prevailed.
Sir Nicholas Winton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2003 and was awarded the Order of The White Lion by Czech president Milos Zeman. His humility and courage has inspired new generations, told in the video here. He passed away in 2015 at the amazing age of 106.