“Seventeen it was, I think. Two adult women were in charge at the time. I don’t know how many wagons there were, they had wooden benches, the ones with planks. The hard ones. I was sitting in our compartment, and someone handed me a baby. It was a boy of about two and a half. His mum, who’d accompanied him, passed me a bottle of milk, which had a dummy with a big hole attached. I stood it under the bench where the baby sat, so when the train started moving, we all went to the window of course, we held the little one up as well, and the milk spilt out when the train set off.”
“He devoted himself to the question of Sudeten Germans, a German politician under Hitler’s regime, and his motto was Heim ins Reich. That is, for Germans who lived in the Sudetes. No one was keeping them there, they could leave, but the motto meant the annexation of the Sudetes to the Reich. No one kept them there, they could move out. But they wanted to expand their empire, so it was about Sudetes already in 1938. I came to school one day, I was in the junior second year, soon after the school year had begun, and my classmates started shouting: ‘Juden heraus, Juden heraus.’”
“Those were the Boags. There were actually newly-weds at the time, they didn’t have children, and surprisingly, they never did have them. So it didn’t work out for them somehow. They were the most loyal, they would go visit me after the war, when I wasn’t allowed out. From 1945, when I came home, the Communists didn’t let me out of the country until 1965. So in those years they visited me because they said I’m actually their only child. They both died at a very old age, they were Scots, after the war they moved from London to Edinburgh, she was 95 and he was 93 when they died. We kept in touch all that time.”
“Because on that journey, on the way from Siberia, the soldiers [Czechoslovak legionaries on their famous journey home after World War I] had to swim across an icy river. Dad actually had the option to cross on the officers’ boat, but he was principled, so he swam across with the others. And he came [home] with impaired lungs, which developed into an impaired heart. So in 1926, I was born in February, and when I was ten month old, towards the end of the year, Dad died.”
“At Hoek van Holland we had to leave the train and board a ship, a ferry. I remember this as my most dreadful memory, because we each had our one suitcase--we were each to take one suitcase--and I had a baby with me to boot. That was at night: he was sleepy, and I remember we weren’t able to cram him into his coat. It was just--he was all languid. I have no idea how I managed it, because I had two suitcases and a baby. I was thirteen.”
When someone had just a spark of talent at an English school, the teachers helped him stir it up
RNDr. Ruth Hálová, née Adlerová, was born on the 26th of February, 1926, into a Jewish family in Český Krumlov. Her mother, Zdeňka, was of Czech-Jewish lineage, her father, Leopold, came from a German-speaking Jewish family. Ruth had one older sister, Eva, and the year she was born, their father died. Ruth attended a German primary school for five years, she then moved on to a German grammar school. In 1938, she was bullied at the grammar school because of her Jewish origin, so the family moved to Protivín and then to Prague. Soon, her mother realised the danger her daughters were in, and she tried to get them sent abroad. She heard about Nicholas Winton’s efforts, and she succeeded in getting both her daughters a seat in one of the “Winton trains.“ Thirteen-year-old Ruth left from Masaryk Station in Prague on the 29th of June, 1939, while her sister, Eva, left to London from Wilson (now Main) Station in Prague on August the 2nd of that same year. Ruth was taken in by the Jones family in Shirley near Birmingham. In 1940, she began attending primary school, and she helped her adoptive parents in their newsagent’s shop. She then joined Rugby School near Coventry, where she lived with the Cleavers and later the Boags. Ruth Hálová completed secondary school and obtained an Oxford School Certificate. From 1943 she was employed in the pharmaceutical department in Rugby, but her adoptive parents requested she continue her studies. By recommendation of the Czechoslovak Exile Ministry of Education and Social Affairs, she was awarded a place in a Czechoslovak school in Wales, where she passed her matriculation exam in April 1945. Her sister Eva worked as a nurse at Woodland Hospital. On the 24th of September, 1945, the witness returned to Czechoslovakia. Her mother had survived the war in Terezín by marrying her cousin, Arnošt, which helped her avoid being transported East. After the War, Ruth Hálová undertook studies of microbiology at the Faculty of Natural Sciences in Prague, and graduated in 1952. She worked in the diagnostic laboratory at Motol Hospital in Prague, and later at the sanatoriums in Carlsbad and Ústí nad Labem. Ruth Hálová eventually moved to southern Bohemia, and lived in Holubov near Český Krumlov. Ruth Hálová died on 28 August 2020.