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Ruth’s Story

Ruth was born in May 1930 into a Jewish family in Prague. After the German invasion of Czechoslovakia she found that her father was a member of a resistance group which helped people wanted by the Germans to escape. Strange men often slept at their house and she was instructed not to mention it to anyone. Her father used to wake her up in the middle of the night pretending to be a German questioning her about the people who has slept in their house. She always ‘passed the test’ saying either that she didn’t know anyone has been there, or that it was an uncle.

Just after her 9th birthday her parents managed to send her to the UK on one of Sir Nicholas Winton’s kinder transport trains. She arrived alone, carrying her small suitcase, a rag doll under her arm and a large number to identify her around her neck, at Liverpool Street station. Not understanding a word of English she waited to be picked up by a family who pledged to look after her. After a long wait, eventually her new family, the Unwins arrived and took her back to their home in Cambridge. One day a man arrived at the house and asked for Ruth’s rag doll. Her father had given her the doll before the journey to England and told her to keep it close. He told her that inside was a lot of valuable jewellery and gold and that a friend of his was going to come and collect it from her once she got to England.

She lived with the Unwins for a few months until Mrs Unwin became pregnant and didn’t want her anymore. So, she was taken in by her schoolteacher Mrs Barnes, who already had one adopted daughter. The Barnes family were a Victorian type family, they took very good care of her physical needs and gave her a good education but there was no much love and her time with them was not a happy one.

In 1944 the headmaster of her secondary school called her into his office, to tell her that sadly her father has been shot by the Germans in Russia. Ruth of course was upset and shocked, but the headmaster told her to run along back to class. She had received a few short letters from her mother at the beginning of the war, but they stopped coming. Unknown to Ruth her mother had been taken to Auschwitz where she later died.

After the war, Ruth decided to return to Czechoslovakia as she had no news of her mother and thought she may be able to find her among the many displaced people of Europe. It was not to be. She was, however, found by a close friend of her father’s, Helena, who had fought with him in Russia and who had promised him to look after his daughter should he or his wife not survive the war. Helena was true to her word and became a close friend of Right and later a much loved grandmother to her children.

Shortly after returning to Czechoslovakia the communists came to power and because she had lived in the UK Ruth was viewed with suspicion by the new government and was therefore sent to ‘re-educational’ classes where she met her future husband, Jaroslav. They married in 1951 and went on to have two children, a son, Tony and a daughter, Oli. In the early 50s, Ruth suffered another loss. Helena was arrested for treason, a trumped up charge by the communists, because she too had lived in the west. One day she just disappeared and no one would tell Ruth what had happened to her, some friends of Helena eventually told Ruth to stop looking for her, stop asking questions and keep your head down. Helena returned two years later having spent time in solitary confinement. She got off lightly, others who were arrested at that time were executed and some received life sentences.

With her knowledge of English, Ruth had a variety of jobs for foreign or international companies – e.g. The International Union of Students, a Chinese media company, English broadcasting for Czech radio and later, after having a family, she worked in the glass export industry. Her husband was an industrial chemist. In 1969, roughly a year after Russia invaded Czechoslovakia, Ruth went through another traumatic experience – the family had to escape back to England. There they spent 3 months with her war time foster father in Cambridge, while Ruth worked to keep the family going while her husband studied English and the children went to school. A year later they settled in Langley in Berkshire.

Ruth had always believed that she was brought to England by the Red Cross, in 1988, however, she learned from the BBC programme ‘This is Your Life’ that in actual fact the man behind her rescue was a man called Nicholas Winton. A few years later, by which time she was living in Windsor, she discovered quite by chance that Nicky lived just a few miles away in Maidenhead. They became very close and Ruth cooked a meal for Nicky practically every week either at home or at his house for the next 25 years. At the age of 60, Ruth felt she had finally found the father she’d not had for a long time. Nicky lived until the age of 106.

As a result of all that happened to her, Ruth’s family became the total focal point of her life. She loved to cook and was always ready to feed anyone who came in, cooking for up to 26 at Christmas with ease. She always strove to keep her family close. She now has 8 grown up grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren, and she is greatly loved by all of them!