SMH | Posted 25.01.2017

A very special talk for St Mary’s Hall pupils from holocaust survivor Lady Grenfell-Baines to mark Holocaust Memorial Day

Upper Elements pupils were delighted to have a very special visitor, Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, to talk to them on Saturday. Lady Grenfell-Baines was one of the 669 children who escaped from Czechoslovakia before the outbreak of World War II on one of the so-called Winton Trains (organised by Nicholas Winton).

The Upper Elements children were fascinated to hear the first-hand experiences of Lady Grenfell-Baines, then aged 9, and her little sister (aged 3 and a half), not only the train journey, but also their life in Britain after their arrival. The family was extremely lucky to be reunited – their father had escaped earlier (he had been warned to do so) and their mother escaped after them via Norway. Lady Grenfell-Baines told the children about Nicholas Winton and his extraordinary efforts to rescue the children. The children heard the sobering story of the last train which was due to leave with 250 children: the outbreak of war prevented it from leaving and, of those 250 children, only two survived the war.

The children were shown the books which Lady Grenfell-Baines took with her on the train – Czech translations of Robinson Crusoe and The Wind in the Willows which, at the time, Lady Grenfell Baines had no idea were English stories. She still has the label which she wore on the journey and the list of names of the children travelling. The children were fascinated by a school report from when she was 11 and by watching her knit in the Czech way.

Lady Grenfell-Baines is now very involved with the Holocaust Memorial Trust and works to promote the importance of remembering, not only the Holocaust, but also other acts of genocide. Her visit was a timely reminder that Friday, January 27th is Holocaust Memorial Day. If you wish to know more, please visit their website at www.hmd.org.uk.

 Sir Nicholas Winton said, “Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong, be prepared every day to try and do some good.”

 This is a message central to the Stonyhurst ethos which encourages our pupils to be men and women for others. In a week where the Upper Elements children had also watched an assembly about the plight of the Syrian refugees, Upper Elements pupils were inspired by Lady Grenfell-Baines’ visit to think what they could do to help refugee children in the current crisis.