Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 17:02 UK

Winton's children: Vera Gissing


Vera Gissing: 'He gave us life'

Vera Gissing is in no doubt that she owes her life to Nicholas Winton.

She was put on a train out of German-occupied Prague in June 1939, shortly before her 11th birthday, and never saw her parents again.

"I think all the children who were saved owe their lives to Nicholas Winton," she says.

"I don't think that many of us would have survived somehow, because nearly all of us lost our families."

Vera's mother, who was sent to the Belsen concentration camp, lived to see the end of the war, but died soon afterwards.

Two of her cousins, who had been due to escape on another train organised by Sir Nicholas on 1 September 1939, never left the station because of the outbreak of war. They died in Belsen.

Vera's sister Eva travelled with her on the train in June. Their family name was Diamant.


"You can try and heal yourself by saying how lucky we were - our parents died knowing we were saved. Our parents never saw us being shot or going into the gas chambers. They didn't have that pain," Vera says.

She only discovered that she was indebted to Nicholas Winton in 1988, when Esther Rantzen's That's Life programme told the story for the first time of his efforts to rescue Prague's Jewish children.

Since then she has written a biography of Sir Nicholas, and helps to look after him.

She remembers very clearly the moment her mother told her father that she and her sister had a place on the train to England and the pause that followed.

"It was an unforgettable episode, because father was always such an optimist, but we just waited in silence.

"The words he used were: 'We'll have to let them go.'

"It wasn't until we were adult that we recognised the incredible strength and sacrifice our parents and so many other parents gave."

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