AN Edgware woman who escaped the Holocaust relived the journey that saved her life last week.
Hana Kleiner, 82, was just 12 when on July 30, 1939, her and sister Sonja, 13, said a tearful goodbye to their parents and boarded a train from Czechoslovakia to London.
She knew nothing of the horror that awaited those she left behind in her home town Hradec Králové, where 1,096 Jewish people were killed and only 99 survived.
On Tuesday last week she walked through the same entrance of the same train station to the same platform where 70 years ago she said goodbye to her father Arnost and mother Marketa for the last time.
She said: “Going from the same station as we did in 1939 was very moving. It was a different atmosphere.
“At the time nobody apart from the parents were allowed on the platform so it was a quieter occasion but we didn't know the full importance of it at the time. I'm sure my parents looked forward to seeing us again.
“In fact our train was the last that was allowed to leave. The next one was scheduled for September 1 but was stopped when Germany attacked Poland. Those children all perished.
“They would have gone back to their families, and my sister and I never saw our parents or any of our relatives again. They all perished in Auschwitz.”
Her and some of the other 669 children rescued by what is known as the Winton train after Nicholas Winton, now 100, the English stockbroker who ran it, spent four days reliving the difficult journey.
When they arrived at Liverpool Street Station on September 4 they met the man who saved their lives.
Hana said: “At the time he was being watched. He really shrugged it off and still does but it could have been very dangerous for him.”
Her family knew life in the country would get worse for Jewish people but she was lucky enough to get out before the Nazi death camps destroyed Jewish communities across Europe.
She was sent to Boston, in Lincolnshire, where she quickly picked up English and was top in her form just a year after she arrived in the country.
But news from home was scarce and it was not until after the war that she discovered the fate of her relatives.
She said: “We could write and correspond with our parents for the first two years but then no more letters came. We communicated as much as we could through the Red Cross.
“Letters were not allowed but some information was, and we were told that they were okay. But then everything stopped.
“We didn't find out what had happened until even a month or so after the war ended. It was something that was unbelievable to most of the world.
“At the time it was just a dreadful loss. It took a long time to accept but as I got older I began to grieve for the life that they had not had, and the fact I had been granted life.
“This is really what Nicholas Winton did for us.”
Before the commemorative train journey Hana visited the village where her mother grew up, and went back to her own home town where she found the names of her family on a Holocaust memorial.
She took photographs of the trip, and her and partner Cedric plan to write a book telling her story.