“It was always a mystery as to how we got on that train – who was the person that actually got our names on the list? By the time we got on, my father had already gone, he had to leave the night before the Germans invaded. He was told he was going to be picked up by the Gestapo and was warned to leave.”

Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines was born in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1929 and came to the UK on the last train of Sir Nicholas Winton’s Kindertransport in 1939. Her family were forced to flee their country because her father, Rudolf Fleischmann, a councillor in the small town of Prosec u Skutce, was a great admirer of the anti-Nazi German author Thomas Mann, who had been made stateless in 1936 because of his political views, and so decided to help the writer.

“Thomas Mann was in Switzerland, exiled by the Nazis, and he had no passport,” says Lady Milena, now 84, “and my father suggested to our town that they make him an honorary citizen, which would give him a Czech passport. That had to be agreed by the president, and then they sent my father to Switzerland to offer Thomas Mann a passport.”

Thomas Mann and his family emigrated to the United States – but Rudolf’s and the town’s act of kindness sealed their fate.

“Once the Germans invaded, in March 1939, they paid dearly,” says Milena, who was nine at the time. “As elsewhere, all the Jewish families were deported to concentration camps, and members of the town council who had been personally involved were shot.”

Milena’s father fled to the UK via Berlin and, a short time later, Milena, her three-year-old sister Eva and two-year-old cousin Helen found themselves on the Kindertransport train, bound for Holland and, from there, by ship to England, with three other children.

“My memory of going on that train is very, very vague, it’s more like a dream than a memory. It was a 24-hour journey, I’ve been told. As we were leaving, we held hands and said ‘We’re not going to cry’.

“We were in a separate carriage and we had to take our own food with us for the journey until we got to Holland, where the Dutch gave us cocoa and bananas and then put us on the ship.

“On the ship, we were given English cups of tea with milk – which nobody liked! And I remember being given white bread sandwiches and none of us liked it because we were used to rye bread. Children tend to remember food!”

Milena and Eva were taken in by the Radcliffe family in Ashton-under-Lyne, near Manchester, , because their father was too ill to care for his daughters, and they stayed with them for a year, until their mother Sonia managed to escape and join them in 1940, when the family was reunited.

The Fleischmanns were lucky – many of the Kindertransport children learned after the war that they had been orphaned.

Some time after the war, Milena and Eva learned about Nicholas Winton, who had organised the transport for the children, and Milena is very close to the now 104-year-old ‘Nicky’.

“I took him out to lunch on Saturday,” she says. “He’s frail but he’s great. He doesn’t like to talk about that time, he says he likes to look forward. He always says ‘I wasn’t the only one’ but he was the only one that did all that for us, and found families for us to live with.”

Lady Milena now lives in Preston and regularly gives talks on her experiences. “I think it’s important people don’t forget what happened,” she said. “The tragedy is that it’s still happening – children are still being orphaned, people are still being killed, and somehow no-one seems to have learned anything.”

  • Survivors Speak: Last Train to Tomorrow is at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House, North End Road, Golders Green on Monday, February 17 at 2.15pm. Details: 020 8457 5000, ljcc.org.uk