I think often about the refugees that we in the UK aren’t helping, especially the unaccompanied children wandering about Europe. I probably feel so strongly because at the age of eight (I am now 86), I acquired a big sister who was a refugee.
My mother had had a nightmare, in which Hitler and his stormtroopers were marching along our local high street. She was also moved by a poster showing a girl and boy, with the words “Get them out while there is time”. She happened to have a meeting with the headmistress of the school I went to at the time and as she was leaving, she said: “We have decided to offer a home to a Jewish child.” She was asked to stay and talk it over. The school staff had volunteered support for a couple of girls of 13 or 14. In the end, it was just one: my sister. Two staff members put up the money for her school fees, an arrangement was made to provide her with school uniform and it was settled that she would come and live with us. These arrangements were necessary as, although we lived in a big house, there wasn’t a lot of money to spare.
My mother prepared my brother and me, explaining that treats would now have to be shared between three. Richard Attenborough, who also grew up with two Kindertransport girls told a similar story in the preface to the documentary Into the Arms of Strangers, where his father told him and his brothers that what they could do as a family of five, they…