THE card is faded and yellowed with time, but the smile of the little girl in the black and white photograph is still bright.

She was just three when it was taken, wearing her Sunday best, with her hair neatly parted and smoothed down in a wave.

Beside the picture someone has written her name, date of birth, parents’ contact details and identification number: 5097.

Eighty-four years have passed since Dr Lisa Midwinter, then Liesa Dasch, arrived in Britain – 1,000 miles from her home in the Czech Republic and wearing the document on a string around her neck.

She has kept it, tucked away in a special place, all this time, fondly calling it her ‘ticket to life’.

Lisa kept her identification card from her travel all this time, fondly calling it her ‘ticket to life’

Dr Lisa Midwinter is one of 669 children who escaped the Nazis on the Czech ¿Kindertransport¿

Dr Lisa Midwinter is one of 669 children who escaped the Nazis on the Czech ‘Kindertransport’

Sir Nicholas Winton orchestrated the remarkable rescue mission in the six months between the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and the outbreak of war that September

Sir Nicholas Winton orchestrated the remarkable rescue mission in the six months between the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and the outbreak of war that September

For Lisa, now 88, was one of the 669 children who escaped the Nazis on the Czech ‘Kindertransport’, a network of trains that helped young refugees from Jewish families flee central Europe and set up new lives in the UK, organised by humanitarian Sir Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Winton.

Sir Nicholas, who died in 2015, was known as ‘Britain’s Oskar Schindler’ for his tireless efforts to save lives in the six months between the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 and the outbreak of war that September.

Thanks to him, an estimated 6,000 people across the world – the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who escaped – are alive today.

But Sir Nicholas, who was just 26 when he staged the remarkable rescue mission, was a humble man and his role remained unrecognised until 1988, almost 50 years after the event, when a now-famous episode of BBC programme That’s Life paid tribute to his heroism.

On live TV, host Dame Esther Rantzen told his story before turning to viewers and asking: ‘Is there anyone in our audience tonight who owes their life to Nicholas Winton?’

In scenes that moved millions across Britain to tears, including Sir Nicholas (who’d been invited on the show but had no idea who else would be present), almost everyone in the studio audience stood up in response.

A new film  featuring Winton's heroic efforts and starring Sir Anthony Hopkins will be released in cinemas on New Year¿s Day

A new film  featuring Winton’s heroic efforts and starring Sir Anthony Hopkins will be released in cinemas on New Year’s Day

That heart-wrenching moment, and the inspirational tale of the man himself, is the subject of a new film, One Life, starring Sir Anthony Hopkins (as Winton), Helena Bonham-Carter and Romola Garai, which will be released in cinemas on New Year’s Day.

For Lisa’s family, it’s a timely reminder – not only of what she went through all those years ago, but of the moment they first found out about it.

‘Until that programme was on TV, I didn’t talk about it,’ Lisa explains. ‘I didn’t tell anyone – not my friends from university, not my work colleagues, not even my children.

‘My parents found it too painful, and, because they had also escaped from the Nazis and joined us in England a few months later, they felt guilty.

‘Most of those children never saw their parents again, but mine got out. They never wanted to talk about it, so I didn’t either.’

At the end of the episode, Dame Esther held up a scrapbook belonging to Sir Nicholas, containing all the particulars of the children he had rescued. On the front cover were pictures of three-year-old Lisa and her brother, Hugo, eight, who’d travelled with her on the train.

A relative spotted the likeness, contacted Lisa’s eldest son, Nick, and he phoned his mother. The truth came tumbling out – she had indeed been one of ‘Nicky’s Children’ from the trains.

Nicolas, here aged 26, was known as ¿Britain¿s Oskar Schindler¿. He passed away in 2015

Nicolas, here aged 26, was known as ‘Britain’s Oskar Schindler’. He passed away in 2015

Sir Nicolas and his wife Grete, who he met in Paris, in Prague 1991

Sir Nicolas and his wife Grete, who he met in Paris, in Prague 1991

 Like many who left their homeland at such a young age, Lisa’s memories of that time are fragmented. In fact, she didn’t realise until many years later how she’d reached the UK.

Her father, Hans, was a prominent paediatrician and she grew up in a wealthy household in Teplice, a city in the north-west of the Czech Republic, then known as the Sudetenland.

‘We had a nanny and a cook, we were very well-off,’ she recalls. ‘My mother, brother and I were on holiday when the German troops moved in [in late 1938], and my father contacted us and told us not to come home, but instead go to Prague where my Granny, Aunt and Uncle lived.’

 Her father later joined them there. ‘We moved around lots because we were worried stiff the Germans would catch up with us and that would be it.

‘Daddy tried so hard to get a visa for all four of us to get out, and in the end he heard about Sir Nicholas. Things were getting desperate.’

The world was teetering on the brink of war and the German threat to Jewish residents of occupied territories, among them the Sudetenland, was looming. Thousands had fled to Prague, the Czech capital, where many hid out, living in squalid, temporary camps.

Their safety was on a knife-edge. Lisa remembers seeing the Nazis marching in the streets and being pulled back by a screaming relative as they paraded past in case they spotted this curious little Jewish girl.

Into this terrifying melee waded Sir Nicholas, a young stockbroker from London with German-Jewish parents who had become involved in socialist campaign groups opposing Hitler.

In December 1938, he was about to travel to Switzerland for a skiing holiday, when a telegram from an old friend – Martin Blake, a master at Westminster School and an ambassador for the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia – made him divert to Prague instead.

Blake’s committee had been helping adults to escape but, though ‘Kindertransports’ – trains carrying Jewish children out of danger – existed elsewhere, there was no such plan in Czechoslovakia.

Sir Nicholas organised a network of trains to transport the children from Prague Main Railway station,  pictured, to London Liverpool Street

Sir Nicholas organised a network of trains to transport the children from Prague Main Railway station,  pictured, to London Liverpool Street

He was knighted in 2003

His heroic actions were brought to light after he spoke to Esther Rantzen about his audacious mission

Sir Nicolas’s role remained unrecognised until 1988, almost 50 years after the event, when a now-famous episode of BBC programme That’s Life paid tribute to his heroism 

Queen Elizabeth meets Sir Nicholas while on a tour of Slovakia in 2008

Queen Elizabeth meets Sir Nicholas while on a tour of Slovakia in 2008

Sir Nicholas spent a month in the Czech capital and was so moved by the plight of the children he saw that, on his return home, he successfully lobbied the Government to accept Jewish refugees under the age of 17 – and managed to find homes up and down the country for hundreds.

Next, he set about organising a network of trains, which would transport them from Prague to London Liverpool Street, via Germany, the Netherlands and a ferry from the Hook of Holland.

It was mammoth task and, as the film – based on a book by his daughter, Barbara Winton, who sadly died during production last September – is at pains to point out, not something Sir Nicholas could have achieved without the help of other volunteers, friends and his hardworking mother, Babi – played by Helena Bonham Carter in the film.

The first train eventually left Prague on March 14, 1939, one day before Nazi troops marched into the capital. Over the following months, there would be seven more.

Lisa left her homeland on May 11. Hans and Ella Dasch brought their two children to the central station, said tearful goodbyes and waved them off – perhaps, they thought, for ever.

‘What my mother and father must have felt putting us on the train, thinking they would never see us again, was horrific,’ Lisa says today.

‘I still remember being lifted on. I can picture the engine, this great big black object, and looking up at the blue train.

‘I remember white handkerchiefs being waved and people crying. For a child to see adults crying is traumatic, so that stayed with me.’

The journey took three long, terrifying, cold days. On arrival, more trauma was to come when her brother was immediately shipped off to boarding school, leaving Lisa ‘totally desolate’ and ‘all alone in a foreign place’.

She was initially taken to live with a family in Manchester, but the placement did not go well. ‘I cried so much they couldn’t deal with me,’ she says. ‘I was only there a matter of days before they got in touch with the Refugee Committee and I was sent to stay with some German friends of my mother in Stoke-on-Trent.’

Though she expected never to see her parents again, like so many other of the terrified children transported out of Czechoslovakia, Hans and Ella made it to England. They did it separately, a few months later, and by no clear means other than luck.

‘My father came out in July, and my mother on the next-to-last train,’ says Lisa. ‘I learned later that a German official tried to stop her from boarding, and she stood up to him and said, “How dare you. I’ve got a pass.”’

Once reunited, the family settled in Stoke-on-Trent, where her parents set up an orphanage for impoverished Czech children.

Lisa has happy memories of a ‘wonderful’ city, where the family were treated with hospitality and compassion, a contrast to the fearful xenophobia some refugees encountered.

But it was a very different life to the one she had been used to. ‘We didn’t have a penny. I still remember washing in cold water. And I had to eat very quickly, as there were 14 of us in a three-bedroom house, so the food would go if you didn’t gobble it up.

‘I used to do Czech dancing. We held concerts in the munitions factories to get money. We lived off charity and the kindness of volunteers.

‘I slept on a straw mattress – it was brown with cream flowers on it, made from three cubes of straw – and I used to wake up with bits of straw sticking out.’

As her parents constantly reminded her, however, things could have been much, much worse.

Lisa and her family attend the One Life premiere at The Royal Festival Hall on October 12

Lisa and her family attend the One Life premiere at The Royal Festival Hall on October 12

The film stars Johnny Flynn as a young Nicholas as he

The film stars Johnny Flynn as a young Nicholas as he 

As well as Sir Anthony, Helena Bonham-Carter and Romola Garai also have a role in the film

As well as Sir Anthony, Helena Bonham-Carter and Romola Garai also have a role in the film

 Some six million Jewish men, women and children were systematically murdered by the Nazis between 1941 and 1945 – many of Lisa’s relatives, friends and neighbours among them.

Tragically, not everyone on the trains made it. Sir Nicholas’ final transport was due to leave Prague on September 1 – the day war broke out. There were 250 children on board, but German troops blocked its departure and the travellers were led away, never to be seen again.

It was one of the biggest regrets of the philanthropist’s life. ‘That haunted him,’ says Lisa. ‘He said they were there for the taking. He felt so guilty.’

Far away from such horrors, Lisa and her family settled into life in the UK.

While her mother was ill for most of her life with heart problems – a result, she believes, of the stress she endured during that time – her father retook his medical exams at Manchester University, built a career for himself and lived into his nineties.

He encouraged her to go to university, where she studied dentistry and became a school dentist. She married twice and had two children, Nick and Josh, who between them have five grown-up children.

Two of her grandchildren accompanied her to the premiere of the film at London’s Royal Festival Hall in October, and – very movingly – stood up in tribute as once again that poignant question was asked: ‘If there is anybody who owes their life to Nicholas Winton, could they please stand?’

It moved Lisa to tears. She still cries, she admits, every time she speaks about her past.

As for the man at the heart of this incredible story, he continued to serve his country during the war – joining the Red Cross, then the Air Force, followed by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Paris, where he met his wife, Grete.

Even she didn’t know the full extent of his heroism until she found his scrapbook in a trunk in the attic in 1988, sent it to a friend – and the rest is history.

Researchers were initially able to track down 80 of ‘Nicky’s Children’, and that number grew after That’s Life aired on national TV. Of the 669 refugees, 370 have never been traced – most likely because they don’t know the truth about how they survived the war.

For those who did learn the identity of the man who saved their lives, they couldn’t do enough to thank him. Lisa and her son met Sir Nicholas several times in the years after his TV appearance, buying him tickets to the opera and taking him out for lunch and chocolate cake – his favourite.

‘He was so unassuming and lovely. It was an honour to get to know him a little,’ she says.

Flynn stands next to Sir Nicolas's statue at Prague's main railway station, unveiled in 2009

Flynn stands next to Sir Nicolas’s statue at Prague’s main railway station, unveiled in 2009

Images from the film shows desperate parents running to get their children safely on the train

Images from the film shows desperate parents running to get their children safely on the train

Other refugees, especially those who’d seen their entire families wiped out, came to see Nicholas Winton as the grandfather, uncle or father they’d lost. They’d visit and phone regularly. He was the only contact to their past.

Sir Nicholas was knighted in 2003, and in 2009 a statue was unveiled at Prague’s main railway station, showing him standing beside two children, one of them clasping his neck in affection.

That same year, on September 1, a memorial ‘Winton train’ travelled the original ‘Kindertransport’ route, carrying several of the now grown-up children and their descendants. Lisa, her son Nick and granddaughter Georgia were among them.

Sir Nicholas, then aged 100, stood on the platform at Liverpool Street, welcoming them home with a broad smile and open arms.

For Lisa, and most of the other 668 children he brought here, Britain is home. Though she has returned several times to the Czech Republic, everyone she knew there has now died or moved on.

Like Sir Nicholas, she prefers to look forward – not back.

And, in a world once again beset by humanitarian crises, she hopes seeing his astonishing story on the silver screen will remind a new generation that it takes just one person – one remarkable, selfless person – to make a difference.

‘Without him, I wouldn’t be here,’ she says. ‘Quite simply, I owe him my whole life.’

One Life is in cinemas from January 1, 2024.

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