Sir Nicholas Winton, saviour of 669 Czechoslovak children, honoured in Prague

10-10-2007

Sir Nicholas Winton, the British man whose foresight and determination helped save 669 mostly Jewish Czechoslovak children from the Holocaust, paid a visit to Prague this week, and was given a rapturous reception. Now 98, this was his fifth visit to the Czech capital since the extraordinary story of his heroic deeds first emerged in the late 1980s. That story was captured in the moving documentary The Power of Good, by director Matej Minac. He's been showing the film in schools around the country, and organised a special event at Prague's Congress Centre on Tuesday, attended by Sir Nicholas, several of the children he'd saved, and two and a half thousand schoolchildren. Radio Prague spoke to Matej Minac after the showing.

"The students are motivated by what he did 68 years ago to do something for our world. In this there is hope, and we wanted to show it to Sir Nicholas and see his reaction. His reaction was tears, he was moved, and I think everybody in the house was moved - these few thousand children, all these important people etc. I hope that thanks to this we will be able through my new film to show that there is some hope for the future."

He was treated almost like a rock star in there. Do you think he likes the attention?

Sir Nicholas Winton, photo: CTKSir Nicholas Winton, photo: CTK "You know, in life, nothing is black and white. He's always joking that I have totally ruined his life. I've made two films about him, they've been shown around the world, and now he has become something of a celebrity. But on the other hand he understands that even by showing what he did he can help the world, and he likes to help. You know, that's his passion. So I think he appreciates it."

And you have some fairly big plans for his story and for him - I thought the nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize was a joke at first, but you're serious.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK "It started as a joke. It came from one little school in Kunzak, Central Bohemia, where an eleven-year-old boy asked after the film why Mr Winton was not given a Nobel Peace Prize, and that we were a little bit to blame that the world didn't show him enough respect. We said to this school - look, children everyone can do something, for example you can start a petition for awarding Mr Winton a Nobel Peace Prize. They thought it was a good idea, and they started it, and through them 35,000 signatures of students and teachers all around Bohemia were collected. Our present generation is the best generation ever. They are so knowledgeable. They know so many things."

This is a naïve question but do you think that armed with that knowledge, they can help prevent the kind of things that happened 70 years ago happening again in the future?

"In the Talmud there is a Jewish saying - he who saves one life saves the world. Even if this initiative could change one life, positively, it's worth this endeavour. We can't hope that, you know, from now on everything will be fine! But at least we have tried."

10-10-2007