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Eva Frean

1/5
Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
September 1938
Experiences:

Interview Summary:

Eva Frean was born Eva Reichenfeld in Vienna in 1925. She had an older brother called Hans and lived in the 3. District. Her father was a doctor and ran a surgery in their flat doesn’t remember her parents having a social life apart from meeting with the father’s large family as her parents worked very hard. She recalls that very poor patients were treated by her father. Her mother had studied law but didn’t continue when she got married. Eva went to school in the 2. Bezirk. She recalls the Anschluss and seeing the Nazi marches outside her window. The family was not very religious but the mother attended Quaker meetings who helped first to find a place for Eva’s older brother, Hans, to come to England and then Eva. She was a Girl Guide (Pfadfinder?) and in this way a connection to the Girls Guides in England was made. Mrs. Dickey – who was very active in helping refugees/ lobbying to let more refugees into the country-  in Middlesbrough /Yorkshire took Eva in. Eva started school and she was able to meet up with girls from Jewish families in the area on the weekends (where she learnt a lot about the Jewish traditions). Eva wasn’t aware what was going on meanwhile in Vienna, where her father was arrested at Kristallnacht. Finally her mother came on a domestic visa and Mrs. Dickey guaranteed for her father who followed in spring 1939. He and her brother were interned on the Isle of Man. Her brother by choice went to Canada and on returning joined the Air Force. Her father requalified after his release and started working in Birmingham. Her mother worked for a lady in Edinburgh and Eva attended a boarding school in Grantown-on-Spey. After finishing school she joined her parents in 1941 in Birmingham and started working in a nursery. After that she started a university degree in social work and economy. When she felt it would help her in her attempts to find work she changed her surname Reichenfeld to Hillier- sounding a bit like her mother’s maiden name “Heller”. In the mid-forties Eva moved to London and worked for the ‘The Invalid Children’s Aid Association’and enjoyed a busy social life with Young Austria. After getting more and varied work experience in Switzerland and Nottingham she came back to Birmingham and had special training in social psychiatric work and then applied for a mental health course at the London School of Economics. She met her husband Peter – who was also a refugee from Vienna- and married him in 1958. They joined a synagogue (at first Finchley Progressive and then Alyth Gardens) as they wanted to give their children a Jewish identity. She has been back to Vienna but has no nostalgic feelings and never considered moving back as she identifies as English Jewish. Eva has written down her life memories for her children and grandchildren.

[we lived] In the Third District in a main road Radetzkystraße. It was a main road and because of that, really, I was quite aware of what was going on. Because through the streets you had the Nazis marching up and down before Hitler came, and after of course, so you knew what was going on and really quite terrifying at times.

Do I remember the Anschluss? Yes, I do, and I remember sitting around the radio and hear- hearing Schuschnigg telling you, you know, that was the end or whatever he said. I can’t remember now. But yes, I do remember that. And it made me really rather scared.

And I had three suitcases and a pair of skis when I came to England. [laughs]...Well I’d had one skiing holiday with the school and this skis- this pair of skis had actually been given to me by somebody who no longer wanted them. But [laughs] it does seem rather ridiculous that there I came with- and in those days you could arrange for luggage to be sent… on my train. And so these three suitcases and my skis did arrive in London, much to my surprise.

And I had three suitcases and a pair of skis when I came to England. [laughs]...Well I’d had one skiing holiday with the school and this skis- this pair of skis had actually been given to me by somebody who no longer wanted them. But [laughs] it does seem rather ridiculous that there I came with- and in those days you could arrange for luggage to be sent… on my train. And so these three suitcases and my skis did arrive in London, much to my surprise.

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