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Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines MBE

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
2 August 1939
Interview number:
Experiences:
RV
285

Interview Summary:

Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines was born in 1929 to parents Eliška Kosinerova and Rudolf Fleischmann. She grew up in Proseč near Skuteč in the Chrudim district where her mother’s family came from. When Milena was three years old, her mother died and Milena stayed with her paternal grandparents because her father was in hospital in Luže being treated for chest problems. There he met Prague-educated Latvian doctor Sonja Zif. They married and had a little girl, Milena’s stepsister, Eva. From 1937 the family lived in Prague. Milena remembers outings with her paternal grandfather in Prague to see a puppet show and enjoy Czech food . She took part in “Sokolski Slet” gymnastic tournaments.


Rudolf Fleischmann worked as an accountant and was warned to leave the country shortly before the German invasion, as he was one of the key figures in negotiating the granting of Czechoslovak citizenship to the German writer Thomas Mann, his family and his brother Heinrich. Rudolf escaped via Berlin and Brussels to England.


On 31 July 1939, Milena’s maternal grandfather took her and her younger sister to the Prague Railway Station to leave on a Kindertransport to Great Britain organised by Nicolas Winton. When the time came to say good-bye her grandfather gave her an autograph book with messages from him, Milena’s grandmother and other relatives. Milena read from it during her AJR Refugee Voices interview. In London they were picked up by Roland Radcliffe from Ashton-under-Lyne. They stayed with Roland with until the family was reunited.


Milena attended the Czechoslovak State Boarding School in Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales during the war where she particularly enjoyed singing lessons. Her autograph book contains many entries from teachers and friends from that time.


After the war Milena and her family moved to Preston and she trained as a nursery nurse. In 1954 she married architect and urban planner George Grenfell-Baines (1908-2003). They had four children.


In 1959 Milena returned to Czechoslovakia for the first time and has since been actively involved in Czech-British cultural and social relations. She was instrumental in the fundraising for a memorial ‘To The Parents Who Sent Their Children Away’ at Prague Railway Station.


In the 1980s and 1990s she organised school reunions. Milena first met Sir Nicholas Winton during the BBC Programme ‘That’s Life’ and she is an active Holocaust educator, giving talks  in schools and other organisation. She has received numerous honours. An MBE was awarded to her 2016.

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