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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
July 1 1939
Lia Lesser was born Liana Blumova in 1931 in Teplice-Šanov, Czechoslovakia, to divorced parents who both remarried. Her mother Ida ran a haberdashery shop and her father Pavel was a commercial traveller. She remembers a happy childhood with grandparents and cousins and no antisemitism. She doesn’t remember her journey to Britain on a Kindertransport organised by Nicholas Winton but remembers the devastating scenes of children of all ages saying goodbye to their distraught parents at Prague station.
At Liverpool Street Station Lia was the last child to be picked up. Her guardian, Ms Florence Hall, was a teacher from Anglesey. Ms Hall had heard on the radio about the plight of Jews in Europe and got in touch with the Czech Refugee Trust Fund. Ms Hall came from a large family who treated Lia like one of their own. However, her bungalow had no running water or electricity.
Lia corresponded with her parents until 1942 but was beginning to forget how to speak Czech and German. Ms Hall, worried that Lia might not be able to communicate with her parents after the war, sent her to the Czech School in Exile, first located in Whitchurch, Shropshire, later evacuated to Llanwrtyd Wells in Breconshire. There was also a rabbi providing a Jewish education. Lia remembers her time there fondly, making many friends for life. Her school holidays she spent back home in Anglesey. After finishing school, she started her nurse’s training as a at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. In her search for belonging, Lia visited several Christian churches but when she set foot in a synagogue, she felt immediately that she had arrived at the right place. Later she met her husband Philipp whose family background was Jewish Polish.
After the war, Lia learnt her family had perished in the Holocaust. Only her father’s second wife Ola survived Auschwitz and got in touch with Lia in 1946. She met with Lia after the war in Prague where they managed to retrieve some photos and jewellery. At the end of her interview, Lia is joined by her daughter Naomi and they talk about the impact of the Holocaust on Lia and the second generation.
Key words: Teplice-Šanov. Nicholas Winton. Anglesey. Czech School in Exile. Whitchurch. Llanwrtyd Wells, Breconshire. Birmingham.