Savior of more than 600 children just before World War II will be accompanied by his family on short trip to receive highest Czech award
Prague, Oct. 21 (ČTK) — Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved hundreds of Jewish kids from pre-war Czechoslovakia, will spend only a few hours in Prague during his visit Oct. 28, when President Miloš Zeman will bestow the Order of the White Lion on him, Zeman’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček told the Czech News Agency today.
Winton, 105, will be flown from Britain by the Czech military as part of their training flights, Defense Ministry spokesman Petr Medek said.
Ovčáček said the Presidential Office is trying to secure not only the most comfortable conditions for Winton at the awarding ceremony but also the most comfortable conditions during the transfer.
Several dozens of personalities are annually awarded by the Czech president Oct. 28, which is the anniversary of the founding of an independent Czechoslovakia in 1918.
Zeman will present the highest state decoration to Winton at a special ceremony in Prague Castle’s Vladislav Hall, separately from the main awards ceremony that will take place later on the same day at the same venue.
Winton will arrive in the Czech Republic for a few hours accompanied by his daughter Barbara, son Nick and grandchildren.
He agreed to make the trip, attracted by the promise that he will be able to look out from the cockpit during the flight, said Matej Mináč, the film director who has focused on Winton’s personality and life story in feature and documentary films, who quoted Winton’s daughter Barbara.
During his latest visit to the Czech Republic in 2011, Winton, a former pilot, appreciated it that he could travel by small jet plane, Mináč said.
He recalled that two years ago, Winton occupied the second pilot’s seat aboard a Cessna on a flight in Britain, and that he took over the controls of the plane from the first pilot, 78 years his junior.
Mináč cited Winton’s words that unless something is impossible, it can be achieved if one focuses one’s mind on it and is determined to do it.
Mináč said this “infection with good” has always fascinated him, which is why he has already used Winton’s story three times in his work.
His first film about Winton was All My Loved Ones (Všichni moji blízcí, 1999), then a documentary with fictional parts, Power of Good (Síla lidskosti, 2002), and most recently in the film Nicky’s Family (Nickyho rodina, 2011), which won almost 40 prizes at film festivals and has been presented all over the world.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Winton organized the transfer of 669 mostly Jewish children by train from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, which was then controlled by the Nazis, to Britain, thus saving their lives. He dispatched several trains with the children between May 1939 and Sept. 1, when the Nazis banned the departures after invading Poland.
Winton has received a number of British and Czech awards, including the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, presented to him by the then-President Václav Havel in 1998.