BBC drama brings to life story of child refugee who escaped Nazi-occupied Poland
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BBC drama brings to life story of child refugee who escaped Nazi-occupied Poland

BBC Radio 4's This Is Your Country Now Too, a seven-part series about child refugees, features the story of Mira Hamermesh, who fled Poland and arrived in Palestine two years later

Francine Wolfisz is the Features Editor for Jewish News.

Mira Hamermesh (right and as a young girl with her family, left), was just 16 when she escaped Poland
Mira Hamermesh (right and as a young girl with her family, left), was just 16 when she escaped Poland

The incredible story of a teenager who escaped from Nazi-occupied Poland to Palestine during the Second World War features in a new seven-part drama series about child refugees, airing on BBC Radio 4.

This Is your Country Now Too runs from Sunday, 8 December to Sunday, 15 December, with each drama detailing the story of a young person who arrived on British territory as a refugee across the decades, including from East Africa in the 1960s and Afghanistan in the 1990s.

Mira Hamermesh was just 16 in November 1939 when she and her older brother Mietek escaped from Nazi-occupied Poland to Lwow, which was under the control of the Soviets.

Their eventual goal was to reach their sister Genia in Palestine – and they arrived in Haifa two years after leaving home.

Tragically, Mira’s parents (pictured left, with their children), who remained in Lodz, both perished in the Holocaust.

Her mother died of starvation in the Lodz ghetto in 1942, while her father was among the final group of Jews deported to the gas chambers of Auschwitz in 1944.

The first drama in the series, which airs on Sunday, at 3pm, retells the story of two Jewish children, nine-year-old Gustav and his elder sister, Franziska, caught up in the events of the Second World War – and also reveals the actions of unsung hero Trevor Chadwick (played by Damian Lewis).

In the days following the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, a Jewish family is faced with a terrible dilemma – save their two children, but risk never seeing them again.

When they hear of the Kindertranport, a scheme to get children to London on trains, their mother decides it’s the only way.

The scheme, devised by Nicholas Winton, is left in the hands of schoolteacher Trevor Chadwick and Beatrice Wellington, his Canadian assistant.

With more than a little naivety and dogged persistence, amid the chaos of a new Nazi administration, this little-known story reveals Chadwick’s part in the saving of 700 Czechoslovakian children, who otherwise would have suffered the fate of their parents.

Years after the war ended, Sir Nicholas Winton, who died in 2015 at the age of 106, acknowledged the vital role Chadwick played in carrying out the Kindertransport.

He traveled back and forth between England and Prague in 1939 and helped ship several hundred children by both plane and train.

Winton said of him: “Chadwick did the more difficult and dangerous work after the Nazis invaded… he deserves all praise”.

This Is Your Country Now Too starts with Gustav and Franziska’s story on Sunday, 8 December, 3pm. Mira’s story airs on Monday 9 December, 2.15pm, on BBC Radio 4

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