Nicholas Winton is someone that we can truly call a superhero. Not because he possesses extraordinary powers, rather because of the incredible fact that he saved the lives of 669 people. Born in England, his parents were German Jews. Nicholas worked in England’s stock market just before the beginning of World War II and lived a comfortable life. All this, when one day he received a phone call from a friend that proposed that he help out in one of the refugee camps where thousands of Jewish families were living in precarious conditions. After this, profoundly touched by the experience of suffering and pain that he witness those days, he decided to set up an improvised office in a hotel and, figuring things out as he went, he decided to get as many children as possible out of the country, assuring that they would be taken in by volunteer families from other states.
What’s most impressive about his testimony is that Nicholas could have been one of the many who looked on at the horrors of war and its victims but, due to fear or comfort, failed to act. He, on the other hand, without any other direct responsibility besides that of his conscience, decided to take part in the matter and help as many people as possible.
In order to do so, he had to get funding. He contacted the ambassadors of various countries and asked them to take in the needy children, and even published in the newspapers, looking for families that would be interested in taking the children in for as long as necessary. The response was impressive; hundreds of English families volunteered and, one day, about 6 trains left Prague on route to England, full of children who, after having lost their parents in the concentration camps, were about to find new families that would welcome them as sons and daughters.
This incredibly heroic act went unknown for 50 years, until one day, his wife found an album with old photographs, letters, and a list with more than 600 German children. The courage and generosity with which Nicholas Winton acted didn’t end with those 669 children, for those children are now parents and grandparents. His actions have had repercussions in the lives of more than 7,000 people.
What lead this common man to become a hero? Without a doubt, it was the desire to give himself for others, especially for those who are most vulnerable. But, above all, it was his great courage that lead him to not only be moved by the others’ needs, but also to become a protagonist in finding solutions. The gratitude of the hundreds of families has no measure; but even greater must be the joy that he experiences in seeing so many people who have built their lives thanks to his small effort. The happiness of giving one’s life for another, even if it be for just one, is indescribable.
His example can help us to reflect about many things. I propose two questions that might serve in a dialogue:
1. Have you ever felt the desire to do something for those who most suffer? Do you think you can do something? Where should you start?
2. If you knew someone who had saved your life, how would you thank him or her?
Finally, here is a brief documentary about the life of Nicholas Winton: