THE 27th of January 2020 is Holocaust Memorial where Cardiff, Swansea and many other parts of Wales will see ceremonies take place to mark the anniversary.
For the first time in West Wales, the event will be commemorated by the Olive Trust Charity. The charity is organising an event to be held at the Princess Centre, Kidwelly.
Denise Kingsley-Jones, Head of The Trust will be relaying her family’s own personal story at the event
Denise said: “My grandfather, Jimmy Lefco was sent to the UK in the 1930s due to his family worrying about events unfolding in pre-war Hungary that had seen long-term restrictions and discrimination for Jewish businesses and jobs for Jews.
“When the war started my maternal-grandmother, Dorothy Freed was sent from London to Llanelli as an eighteen-year-old and I wrote their story a few years ago where it was taken up by the Carmarthen Journal and The Llanelli History Society.
“She always spoke of her love for Wales and I grew up hearing her stories of how the train steamed through villages and the countryside morphed to valleys and lush landscapes. As, she saw the sea her eyes widened as she was taken to a farmhouse and she recalled a grand oak staircase, wood paneling, a warm fireplace and picture windows with views over the estuary.
“On a not so fortunate train, my maternal grandfather was in Hungary trying to arrange for our family to leave and travel to the UK for a sanctuary where an SS officer on board ordered him to ‘get to the back of the train,’ destined for the camps.
“An American soldier told him not to move and saved his life but his family had the wrong papers due to a change in borders when Czechoslovakia and Hungary were created out of the collapse of the Russian empire and their papers were not valid.
“As my grandmother spent almost a year in Wales, she never forgot the warmth of its people, life beside the sea and fresh produce to eat. Years later as she lay in the hospital, she asked me to find the place she had such fond memories of – ‘Bwlch y Gwynt’ farm, Llanelli. I was living and working in Swansea at the time but moved to Llanelli, and set about trying to find the farm.
“In March 1944, all of Hungary’s Jews that had thus far been protected by their Regent Miklos Horthy. However, Hungary was then invaded by Germany and forced to give up their Jews.
“Nearly, one million were sent to their deaths with ninety members of our family sent to Auschwitz in the space of three months.
“My grandfather never spoke about it, such was the enormity of the trauma where his parents, siblings, family and their children were murdered. We only heard details about it through a long-lost cousin, a survivor who made it to America and whose daughter we are still in contact with.
“My gran returned to London almost, a year later and in the basement of a tall building a tall, fair-haired gentleman approached her for a light. They were engaged three weeks later and married within six months.
“I was pregnant with my son and living in Machynys when walking with my then partner I came across the sign ‘Here stood the lost community of Bwlch y Gwynt’ right where I had been living for almost a year! I managed to whisper to her that I had found it before she passed away.
“My mother will be talking about how she discovered that two cousins had made it to the United States before the war and where George survived the Holocaust from Hungary and made it to the US where he married another Holocaust survivor. Audrey, their daughter is still in contact. My mother will also speak about her experience, visiting Auschwitz.
“We need to stand up to hate which is this year’s theme where not only six million Jews lost their lives but two million gypsies, homosexuals, those with disabilities and ethnic Poles perished, as well as the ‘twins’ who were experimented on.”
Denise Kingsley-Jones will be telling her story on 27th January 2020 at the Princess Gwenllian Centre, Kidwelly. from 10.00 am -11.30 am.
Lunch is available after the event at a cost of £3 see: www.olivetraining.co.uk
Please send an e-mail to Denise if you have a story about the Holocaust and would like to speak at the event, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org