It is with sadness we report the recent death of Strathbungo resident Rosa Sacharin at the age of 93. The following is an article which appeared in the Strathbungo Society newsletter in Autumn 2016.
In a famous 1938 photograph of Kindertransport children arriving in Britain, that’s Rosa in the top right corner – just 13, small for her age, bewildered, utterly alone. Incredibly, those eyes had already witnessed Hitler at close range, whipping a crowd into a frenzy of hatred. She had seen her father imprisoned, his manufacturing business destroyed, the aftermath of Kristallnacht when Nazi thugs carried out state-backed violence against Jews, her brother arrested, and finally her mother and sister left behind as that train took her from Berlin to the relative safety of Britain. The Kindertransport was a massive humanitarian effort between 1938 and the start of the war that enabled some 9,000 unaccompanied refugee children to escape the coming Holocaust. “It got better, but we were the first and they really didn’t know what to do with us.”
In the event she was sent to Edinburgh where, after a nightmare stay with family whose cat covered her with fleabites, she lived for the next few years with a foster family. “They were kind,” she says, “but quite old, and I was really just the maid.” Unable to understand or be understood, she virtually taught herself English, relying more on the Chalet children’s books and the public library than school. Miraculously, her older sister Betty made it out of Berlin just before the war started and in 1941 they were reunited in Glasgow where Rosa moved into a hostel run by the Quakers. They never saw their father again, nor their brother Abraham Karl who was murdered at the Belzec camp in Poland.
In 1947, they learned their mother had survived and were able to bring her to Glasgow. By then Rosa was training as a nurse and had begun a career as a practitioner and tutor that would include writing the seminal textbook in her field, Principles of Paediatric Nursing. Along the way she met and married Joe, who followed wartime service in the Royal Navy with a distinguished career in aviation aeronautics.
They bought their lovely home in Strathbungo in 1960, and raised their two daughters here. After so many hard times, life has been good. Rosa’s story is well documented, both in her autobiography, The Unwanted Jew (2014), and in powerful online interviews she gave to Gathering the Voices . Her own voice is steady and calm, but those same eyes that stare out of the 1938 photo still see the world as a dangerous place. As a new generation of unaccompanied child refugees head toward Britain, racism and anti-semitism are growing. “Human beings will never change. Suffering is suffering. It doesn’t matter which colour, creed or religion you are.”
April 10, 2019 at 4:23 pm
this is a short film that was made to mark 50 years of the refugee convention – linking Rosa’s life to that of a present-day refugee in a beautiful and moving way. I knew her at the Scottish Jewish Archives where she was a brilliant volunteer librarian.
So sorry to see her go. She was so kind to me when she heard I’d finished my PhD – that she’d helped me with, accessing books and documents for me in the SJAC library.
April 11, 2019 at 4:27 pm
Thank you, Fiona… she was my mum.
May 9, 2021 at 5:25 am
Hi Carole – not sure if this will get to you but I am writing a walks book on Glasgow and wanted to mention your mum as I thought her story/life so interesting and inspiring. I was wondering what street she lived on in Strathbungo? I’m taking groups on walkers on trial walks in the area so if we are passing would be nice to mention Rosa. Thanks Stephen Millar
May 9, 2021 at 4:09 pm
Thank you so much; I am very touched that you want to include Mum in this. Mum and Dad lived in Vennard Gardens for almost 60 years before they passed away in 2019.
Thank you again.
May 10, 2021 at 9:15 am
Hi Carole – thank you very much. I took a trial walk of 13 people around Bugo/Crosshill/Govanhill on Sunday, including people from Malaysia, Iran, Italy and France, many starting again in Glasgow. I talked to them all about your mum and her amazing journey. I made the point that we (myself included) can all take life for granted a bit, and your mum made the most of her opportunity to create a new life despite terrible circumstances. If it is ok I’ll mention in the book as well (will be called Glasgow Hidden Walks). Best Steve
December 19, 2019 at 4:37 pm
She was my tutor in Ayrshire. She recognised my life. She suppirted me always. I met her again with my newborn daughter. I met her mother who lived with her. Very loving family. Her husband drove us for free for wherever ms Sacharin thought we had to go to learn.I am lucky to have known her. I loved her.
May 10, 2021 at 3:07 pm
Thank you Stephen…. rather than continue this on the site here, I am happy to give you my email address so you can message me directly if you have questions.
I know Mum would be touched that you are talking about her and her journey.