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Herbert Koniec's skating boots (EPH 3902)

Imperial War Museums

Imperial War Museums
London, United Kingdom

These skating boots were brought to Britain by ten year old Herbert Koniec who left Bratislava on a Kindertransport in June 1939. When he donated these to IWM, Herbert recalled that the last time they had been polished was by his mother in 1939 – both his parents were murdered by the Nazis in 1942.

Details

  • Title: Herbert Koniec's skating boots (EPH 3902)
  • Physical description: pair of boots with clip-on skates pair of brown leather boots with brown laces and a brown leather strap across the laces. A pair of clip-on ice skates are attached (by screws at the base) to the undersides of the boots.
  • Historical description: Herbert Kay (Koniec) brought these boots and clip-on ice skates with him when he was evacuated from Czechoslovakia on one of the Kindertransports in June 1939. He is the brother of Dorothea Douglas who was also a Kindertransport. He says of his experiences: 'I left Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, on 28th June 1939 aged 10, with two suitcases. Among my possessions were these boots and a pair of clip-on skates which I never used because my feet were too big by winter time and there was no ice about! They remained in my possession until I unearthed them for this exhibition. As I was brushing up the boots I pondered the thought that the last time they were polished would be by my mother in 1939. The laces are original. Both my parents perished in 1942 at the hands of the Nazis. I wrote letters to my parents via Portugal until 1941 in German, Hungarian and Czech and later on in English. After the war Dorothea went back to Bratislava only to find all the letters in a neighbours house.' She brought the letters back, Herbert couldn't even understand his own letters. When Herbert arrived in England he was sent to live in Glasgow with an elderly lady doctor where he was not very happy. On the outbreak of war he was sent as an evacuee to Ayrshire. There he lived with the landlady of one of the local infant school teachers. 'Their attitude towards me was in stark contrast to that of the lady doctor and we took to each other immediately. I had total freedom of the house giving me a sense of liberation and for the first time since arriving in the UK I was very happy.' (See: 'I Came Alone', p.168) In 1945, at the end of the war, steps were taken for Herbert to be returned to Czechoslovakia but as he had no relatives left there and he could no longer communicate there his foster family gave him a home and he was allowed to stay in the UK. In 1947 he became a British citizen and completed his school education. He went on to Glasgow University to study medicine. For more information about Herbert's experiences see: 'I Came Alone : the stories of the Kindertransports', edited by Bertha Leverton and Shmuel Lowensohn (1990).
  • External link: View on Imperial War Museums' website
  • Associated place: CS & Bratislava

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