Trudy Bandler Scaramuzzi

* 1933  

  • "In 1939, Hitler's Germany occupied Czechoslovakia. The Germans hated Jews, and I come from a Jewish family. Those, who could afford it, sent their children to London through an organization called Kindertransport. Do you know, children, what that means? Kinder mean children in German. Transport is transportation. This move was organized by a gentleman from England, Nicholas Winton, who understood the seriousness of the situation in Czechoslovakia and wanted to help in some way. This gentleman, who was very young at the time, organized ten trains with the help of the Red Cross. Each train took hundreds of Jewish children to England. He also had to organize and contact English families who could accept these children. At first it seemed that it may only last a few weeks and then the parents would come for them. It was not the same for everyone. For me, it was supposed to last fifteen days, a kind of vacation in London, but in the end it took seven years. My parents took me on the train when I was five, and I met them again when I was thirteen. I was actually a young girl by then."

  • "Let me tell you something about my family. My family was quite well off. My grandparents had a big house in the very centre of Pilsen, opposite the main post office on the main square, and they had a leather shop on the ground floor. In the 19th century, it was not quite unusual to sell leather, from which shoes were then sewn. In 1800, there was no industry, no craftsmen to make these things in bulk. My grandfather began working in this industry by walking with his backpack and cart through small villages and towns, selling skins to shoemakers and those who sewed bags and suitcases. He brought them all the material they needed. Well, he started to do quite well, so he opened a small shop in Pilsen. Then my father was born, who was the last of three sons. His two brothers emigrated around 1928; one went to America and the other to Shanghai, I think it was Shanghai in China. And my father, who was the youngest, stayed in Pilsen and continued his grandfather's work, taking care of the leather trade. Then he married my mother. A lady came to the store for help and they started to make items, bags, belts, shoes from leather. They did quite well financially."

  • "In 1945, the school was closed, the war ended and many children returned to Czechoslovakia. Now I have to recall a sad thing. We were all children from Jewish families, and 80 percent of the parents of these children did not return from the concentration camps, so these children returned as orphans. Moreover, after their return, the Czech children did not behave very nicely to them, saying that we were on holiday in England and they had to stay in Czechoslovakia. I was very lucky because my parents survived the war in Italy. It was not easy, they had to face many difficulties and especially fear, but in 1946 my mother came to England for me. I remembered her a little, and my uncle told me about her and sometimes showed me some photos of her, but the meeting was weird. She didn't speak English and I only spoke English. What was even worse for me was that she took me to Italy. I was thirteen, it's such a complicated age, and she took me straight from London to Bari. Can you imagine Bari at that time? It was a completely different world, such a difference to England, in every aspect of life, and of course the climate. There was so much sun in Italy, I was used to the colder English climate. Plus, I didn't know a word of Italian."

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Ve Florencii, 04.11.2020

    (audio)
    duration: 01:33:49
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

I speak four languages because I had to live in four countries

Contemporary portrait of Trudy Bandler Scaramuzzi in 1957
Contemporary portrait of Trudy Bandler Scaramuzzi in 1957
photo: archiv Scuola ceca, Florencie

Trudy Bandler Scaramuzzi was born on July 11, 1933 into a Jewish family in Prague. Her parents and grandparents lived in Pilsen; they had a big house in the city centre. On the ground floor was a thriving leather store. She was less than six years old when her parents sent her by train to London in May 1939 as one of the “Wintons children” to save herself. Learning a foreign language and living in a completely different environment was not easy for her. Her parents survived the war in Italy, so Trudy moved to Italy at the age of 13, learning a new language and getting used to a new environment again. After graduating from a special school for secretaries, she got a job at Paramount Pictures in Rome. She had the opportunity to meet many interesting people related to the film industry. In 1954, she worked briefly as the secretary of the famous actress Audrey Hepburn. She got married in 1957 and today has three children and seven grandchildren. In 1988 she visited her homeland along with her father almost fifty years later.