Denise Beatonová

* 1948

  • In 1995 a group of Czech Job Centre workers came to Stevenson College to see how we worked. This was funded by the British Know-How Fund. I was asked to lead the academic structure part of this funding. My boss knew that my mother was Czech and it was no coincidence therefore that I travelled with Celia (she also worked with students with special needs to Most in West Bohemia. Here we trained and shared skills with the Czech Job Centre staff in 1995/6. I was quite overwhelmed to see how Czech I was, insofar as the food and customs appeared to me. This was interesting because I had associated my culture with German because of the language. We worked very hard but it was a pleasure to find so many Job Centre staff so willing to learn as much as they could in the weeks we were there. We made lifelong friends. None of this would have been possible without our amazing interpreter Alena. We received great hospitality and kindness from Most people. We set up a course for disadvantaged young people in Most and focussed on trying to overcome the difficulties many areas have with integrating young people from the Romany and different communities.This is not only an ongoing Central European but even worldwide issue but I believe with education and tolerance attitudes can change.After the first year training, the Czech government allowed these courses and skills to be rolled out to other areas of the Czech Republic. It was most rewarding work to think I was able to put something back into my mother´s homeland.

  • By 1943 Truda was responsible for the meat supplies in the town and area which also had a prisoner of war camp in Troppau. My father was captured at St Valéry-en-Caux in 1940 and by the time 1943 came, he was in Troppau where there was the camp and met with my mother. He met Truda while representing the prisoner side regarding food supplies for the camp. Bob and Truda fell in love and when the prisoners were moved to Poland, he said to Truda´s mum that he would be back for her someday. On 23rd April 1945 Bob was put on a cattle truck to France as part of repatriation. He jumped off the train somewhere in southern Czechoslovakia having decided to risk returning to Moravia to search for Truda. Bob met up with a young German who also had jumped off a train going in the opposite direction. His name was Gerhard Degenhardt and he had been taken by the Russians and sent to Siberia to work in the mines. These two met up and worked their way towards Moravia where my mother lived still. My father knew that he could not open his mouth and speak because he was not a German speaker. They met up and combined forces over 6 weeks working their way, mostly by night, eventually arriving in Troppau at the end of May 1945. Gerhard Degenhardt kept a diary of his war history which he later published . In 2004 I met Herr Degenhardt and thus learned of my parents´ history because my parents never spoke of the war experiences. Truda was able to get Herr Degenhardt documents to enable him to return home to his mother in Göttingham in central Germany. His diary ended with him arriving home to his mother´s arms.

  • Bob and Truda were married on the 12th June 1945 in Troppau. My father always said: “Captured first on the 12th June 1940 at St Valéry-en-Caux and captured for life on the 12th June 1945.“ Bob repatriated following the marriage. Truda was required to wait in Prague for 9 weeks until her husband was cleared – checked out that he did not already have a wife in the UK. Truda travelled to London and they went to live with an uncle in Graves End for a few months. Truda had only a small suitcase of belongings and Bob weighed 6 stone only when he came home. Once paperwork was cleared, they travelled to the Highlands of Scotland, to Tain, where my brother and I were born and remained there until their deaths. Bob had a family in Tain: a widowed mother and 4 younger siblings. Truda was not welcomed into this large family. Being from Central Europe meant she was German/Nazi. She has grammar school English so language was an issue as was the fact that she was a Roman Catholic. There were extremely few Catholics in the Highlands of Scotland at that time, other than the Polish and German prisoners of war who had remained there after the war ended.

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    Všenory, 18.09.2015

    duration: 42:18
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I can´t change what anyone does, but I can change the way I react to it

Truda, Opava, 1942
Truda, Opava, 1942
photo: archiv pamětnice

Denise Beaton, although born in the Scottish Highlands, has an interesting and varied family background. Her father, Robert James Percival Sellar served in the British army during WWII, was captured in 1940 and, after an endless stay at different camps of Central Europe, happened to end up in 1943 in Opava (Troppau at the time). This was the town where Gertrude Milas, Denise´s mother lived. Gertrude´s family was of mixed nationalities with German mother and Polish father, typical of Silesia. After the war, Denise´s parents lived in the north of Scotland. Denise recollects what it was like to be different; to be brought up a Catholic, with mother of a German background who dressed differently and cooked other meals than it was common in the poor Scottish Highlands. Denise came full circle when she returned to the Czech town of Most in order to participate in a project with disadvantaged local youth.