Magyar Szó

"Documenting the life of the Hungarian community in New Zealand"
- Az új-zélandi magyar közösség lapja.

Issue 81 - September 2005


Julia Brown's great great-grandmother was a Haining. She and Jane Haining's father were brother and sister. They all lived in a farming district just out of Dumfries in South Western Scotland. When Jane was five her mother died leaving her father with two young children and a farm to run. Julia's great-grandmother's sister, Margaret Fitzsimmon, then in her late teens or early twenties moved in to look after Jane and her brother.

The whole clan of Fitzsimmons - 3 generations together with spouses and children - moved to New Zealand just after World War I. The Hainings stayed on in Scotland but the families regularly kept in touch over the years.

When Julia's father, Rob, was a child, Jane was always referred to by his relatives as Jane Haining of Budapest. To Rob Budapest seemed like a faraway and exotic place. Now with his daughter Julia having gone to Hungary for 12 months as an AFS exchange student the connection has become more real. When Julia visits Budapest from Kaposvár, where she is based, she is keen to visit the church and what remains of the school which became such an integral part of Jane Haining's life.

Jane Haining is often referred to these days as "Scotland's Schindler". In fact a film is being made to tell the story of this Scottish Martyr who was murdered at the notorious Auschwitz concentration camp because of her love and care for the 400 or so children she looked after at a girl's home in Budapest.

Born in Dunscore in Dumfries, Scotland on 6 June 1897, Jane excelled at the Dumfries Academy winning numerous prizes over the six years she attended, becoming Dux of the Modern School upon leaving at age 18. She ended up working first in clerical, then in secretarial work for ten years at a thread maker's in Paisley, Renfrewshire, during which time she became more and more involved in voluntary work at her local church. It was at a meeting about the Jewish Mission in Glasgow where she experienced a prophetic realisation about her "life-work".

The commitment to serve for the Jewish Mission required Jane to complete further qualifications and extensive preparation before she could apply for any positions. Then seeing it advertised in her old church's newsletter she applied for the post of matron in the Girls' Home of the Jewish Mission in Budapest. Although she spoke no Hungarian, it was her aptitude and ability to lean that persuaded the powers-that-be to give Jane the job, so she embarked on a crash course in Hungarian.

Jane finally took charge of the Girls' Home of the Mission in Budapest at the age of 35 in 1932. She was responsible for some 400 girls aged 6 to 16, about two-thirds of whom were Jewish and 30-40 of whom were borders. Jane loved her job, loved the children and she became very fond of Hungary.

World War II brought increasingly difficult times for Jane in her work at the Home, but she determinedly ignored the calls of the Church of Scotland to go home to safety. In May 1944 two Gestapo men raided the Home and took Jane to the Fő utca Prison. One of the "charges" she had to answer to was "weeping as she sewed Stars of David on the girls' clothes"… Three weeks later she was in Auschwitz. By 17 July 1944 the 47-year-old prisoner 79467 was dead.

The film Pelicula Films are to produce is entitled "There are Mountains on the Road to Heaven" – based on words Jane herself wrote in the last letter she ever sent. The film will be a Hungarian co-production and will be backed by Scottish TV and Scottish Screen and the European Commission. The film will be derived from interviews with four pupils who survived: Dr Zsuzsanna Pajs, Dr Mária Kremer and Ibolya Surányi (Budapest) and Annette Lantos (Washington). Director Mark Littlewood believes that it will give Jane Haining the eulogy she deserves.

Klara Szentirmay

Magyar Szó Issue 81 - September 2005