Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue member Jane Drapkin planned and participated in a memorial swim in Kolin, Czech Republic.
The ‘free swim’ involved around 60 participants of all ages, including several other members of the Northwood-based synagogue.
The Hana Greenfield Memorial Swim was created to pay tribute to Hana Greenfield, who was one of the few survivors of the Nazi deportation of Jews in Kolin during the Second World War.
Kolin and Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue have a lengthy history, as the Synagogue has one of the town’s old Torah scrolls, which was saved from the purge of the Nazis on Jewish items in the 1930’s.
Jane, who has swum the English Channel, has had several visits to Kolin with the synagogue and it was there that she met the Greenfield family in 2015 – shortly after Hana’s death in January 2014.
Jane said: “I met Hana’s daughter, Meira, and we chatted a lot about swimming – which her mum loved as well. She told me that Hana swam her whole life and used to swim in the Kolin river before the war.
“I then asked Kolin’s Mayor, who was there too, if anyone ever swam in there now. He said ‘no, why would anyone ever swim in there when we have a pool!’ Me and Meira looked at each other straight away and decided we had to organise a swim!”
Jane officially began organising the event, which also involved educating children about the Holocaust, in 2017, and said the rigorous six months of planning was worth it for the end result.
She said: “I met with the Kolin Mayor, the head of the town’s swimming club, a Jewish community member who runs a sports club and then it was about spreading the word… it was a lot.”
“But when it happened, it was both emotional and enjoyable. Hana’s family were all there, from her 92-year-old husband to her six-year-old great grandson, and Jews and non-Jews were swimming together in the river for the first time in 85 years.
“Hana dedicated her life to educating people about the Holocaust and stayed a swimmer her whole life, so I was fully aware of the importance of this swim, it was in keeping with what she was trying to do and it would’ve been very moving for Hana.”