Panel 9

    …………IN GREAT BRITAIN 1939–1945
  2. Panel – Assistance to compatriots
  3. Panel – Nursing Department and nursing courses
  4. Panel – S.R.N. – State Registered Nurse
  5. Panel – Location of Czechoslovak nurses
  6. Panel – CRC nurse uniforms
  7. Panel – Components of the uniform of Emília Součková
  8. Panel – Medical expeditions
  9. Panel – Marie Rechtová
  10. Panel – Period Press

Marie Rechtová

She was born on 27 September 1900 in Kostelec nad Orlicí with the maiden name Albertová. A future nurse came into the medical family with body and soul. In September 1928, she earned the title of Registered Nurse. From October 1928 to 1932, she worked at the Bat’a hospital in Zlín as an assistant of operative procurement and sales. In 1932, she was named head nurse of the hospital. That same year, she married Dr. Walter Recht, who also worked at the Zlín hospital. During business trips organized by the Bat’a Company, she visited Great Britain, the Netherlands and the United States of America. She studied hygiene at hospitals in these places. Before the war, she had been an active member of the Zlín branch of the CRC. She had all the work in the palm of her hand in terms of health care in the field of surgery, radiotherapy and hospital organization. She spoke perfect German and good English.
In May 1939, she emigrated to GB, where her husband was already waiting for her. “The first happy months of a free life after my wife arrived in England in mid-1939, which were almost like a vacation, a trip to the US and a return just before the outbreak of war,” Recht wrote. He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). He also served in India during his service. In London, Marie was involved in helping Czechoslovak refugees before the founding of the Czechoslovak Red Cross. As a very experienced nurse, she was asked to organize the first nursing course, and later she was appointed chair of the Nursing Department. “The response of this work in the England nursing world was considerable, and the doors of nursing organizations and hospitals were beginning to open.“ said Marie, referring to the beginnings of nursing work in emigration at the Congress of Registered Nurses in Czechoslovakia in November, 1946.
At the start of 1942, the Executive Committee of the Czechoslovak Republic entrusted Maria with the function of the head nurse of the outpatient clinic. Unfortunately, with this work she could not fully devote herself to the position of chair, so the vice-chair of the Nursing Department Olga Löwyová became the acting chair. At the end of the war, Marie helped organize the first medical expedition to the liberated territories of Czechoslovakia, which she also participated in as a nurse.
After the war, she and her husband worked again in a hospital in Zlín. She also remained faithful to the service of the Red Cross, from September 1945 to the end of 1946 serving as the Chief Nursing Officer. “And so, from these difficult years, full of blood, sweat and tears, only memories and simple human friendships remain, as they were inscribed in the hearts of our colleagues and entrusted patients, i.e. those values that cannot be destroyed by bombs and that hopefully will not even be destroyed by time,“ Marie concluded her lecture at the Congress of Registered Nurses in Czechoslovakia.
In late 1947, Marie and Walter returned to GB. Marie passed away on February 7, 1965 in Cwmbran, Wales, where she lived with a family that still remembers her to this day. In a letter of recommendation for Marie, Dr. Klinger, a colleague in the health sector and British emigration, said: “…she was not only a true teacher to all the nurses, but for her psychological talents, also an excellent mentor and friend.”

Hana Mejdrová
Hana was born to a Czech-Jewish family on July 7, 1918 in Prague with the maiden name Wottitzová. Already during her studies at the so-called real grammar school for girls, she began to orientate herself to the left and participated in the actions of the left-wing youth. After secondary school, she studied medicine for several semesters before emigrating through Poland and Sweden to England in July 1939, where she arrived just before the outbreak of the war. “I didn’t really want to go abroad, but on the other hand, if I stayed here, I would probably end up like many of my fellow citizens of the same origin in a concentration camp,” Hana told Memory of Nations in 2004. Her family escaped by emigrating to America. In emigration, she was involved in the student, left-wing organization Mladé Československo (Young Czechoslovakia). Members organized various events such as lectures and discussions or theatrical performances, in which they agitated for the liberation of Czechoslovakia. They published the weekly Mladé Československo (Young Czechoslovakia), later Nové Československo (New Czechoslovakia), for which Hana wrote her first articles. Hana and her first husband, Albert Winkelsberg, worked in forestry in Wales.
“This is how relations were concluded in England, with the conclusion of the relationship being left undecided until the return to Czechoslovakia, sometimes being such consciously temporary relations. We got married because the English frowned upon two people living in the same apartment who weren’t married,”Hana explained some of the reasons for her first marriage, which didn’t last long after the war. They returned to London in 1941. Albert joined the Czechoslovak Army, and Hana attended the CRC nursing courses. She worked as a part-time auxiliary nurse in the Czechoslovak department of Hammersmith Hospital. She later attended a course for X-ray assistants. “The civilian population in London was more exposed to war conditions than the soldiers who were mostly in the countryside. We helped them with their usual troubles. There were also some burns. It is interesting that none of the Czech emigrants died during the bombing of London,” she recalled.
After the war, Hana did not return to study medicine, but rather she worked as a journalist, and later worked in the Prague headquarters of the Communist Party. However, soon after the February 1948 coup, she was assigned the function of a crane operator. Hana did not suit the new regime due to her activities in the Western resistance and probably for her Jewish origin. Later, she pushed for a reassignment to one of the emerging party-propaganda institutions. She got married and divorced a second time. She kept the name of her second marriage, Mejdrová. She remotely studied geography and history at a university and focused on the history of the labor movement. Together with their long-time partner, historian and dissident Miloš Hájek, they devoted themselves to the history of the communist movement. Both joined the reform movement in the second half of the 1960s. For this, in so-called normalization period in the 1970s, she was rewarded with a ban on publishing. Hana never let herself be intimidated; she worked in samizdat (clandestine publishing of literature banned by the state), was a signatory of Charter 77, and was a true personality of the Czech underground. After the Velvet Revolution, she continued to devote herself to history and practiced yoga. She passed away on December 26, 2011, in Prague.

Eva Adlerová
Eva was born in December 1921 in České Budějovice as the first-born daughter of Leopold and Zdenka Adler. Both parents came from Jewish families. His father was a Russian legionnaire who died just when Eve’s younger sister was born. Eva studied at a grammar school, but she had to leave school because of her Jewish background, and by that time, the war was about to erupt. Fortunately, their mother learned about the help for Jewish children who would be taken care of by their families in England. First, the younger sister managed to leave in June 1939, and Eva took the later train. These were the trains that Sir Nicolas Winton helped organize. A total of 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia were rescued.
In England, she first helped out at the Royal Cripples Hospital in Birmingham. In July 1940, Eva was forced to leave the hospital due to the battlefield situation in France. Czechoslovak nurses at the time were at the time forbidden from working in British hospitals. On January 1, 1941 she become registered in the CNR. By April 1941, Eva was helping out as an assistant nurse at the Emergency Hospital Rugby, Infirmary, where she was fortunate enough to live with her younger sister at the family who was caring for her. “At the time of the raids on Coventry, she was helping out at the Rugby hospital, and they also allowed my sister to live with us, sharing my tiny little room with me,” the younger sister recalls gratefully. In May 1941, Eva enrolled in the Czechoslovak Republic and began working at Warwick Hospital as a auxiliary nurse while also training at an English medical school. She received her S.R.N. diploma in November 1944 and remained at Warwick Hospital as a nurse in December, before being transferred to the Czechoslovak department at Hammersmith Hospital. The war was coming to an end and Eva was chosen as a registered nurse for the second medical expedition to the liberated territory of Czechoslovakia. She was repatriated in May of 1945 and flew with the expedition to Pilsen at the end of that month.
She assisted at the Terezín concentration camp to assist in the eradication of the typhus epidemic. There she met up her mother Zdenka, who had been deported there in 1942. Life went on, and Eva continued to work in the medicine as an surgical instrument specialist. She passed away in 1970 at the age of 48. Eve’s younger sister has kept some of her older sister’s photographs and documents from her time in England to this day, so her life story will not be forgotten.

Illustration on the right:

  • Registered nurse Marie Rechtová (right). Chair of the Nursing Department of the Czechoslovak Republic in Exile 1940–1945. (Private archive of the Marie Rechtová family)

    Illustration on the left:
  • Hana Mejdrová (left, private archive Milan Hájek) and Eva Adlerová (right, private archive of Eva Adlerová’s family) in a dress uniform of nurses from the Czech Republic abroad.

    Illustrations below:
  • Marie Rechtová, fourth from the left in the first row, in a photo of the staff of the hospital in Zlín. No exact date. (Private archive of the Marie Rechtová family)