On Some Logistics Help

Sometimes, you simply need a helping hand and have to call in a friend. That’s what Marie and Doreen did in 1938 when they had some difficulty with the transportation logistics involved in moving a shipment from Czechoslovakia to the UK. The women were in over their heads with the project despite the fact that Doreen was an development economist. Germany was gearing up for World War 2, and the nations of Europe were tightening their restrictions on the movement of goods and people. Marie and Doreen, needing to make a move with the project, found themselves stymied by the reams of paperwork and red tape associated with what they were trying to do. So, they called in a chum for his help.

The friend they called was a man named Nicholas Winton, a UK banker and financier. Nicholas was successful for someone only 29 years old, and he had experience in the type of paperwork involved in moving across several borders. True, the system of travel was now a bit more complicated, but Nicholas knew people who knew people who could grease the wheels of transportation. So, he was a logical choice.

But it was nearing Christmastime, and Nicholas had his eyes set on a skiing holiday in the Alps. It was quite the conundrum. Nicholas had really looked forward to the vacation, but, on the other hand, here was a chance to help his friends and to see Prague. So, Nicholas altered his plans and headed to the Czech capital city.

One of his main strengths was organization. Today, if you wish to send mail to another nation or even personally travel across borders, you need paperwork including customs forms, declarations, official stamps, and other documents that will allow the movement to occur. Among the first things Nicholas did was set up a command center to handle the paperwork. He did most of his work from a large dining table in his hotel’s restaurant. There, he filled out forms, made calls, sent messages, and contacted shippers, railroad offices, and customs officials to insure that what Marie and Doreen wanted to happen would, in fact, go off without a hitch.

Of course, even the best laid plans can often hit bureaucratic snags. The Netherlands balked at the first shipment sent. They wanted some guarantee that the UK would be willing to accept the load. For its part, the British customs people sent word that a financial guarantee was needed before they would sign off on the acceptance. But Nicholas proved up to the task. He secured all the needed fiscal and customs requirements, and the project began rolling. After that first hiccup, all ran smoothly thanks to Nicholas and his excellent organizational and logistical skills.

But the shipping was only part of the issue. Nicholas also had to organize distribution and acceptance of the shipment to various places across the UK. Yet, he managed to accomplish this as well. Oh, he had help, certainly, but much of the heavy lifting here was done by him.

In 1988, when he was 79 years old, a television program in the UK brought him to its studio and recognized the work Nicholas did fifty years before.

And it reunited him with some of the 669 Jewish children he helped move out of the way of the Holocaust and find safe haven in the UK.


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