Grand century for Lewes woman who escaped Nazis

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GREYFRIARS Court in Lewes hosted its first ever 100th birthday celebration.

Family, friends, neighbours, carers and staff gathered to share delicious food and champagne with centenarian Trude Holmes.

Trude and her husband, Geoffrey, moved to Lewes in 2005 to be close to family. She has enjoyed the support of the community at Greyfriars since his death in 2008.

Staff at the Riverside Café remember their frequent visits. They loved to watch the world go by, drinking espressos “with a little bit of hot milk in a jug”.

Trude’s early life was interesting and eventful. She was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and remembers mourning the death of Emperor Franz Josef when she was only five years old.

She has vivid recollections of her schooldays and the exciting intellectual and political climate of inter-war Vienna, where she joined the Socialist Youth movement.

She was fascinated by languages and travelled to Hungary, Italy, France and Britain in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

People, especially children, have always been her main interest, however. She completed a PhD in Child Psychology at Vienna University before the arrival of the Nazis brought her world crashing down.

She escaped to England, though tragically her parents, Olga and Berthold Falk, died in the Holocaust.

Life as a children’s nanny after her arrival in September 1938 was a struggle. Later she trained as a teacher and taught languages at the Perse School in Cambridge before becoming a respected educational psychologist in Chelmsford, until her retirement in 1975.

With retirement came marriage to recently widowed Geoffrey and a new and happy phase of her life, full of travel, friends, culture and grandchildren.

Memories are fading but she has loved the messages of congratulation from well-wishers around the world this week, including the Pankhurst family in Ethiopia.