Mona Golabek will perform excerpts of her inspiring and critically acclaimed one-woman show, 'The Pianist of Willesden Lane' at London’s Pure Land Series on Friday 10th February 2017.
Mona’s mother was one of 10,000 refugee children taken in by Britain in World War II. Mona has since told her story through a best selling book as well as her show. For Pure Land Series, she recounts her mother’s personal and extraordinary story as one of the unaccompanied Jewish children who escaped to England in 1938 with the Kindertransport.
Lisa Jura Golabek's was fourteen when she escaped from Nazi-controlled Austria to England on the Kindertransport. A musical prodigy, Lisa Jura had a wonderful life in Vienna, one of three daughters. When the Nazis start closing in on the city, life changed irreversibly. Lisa's father was only able to secure one place on the Kindertransport, and the family sent Lisa to London to pursue her dreams of a career as a concert pianist. Separated from her beloved family, Lisa endured the trip and a disastrous posting outside London before she found her way to the Willesden Lane Orphanage.
There, her music inspired the other children, and they, in turn, cheered her on in her efforts to make good on her promise to her family to realize her musical potential. Through hard work and sheer pluck, Lisa wins a scholarship to study piano at the Royal Academy.
As she supported herself and studies, Lisa dreamt of reconnecting with the family she was forced to leave behind. The resulting tale delivers a message of the power of music to uplift the human spirit and to grant the individual soul endurance, patience, and peace.
My mother, Lisa Jura, was my best friend and my teacher. She taught my sister Renee and I to play the piano. But those lessons were more than just piano lessons; they were lessons in life. She would always say to me “Mona, each piece of music tells a story.” And in those piano lessons, she told me the story of her life.
She was a young refugee from Austria who left her home and her family just before World War II on the Kindertransport. She never forgot what her mother, my grandmother, told her on a cold December day in 1938 at the Vienna train station “Lisa, hold on to your music, and I will be with you every step of the way through the music.”
She found a new home and new friends in London in a Jewish hostel on Willesden Lane in the northern part of London. As the war broke out, she fueled Britain’s war efforts with long hours at the sewing machine in the East End factories. As the Blitz rained down on London at night, she pounded out the chords of the Grieg piano concerto, determined to keep her promise. And that music gave her the strength to face hard times and an uncertain future as it inspired all the other Jewish refugee children who lived in the hostel with her.
I decided to write The Children of Willesden Lane because I thought it could inspire young readers to a very important message: What do you hold on to in life when facing great challenges?
I also wanted to write a thank you to the brave and kind British people who opened their hearts to 10,000 refugee children. I would not be here today but for the kindness the British people showed to my mother.
Since its publication, I have shared the story with thousands of students across America; in turn, young people share about the impact of the story on them. “We connect with Lisa and the violence she faced” a high school student from Chicago wrote, and then added, “If Lisa can do it, I can do it.”
During a school visit in California, a student told me “I don’t know yet what I want to do with my life, but this book has helped me decide what kind of person I want to be.”
Like my mother I am always hoping that young people, from all walks of life, will discover the courage and direction to be a hero in their own journey and that her story helps them decide what kind of person they want to be.
I truly believe that my mother’s story and that of the generous spirit of the people who gave her refuge couldn’t be more timely. The tragedy of what we see repeating itself in today’s refugee crisis is heartbreaking. I tell my mother’s story because we need to remind ourselves of man’s humanity to man.
Text by Mona Golabek
Mona Golabek will be speaking at the Pure Land Series at London’s China Exchange on Friday 10 February 2017.
The Pure Land Series at China Exchange is hosted by the Pure Land Foundation, which supports charities and organisations committed to enriching lives through creativity, spirituality and self-expression. The Pure Land Series seeks to promote awareness and change through ideas interchange and inspiration. The Pure Land Foundation supports charitable endeavours to promote social, spiritual and emotional wellness. It also aims to enrich lives through art and music. “Pure Land” in Buddhism is the realm of higher consciousness, peace and harmony.