Inspiring woman who fled Nazis as a child in World War II celebrates 100th birthday in Manchester
Frances Waldek also shared her secrets of a long life as she marked the milestone birthday in Didsbury.
A Manchester retirement village has celebrated the 100th birthday of a remarkable woman who arrived in the UK in the 1930s from her native Austria to escape the rise of the Nazis.
Frances Waldek was born in Vienna but had to flee her homeland in 1938 as she and her family were Jewish and Adolf Hitler’s rise to power meant their homeland was no longer safe.
She arrived in south Wales, contributed to the war efforts in World War Two and then worked tirelessly throughout her life for charities and Jewish causes.
She marked the milestone birthday at a Manchester retirement village which primarily caters for the Jewish community and shared the secrets of her long life.
Frances Waldek’s extraordinary life story
She was born Frances Lustig to a middle-class Jewish family in the Austrian capital city of Vienna.
She excelled at school, especially in languages and the arts, and was looking forward to higher education.
However, the continuing rise of Adolf Hitler and the Anschluss – the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany which made it part of the Third Reich - put an end to this and, along with her parents and sister, she emigrated to Britain in 1938.
The family moved to Porth, a small town in the South Wales Valleys, joining the substantial number of Jewish refugees and evacuees flooding into Wales, which was a designated safe zone.
Frances then joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) – the women’s branch of the British Army during World War Two, which would later be merged into the Women’s Royal Army Cops (WRAC) – and was stationed in Chester, working as a cook.
Frances later met her future husband, a member of the Jewish Brigade, at a club for Jewish refugees, before he was demobilised in London.
The couple tied the knot on 1 March 1946 at West London Synagogue and moved to the Welsh capital Cardiff.
They had a son, Stephen, and a daughter, Eve, and Frances worked tirelessly as a member of the Reform Jewish Community, as well as for other charities including the Red Cross.
She enjoyed a happy and fulfilling life in Cardiff and, fiercely independent, remained there until the age of 95 when she moved to south Manchester to be closer to her family.
She chose Belong Morris Feinmann in Didsbury, a dementia care specialist primarily catering for the Jewish community, as her new home.
She now spends her days keeping track of the lives of her six grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren (with another one on the way), who are based all over the world in Singapore, Australia, South Africa, London and Manchester.
How did Frances celebrate her big day?
To mark her 100th birthday, Frances and the village residents had a joyous afternoon of celebrations.
She spent her milestone day accompanied by friends and family and surrounded with flowers, 100th birthday banners and balloons.
The party also enjoyed the musical talents of her pianist daughter-in-law, Joan, who entertained alongside violinist Maurice and cellist Jeff, before the serving of birthday cake and presentation of her special card from Her Majesty The Queen.
What is Frances’ secret to a long life?
Asked what the secret to reaching 100 is, Frances said it is all down to your outlook and keeping engaged with life.
She also suggested some of the things she enjoys that admittedly may not have contributed to her becoming a centenarian.
Frances said: “Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve always been positive and kept mentally and physically active – it’s probably not the smoking and all the G&Ts!”
What else has been said about Frances’ 100th birthday?
Commenting on the landmark occasion, Carolyn Ball, the general manager at Belong Morris Feinmann, said: “We’re honoured to have shared Frances’s special day with her.
“She has been part of the family here for a number of years and the team worked hard to make it her best birthday yet – congratulations, Frances!”