BY SHARON MAIL
DR DAVID Walton hit the headlines in a Romanian newspaper this week.
Dr Walton received the rarely-given Amici Pro Urbe (Friend of the City) Award from the Targu Mures Mayor Dr Dorin Florea at a ceremony in the Romanian city’s Town Hall.
The mayor said: “Targu Mures is one of the few cities that accepted the responsibility and faults of the past and I believe that the Jewish community is aware of that.
“Dr Walton, these awards are very rare and given by the town council to people who do something very special. You will always be welcome in Targu Mures.”
Dr Walton, who is an honorary president of the Trust with his wife Carole, replied: “Looking back to what has been an amazing journey, none of it would have happened but for a number of amazing coincidences.
“In 1999, while visiting orphanages in Romania, Ethne Woldman discovered that there was a community of 250 Holocaust survivors in Targu Mures in great need of assistance, including medicines and new glasses.
“On her return, she approached a leading optician, Colin Black, and asked for help. They realised that they would need people with a range of skills committed to helping.
“They contacted David Bishop, who had great experience with many charitable organisations.
“When Colin told me about the situation, I said that I wanted to come and see for myself what was involved.
“I was overwhelmed by what I saw. Here was a group of well-educated, professional people. All of them, through no fault of their own, found themselves in awful circumstances.
“I realised that serious funding was essential, but not the only requirement. Organising the funds gave the community leaders a sense of purpose, pride and the chance to return to the human race.
“They were very suspicious of us at first. Why would a group of strangers, living thousands of miles away, want to help them? In time, we gained their trust and became their extended family.”
He continued: “On my first visit, I met Susie Ambrus and learned that she was helping out on a purely voluntary basis at that time.
“Since then, as the Trust administrator, she has been working tirelessly and is the cement that has held the bricks together. We owe her a huge debt of gratitude.
“It has been an amazing journey and a privilege.”
Also speaking at the event were Mrs Woldman, Zoltan Kolozsvary, Targu Mures Jewish community leader Vasile Dub and Deputy Mayor Csegzi Sandor. All praised the contribution made by the Walton Foundation.
Mrs Woldman said: “When I visited the Town Hall in 1999 for a different purpose, I would never have imagined that 19 years later I would have visited Targu Mures more than 50 times.
“During that time, members of the Trust have come to love Targu Mures as their second home and the Holocaust survivors here as our extended family.
“It is lovely to see so many of those we have come to love here today and we remember with great fondness those who have passed away in those 19 years.
“The wisdom, compassion and dignity of the community leaders when we first came here — Bernath Sauber, Alexandru Ausch, Pal Horvath and Laszlo Grub — will be everlasting memories for us all.
“We have been impressed by the compassion of town hall officials in supporting the aspirations of the Jewish community: particularly in their support for what we believe was the first Holocaust memorial in Romania; for their respect and protection of the Jewish cemetery; and for their general support of the Jewish community.”
Mr Dub spoke of all the tangible benefits received by the elderly survivors and described Mrs Woldman as a special and remarkable personality and Trust members as being true friends in times of hardship.
Mr Kolozsvary talked about the Trust sustaining those who had survived the darkest period of the 20th century.
Presentations were made on behalf of the Jewish community to their Scottish visitors.
Giving the vote of thanks, Mr Sandor said: “Our friendship has started due to very dark pages in humanity and we must never forget them.
“You have given a lot of money to Targu Mures, but most of all you have given your empathy, love and care to our community.”
Others present from Glasgow were Targu Mures Trust trustees Mr Bishop, Mr Black, Anthea and Geoff Berg and Sandra Silverdale, together with Mrs Walton, Harold Woldman, Carole Bishop and Veronica Black.
Also attending were members of the Targu Mures Jewish community and council officials.