AN 86-YEAR-OLD woman who narrowly escaped the horrors of the Holocaust as a young girl is among the people from Monmouthshire named in the New Year Honours list.

Renate Collins, from Caldicot, was awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) for her services to Holocaust education.

She was only five years old when her mother put her on board a train to the UK with just a handful of possessions including leather shoes and her ice skates.

She was on the last so-called Kindertransport train to leave Prague – sending Jewish children to safety in the UK, without their parents, before war broke out

After she left Czechoslovakia, the Nazis killed 64 members of her family in the Holocaust.

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Mrs Collins now has no family there following the Nazis’ programme to systematically murder Jews and other minorities.

She has spoken at many national annual Holocaust commemoration events, and attended and been involved in all the meetings for the Holocaust Memorial, including its commencement at Wembley Stadium.

She also brought the exhibition to Wales, introducing it to the Welsh Assembly at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff.

Mrs Collins also gives talks to children at schools, universities, churches and community groups; and her story has been archived at the Imperial War Museum, the Weiner Library (the world’s oldest Holocaust archive), and will form part of the UK’s Holocaust Memorial.

“I just go so that they can see someone who has been

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involved in it,” she said.

Mrs Collins said she was “amazed” to find out she had been awarded a BEM.

“I never dreamed that this would happen,” she said. “I found out a few weeks ago and my two sons knew as well, before me.

“They managed to keep it a secret from their mother”.

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart congratulated Mrs Collins, saying: “Renate’s commitment to ensuring people in Wales are educated about the horrors of the Holocaust is commendable.

“Her story serves as a reminder to us all about the continuing dangers hatred poses to communities in our society.”

Also receiving a BEM in the New Year Honours is Nick Cann, 56, for services to stroke survivors and the charity Stroke Association.

Former businessman Mr Cann, from Chepstow, himself suffered a major stroke in 2013, impairing his speech, mobility, and independence.

Determined not to be defeated by his illness, Mr Cann has since dedicated his life to raising awareness and money for charities that help fellow stroke sufferers to recover.

With the Stroke Association, he set up the Phoenix Project in his native Monmouthshire, to provide a longer-term support service for stroke survivors through meet-ups and help in getting back to work.

And after making improvements in his own mobility and speech, Mr Cann has also fundraised tirelessly for the project. His achievements include a 108-mile cycle ride from Cardiff to Tenby, and 10-kilometre races, raising tens of thousands of pounds for the charity’s work.

In 2016, the Stroke Association recognised his work with a national fundraising honour.

Mr Cann is also a passionate singer and proud member of the local Strike a Chord choir, made up of stroke survivors.

Speaking to the Free Press, Mr Cann said he was “very happy” to be awarded the BEM for his years of dedication to helping others.

Retired Chepstow schoolteacher and music enthusiast Brian Ellam was also awarded a BEM in the New Year Honours.

Mr Ellam, 55, is to be recognised for services to music after having a significant impact on Chepstow’s music scene.

Originally from Yorkshire but living in Tintern since 2005, he retired this summer after 14 years teaching music at Wyedean School.

Since moving to the area, much of Mr Ellam’s work has focused on combatting limited opportunities for musicians by forming the Chepstow Big Band and the Chepstow Junior Band.

As the band’s popularity grew in 2012, Mr Ellam expanded the group to include younger and less able musicians to become part of the Chepstow Junior Band.

“Some people are less academic and their minds might work in different ways,” he said. “But I often find those people have a real talent for music. I love introducing them to the group and seeing them progress.”

In 2015 he established the Chepstow Community Music Centre. The centre is a hub that offers music lessons to students of all ages, with over 700 people a month using the facility.

That same year, he also created the Joan Ellam Community Trust, in memory of his mother. The bursary enables young people to access music with a half-term of music lessons, and more than 30 students have been awarded the bursary.

He is already thinking about how he can help to progress the bands, adding: “I’d like to see some of the people I’ve taught be able to take the mantle on and keep moving it forwards. I’ve known many of them for so long that they’re like my own sons and daughters, so I know when I do call it a day I’ll be leaving it in good hands.”