Paul Pollak (12 Feb 1924 - 30 Sept 1971)
Betty Pollak (18 Jul 1919 - 17 Mar 1987)
by Liz McConachie & Jeanette Kliger (October 2010). Photos courtesy of Liz McConachie - click on thumbnails for full size.
Paul Pollak came to the UK in 1938 from his home in Czechoslovakia, he was 14 years old and entered Red Hill on 12th January 1939. His father asked Otto Shaw to act as Paul's guardian. He returned to Red Hill in 1945 as a member of staff. There he met his wife, Roberta (Betty) Gibb. Betty knew Shaw before she came to work at the school, they both came from East Yorkshire and he invited her to work at Red Hill. Click on thumbnail at right for OLS letter dated 5th January 1945.
Paul and Betty became engaged in 1945, married in 1946 and lived at Red Hill until late 1953. They had 3 children, Jeanette, Elizabeth and Gavin. Jeanette has lived in Sweden with her husband, Ilia, since 1974, they have one daughter, Isabelle. Elizabeth lives in West Sussex with her husband, Ian, and has a daughter, Emma, and a son, David. Gavin died in 1987, but his wife, Sue, and two sons, Guy and Andrew, live in Kent.
Although Paul's English was limited when he arrived in England, he passed his matriculation and obtained an external Maths degree from London University by the time he was 20.
Before joining the staff at Red Hill, Betty had qualified as a State Registered Nurse and nursed at the London Clinic and then during the war at a hospital in Romford.
After leaving Red Hill School, Paul worked for a number of companies and, when he died of cancer in 1971, aged 47, he was working for Reed International in London.
Betty lived in Maidstone until her death
in 1987, aged 67.
After leaving Red Hill, Betty did some private nursing and she also carried out interviews on behalf of the BBC; she travelled around Kent on a bicycle in order to visit the interviewees. During the 1950s, Betty also made several broadcasts on Woman's Hour on the BBC talking about her experiences as a nurse and living on a limited income. Following Paul's death, Betty trained and became a Samaritan; she was a kind and sympathetic listener.
Betty and Paul kept in touch with many of the staff and boys from Redhill after they left the school. A number of them visited the family for many years. Clifford Ling was a regular visitor and others who kept in touch included Reg Slade, Dick Clark, Stanley Levitt and Ray Keevil. When Paul arrived in England, he spent time living in North London with the Levitt family who were very kind to him.
Betty stayed in regular contact with Mavis, daughter of Ted Brown, and in later years with her sister, Edna. Jeanette and Elizabeth are still in touch with both Mavis and Edna and have stayed with Mavis in her home in the West Country. She has been a dear friend to the whole family.
Paul was a very talented pianist
and, as a child, he had given recitals in Czechoslovakia. He had a good knowledge
of photography and it was a result of Clifford Ling seeing Paul develop his own
photographs that Clifford's interest grew and he eventually became a very successful
Fleet Street photographer.
Paul was an avid Arsenal supporter; his interest developed while he lived in North London with the Levitt family. Betty became a great fan too, as did Jeanette and Gavin, and they were all regular visitors to Highbury to watch their team. The family enjoyed many sports and Paul also loved cricket. Once he realised his playing days were over, he became an umpire and was fair and impartial.
The whole family enjoyed spending holidays in Guernsey, it was one of Paul and Betty's favourite places.