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The Border Missionary Hero Who Became a Mother to the Jewish Girls She Saved in Budapest

From protecting children in WW2 to the suffragette movement and becoming a pioneer in patriarchal fields, we take a deep dive into four stories of the most phenomenal inspiring women from our county and beyond to celebrate Women’s History Month in Cumbria.

Jane Haining- The Border missionary hero who became a mother to the Jewish girls she saved at the Scottish Mission School in Budapest in Hungary.

Jane Haining

Just 40 miles North of the Border Jane Haining was born in Dunscore, Dumfries in 1897 into an evangelical household.

In 1909 she won a scholarship to Dumfries Academy and then attended the commercial college of Glasgow's Athenaeum, before working for 10 years as a secretary at J & P Coates, Cotton Manufacturers, in Paisley.

J.& P. Coats were one of the world’s largest companies employing across the globe credit:

Outside of her work life, Haining was a devote evangelist Christian and regularly attended her local church, Queen's Park West United Free Church in Pollokshields, Southern Glasgow.

On one of the days she attended church there was a talk taking place about missionary work to be undertaken in Jewish communities in eastern Europe which led Jane to volunteer. During the meeting, Jane turned to her friend and said: "I have found my life-work."

‘Service’ and ‘Sacrifice’ caption: Jane Haining Memorial windows at Queen's Park West United Free Church. ‘Service’ and ‘Sacrifice’.

After a crash course in the Hungarian language in 1932, she travelled to the Jewish Mission School in Budapest to become a matron to the pupils.

The present-day minister of St Columba’s Church of Scotland in Budapest, Rev Aron Stevens described Jane as a mother to the children that weren’t living at home anymore.

Jane embodied strong values of tolerance, fairness, and equality for all her students and in a BBC Scotland documentary about her life’s work a former pupil said: “We never felt we were not equal with each other or with the Christian pupils”. – Dr Zsuzanna Pajzs.

St Columba’s Church of Scotland in Budapest where Jane worked

Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Jane was on holiday in Cornwall, and she immediately returned to Budapest to look after the students in the all-girls boarding school.

The mission in Scotland thought it was too dangerous for Jane to remain there and in 1940 she was ordered to return to Scotland for her own protection.

Haining however refused and bravely stayed in Budapest insisting on carrying out her work in the community: "If these children needed me in days of sunshine, how much more do they need me in these days of darkness?" – Jane Haining Four years down the line she still refused to leave the country and the Nazi’s invaded Hungary in March 1944.

Nazi Germany invading Budapest March 19th, 1944

Jane wept when she had to sew on the stars of David to the Jewish children she looked after and within just a few weeks of the Nazi’s invasion things went from bad to worse following an altercation.

The school’s cook’s son-in-law was accused by Jane of stealing food intended for the girls and then he shockingly informed the Gestapo that she was hiding the Jewish girls.

A yellow star of David marked with the German word for Jew (Jude) caption: A yellow star of David marked with the German word for Jew (Jude) worn by the Jewish children photo credit: US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Gestapo showed up at the school the very next morning after the son-in-law informed them of her and Jane was arrested on suspicion of "espionage on behalf of England".

Jane Haining became a political prisoner and was taken to the labour camps in Auschwitz, Poland where she was subject to violent attacks from the Nazis and even chased by dogs.

She survived just two months and at 47 she died. Jane’s exact cause of death is unknown but on her death certificate, it’s written that she died of a wasting disease.

In 2005 a memorial was erected in her town of birth Dunscore, describing her as: “A Heroic Christian Martyr”

Jane Haining’s Memorial in Dunscore erected in 2005 photo credit: Church of Scotland

In 2010 Jane was awarded A Hero of the Holocaust medal by the British government and had a street named after her in Budapest.

75 years on from her death in 2019 she was commemorated in an exhibition of her life that was being brought to Dunscore from Budapest.

Dunscore Church exhibition of Jane's life in Dumfries, 2019 photo credit: Church of Scotland

In 2021 a street was named after Jane in Loanhead Midlothian dubbed “Haining Park”.

Jane was a mother to those who were motherless during their darkest days under a regime that sought to oppress and harm them for being Jewish.

Something that these young people could never comprehend living in a boarding school where they never felt they weren’t equal to their Christian peers.

Jane will be honoured as one of the most heroic Christian Martyrs there’s ever been.

What do you think about #HerStory? Let us know in the comments below.


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