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Former Brent Lib Dem councillor's personal plea for refugee solidarity

PUBLISHED: 06:45 25 September 2015 | UPDATED: 10:08 25 September 2015

Mr Lorber pictured at six years old with his father just before he started school in Bratislava.(Pic credit: Paul Lorber)

Mr Lorber pictured at six years old with his father just before he started school in Bratislava.(Pic credit: Paul Lorber)

Archant

Forty seven years after fleeing war-torn Czechoslovakia with his family aged 13, former Brent Council Leader Paul Lorber has told the story of finding safe haven in the UK in the hope that others will show solidarity with Syrian refugees.

The Liberal Democrat and former Brent Council leader has shared his own story of fleeing conflict as a child  in the hope of spreading solidarity with refugees arriving in Europe from SyriaThe Liberal Democrat and former Brent Council leader has shared his own story of fleeing conflict as a child in the hope of spreading solidarity with refugees arriving in Europe from Syria

Mr Lorber, 60, who retired last year after more than 30 years as a Liberal democrat councillor for Barham and Sudbury, was forced to flee as Russian tanks invaded his native Czechoslovakia in the August of 1968.

He said: “I had no wish to go. I had a happy childhood in Czechoslovakia and did not want to leave all my friends and everything else I had known.”

His parents, who had both survived the horrors of Nazi concentration camps in the Second World War- his mother Auschwitz Berkenau and his father Sachenhausen- knew the risks of bringing up a Jewish family under a violent dictatorship and wanted a secure future for their sons.

After their first attempt to cross the Austrian border was blocked by a stand-off with a Russian tank his father was forced to falsify exit papers which claimed he was taking them on holiday to Yugoslavia.

Mr Lorber stands next to a Jewish holocaust memorial in Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia, during a recent trip with his eldest son Simon, 19, to see his country of birth (Pic Credit: Paul Lorber)Mr Lorber stands next to a Jewish holocaust memorial in Bratislava, now the capital of Slovakia, during a recent trip with his eldest son Simon, 19, to see his country of birth (Pic Credit: Paul Lorber)

The family never made it to Yugoslavia; they simply left the train in Vienna and became refugees.

With an aunt already living in Brighton, the family were given permission to enter the UK and seek asylum as refugees before embarking on a new life in a housing association flat in Churchill Road, Willesden, the following year.

Speaking after shocking images emerged of refugees making the dangerous journey to Europe, Mr Lorber said: “I do not believe that anyone chooses to become a refugee giving up their home and leaving all their friends and everything they worked for behind them.

“I know that my parents made a very big sacrifice in 1968 and that they found it hard to settle in a new country. They made that sacrifice for the good of me and my brother - just like today many people from war torn countries risk everything to save their children in the hope of giving them a better chance in life.”

Mr Lorber attended Kilburn Senior High School in Salusbury Road before studying at Manchester University and later becoming one of the first three Liberal Councillors in Brent and went on to serve as leader from 2006-2010.

In a bid to encourage other members of the community to share their stories of arriving in the UK after escaping violence overseas, Mr Lorber added: “It is in my view a reflection of simple humanity that as a country… we offer a refuge to our fellow human beings who are at risk of being killed by fanatics in their own countries.”

If you would like to share your views on the refugee crisis or your own story of seeking safe haven in Brent contact: Hannah.mcgrath@archant.co.uk.

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