Grandmother who retired aged 81 honoured for work helping Holocaust survivors

A grandmother who spent years helping Holocaust survivors before retiring aged 81 has said she is “delighted” to be recognised in the King’s Birthday Honours.

Myrna Bernard has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to the Jewish community and to the disabled in Scotland.

Mrs Bernard has volunteered and contributed to the Jewish community in Scotland all of her adult life.

She volunteered with the charity Jewish Care Scotland for many years before training at what was then North Glasgow College as a social care worker, graduating with distinction at the age of 59.

Mrs Bernard continued working with Jewish Care for around a decade and then found a job working for the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) which helps support Holocaust survivors, many of whom came to the UK on the Kindertransport.

She worked for the organisation until she retired in November last year aged 81.

Mrs Bernard, who lives in Newton Mearns in East Renfrewshire, enjoyed working with survivors and building trust, and said they appreciated the support from the AJR.

She said: “You can’t stand back or be disinterested in them as individuals because they each had remarkable stories to tell.

“Some were treated well when they arrived, some were not treated well, some did very well in their future lives, some just jogged along – but they were all very glad as they got older to have someone they could talk to, someone they could trust to look out for them.

“The Association of Jewish Refugees is a fantastic organisation. They have looked out for and looked after thousands of Holocaust survivors and they do a wonderful job. It’s just a wonderful organisation and I’m very proud to have been a member of it.

“I didn’t really want to retire but I just felt it was time to give somebody younger the opportunity to be supportive to the remaining people.”

Around 10,000 children arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport in the late 1930s, escaping from Nazi persecution.

Although she is now retired, Mrs Bernard keeps very busy, volunteering for the Helping Hands charity at Mearns Kirk and volunteering at the New Victoria Hospital to help people arriving for appointments.

In the early 2000s, she set up the Kandu Club which organised activities for people with disabilities, and she has also supported the charity Cosgrove which helps people with additional needs.

Mrs Bernard, who is married and has four children and five grandchildren, said she was surprised to be awarded the BEM.

She said: “It was a surprise, it was a shock, I’m very touched and just amazed and I’m delighted. It was very nice.”