An Epic Love Story

In maybe the most epic love story of all time, a Hungarian Jewish woman is celebrating Valentine's Day with the Scottish soldier who saved her from Aucshwitz for the 71st year in a row.

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Edith Steiner, 92, was 20 years old when she and her mother were sent to the concentration camp. They were in the camp for six weeks and were the only members of their family to survive. The rest were immediately sent to the gas chambers.

Steiner was there during a time period when “Angel of Death” Josef Mengele was conducting his awful experiments, and was marched to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to face summary execution.

Eci and her mother, from the Székesfehérvár region of Hungary, were the only members of their family who survived the ghastly selection process at Auschwitz by being asked to work - while others were sent to the gas chamber.

While at Auschwitz, Eci managed to make “keep sakes” she has kept with her ever since, including a comb and a poem book.

Sharon said: “When my mum and grandmother with taken from the ghetto in Hungary they were put on the train to Auschwitz.

“When they got off the train Dr Mengele was there. It was only because they were looking for volunteers that they were sent away from Auschwitz.”

However, John Mackay, now 96, was in the ranks of a commando team that was able to liberate a substantial number of Jewish prisoners from their Nazi guards.

At a village hall dance where Edith was celebrating the liberation, she caught John's eye. (He was 23 at the time.) In a classic move, he sent a friend over to ask Edith if she wanted to dance with him. But she refused to his offer unless he came over and asked her himself.

The rest, as they say, is incredible history.

Edith, aka Eci, and her mother followed John back to his homeland of Scotland after they were married on July 17th, 1946. Together, they owned a hotel before retiring and made a family of two children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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John MacKay was captured in North Africa early in the war. He escaped an Italian prisoner of war camp by dressing as Italian soldiers with one of his friends, and the two had to keep moving for 18 months to evade recapture.

John, originally from Glasgow, was a soldier with the London Scottish 1st Battalion and went on to be recruited by the Special Operations Executive, now the SAS.

After returning to Scotland, Eci and John owned the Atholl Arms Hotel in Pitlochry, before retiring and moving to Dundee.

They now live in a retirement home, and the employees of the home say their love is clear and strong.

Pamela Shaw, an activity coordinator at the care home the pair now lives in, says, “John is a true gentleman. He is always checking in to make sure Eci is happy and the pair still refer to each other as ‘sweetheart' on a daily basis.”

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This Valentine's Day, Eci and John's advice to young people in love is to keep the romance all year round.




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                                                                     © Michelle Young 2012