Carnegie Mellon University

Book Cover for Children of Willesden Lane

A Story of Hope and Strength

CMU Alumna Brings Powerful Holocaust Story to Campus

The Carnegie Mellon community will be introduced to “The Children of Willesden Lane” on November 15, thanks to alumna and emerita trustee Patti Askwith Kenner (MM 1966), co-sponsor of the event.

This true story of how a young girl withstood family separation during World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust by clinging to her love of music is told by artist Mona Golabek in her poignant one-woman piano performance. 

“’The Children of Willesden Lane’ is a beautiful story from its historical and human perspectives, and Mona’s performance is truly remarkable. I wanted to make it available to Carnegie Mellon students,” Kenner explains. 

Richard Scheines, dean of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, is delighted that the college is hosting this unique production.

“Patti Kenner’s dedication to bringing experiential education to Carnegie Mellon students is incredible. This timely performance will bring our university community together to learn about and remember the children separated from family during the Holocaust,” he said.

Golabek portrays her own mother, prodigy pianist Lisa Jura. In 1938, at the age of 14, Jura escaped from Vienna to London on the Kindertransport. She spent the war years with 30 other Jewish refugee children in a hostel at 243 Willesden Lane in north London. Golabek, an internationally renowned concert pianist herself, enriches her role by playing classical music selections that reflect her mother’s adolescent repertoire.

Kenner says: “’The Children of Willesden Lane’ is an amazing learning experience. It’s a Holocaust story that applies to every age group, race and ethnicity. It’s about overcoming obstacles. It’s also a compelling story about the power of hope and resilience. With the tragic events that occurred on October 27 in Pittsburgh, I believe this message is needed more than ever to help heal the community."

Golabek is in Pittsburgh to offer the performance to regional high school students. She is partnering with Classrooms Without Borders (CWB), a Pittsburgh-based provider of experiential professional development for teachers to enable them to take their global context into the classroom and the community. CWB created the 2018 Pittsburgh Willesden Lane Read, with additional support from a group of Pittsburgh philanthropies. Golabek will give 6 free performances, including a live webcast, for the program’s 14,000 participating students, each of whom will receive a copy of Golabek’s book, also named “The Children of Willesden Lane.” 

“The book is fantastic, and it speaks to students on many different levels,” says Melissa Haviv, assistant director at Classrooms Without Borders. “It’s a very gentle entry into Holocaust education.”

A longtime avid supporter of CWB’s mission, Kenner has sponsored two groups of Carnegie Mellon faculty and students to participate in CWB’s program of study in Poland. Their visits to Auschwitz and other Holocaust-related sites in Poland are part of a project featured in the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room in the David A. Tepper Quadrangle

Scheines said: “Our faculty and students have benefitted immensely from what Patti has made possible.”