Fabian’s Jewish Pilgrimage

Inspired by his paternal family background Fabian Hamilton MP is making a four-day cycle ride from Leeds to Paris to raise funds for Donisthorpe Hall.

The bolder the ride the bigger the effort and Fabian has described the four-day cycle ride as his Jewish Pilgrimage.

He starts off on July 25, from Donisthorpe to cycle to Drancy near Paris which has personal family connections.

During two nights in July 1942 more than 13,000 Parisian Jews were arrested and taken to the Vel D’Hiv velodrome from where many were taken to the concentration camp in Drancy, to the north-east of Paris, and then onto Auschwitz.

His great-grandparents, Raina and Isaac Sevilla were amongst them.

“My route will take me via Gainsborough in Lincolnshire to the Beth Shalom Holocaust Museum near Newark and then on to Leicestershire and Bedford before arriving in London after four days on the road,” he explained.

“Whilst in London I will visit the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Maida Vale, very near my flat in London.”

Fabian will set off again on Wednesday, July 30, for the Palace of Westminster where he hopes to meet UK Jewish leaders and the Minister and Shadow Minister for Cycling.

Continuing his journey he will cycle to the town of Lewes in East Sussex, stay overnight and then set off the next morning for Newhaven to catch the ferry to Dieppe.

After the four-hour crossing he will stay in Dieppe overnight and leave for Forge-les-Eaux in Normandy on August 1.

The next day he will cycle to Chantilly and on Sunday August 3, hopes to arrive at the Shoah Memorial Centre in Drancy where he will meet representatives from the British Embassy as well as members of the French Jewish community.

“My cousin Peggy will be there — we are descendants of the same great-grandparents Isaac and Raina, who were taken from their home in Paris to Drancy before being transported to Auschwitz in June 1940 where they were murdered along with so many thousands of French Jews.”

Fabian’s father Mario was an only child but Mario’s mother Louise Sevilla was one of four children who grew up in Geneva.

Mario was sent to a boarding school in England in 1934 and when Paris fell to the Nazis in June 1940 he was safely in Essex; his father Isaac was in Spain, but Louise was stuck in Paris.

“My grandmother survived because she managed to obtain Portuguese nationality and, bizarrely, the Nazis left her alone until she decided to escape Paris for Bordeaux in 1944 and walk across the Pyrenese mountains into neutral Spain to try and join her husband,” he said.

Fabian was born in London in 1955 and educated at the University of York where he gained a BA degree in Social Sciences in 1977.

Motivated to cycle some years ago in an effort to keep fit and help the environment, Fabian’s efforts increased after being diagnosed with diabetes in 2009.

He has already participated in charity cycle rides including Paris, Amsterdam and Berlin.

Donisthorpe Hall chairman Andrew Brown described the ride as “a wonderful gesture and a very personal journey for Fabian.”

He said: “It is so important that each generation educates the next and tells the story of the Holocaust. People say it could never happen again but there are parts of the world where similar atrocities are happening in our lifetime.”

The MP for North East Leeds is also creating a special cycling jersey which will have space for the logos of sponsors who wish to donate £250 or more to the cause. The deadline is June 10.

Fabian said: “I’ll be cycling along with my wife Rosy who will travel in the support vehicle which carries tools, clothes and spare parts in case of an emergency.

“Rosy and I will meet every lunchtime and evening at the hotels we have booked into.”

All costs for the ride have been met by Fabian personally and he hopes to auction the jersey after the ride.

To donate go to justgiving and click on Fabian Hamilton Donisthorpe-Drancy


by John Fisher