Every day we get inundated with extraordinary stories about couples in love, falling out of love, and finding love. But none of today stories have never hit us quite as strongly as the amazing story of a one woman, a Hungarian Jew, her survival at Auschwitz, and the Scottish soldier who saved her before getting up the courage to ask her to dance.
This year, this incredible couple is celebrating their 71st Valentine’s Day together, and if that isn’t something worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.
Edith Steiner, called Eci, spent six weeks in Auschwitz during the summer of 1944 but after that she was rescued by British commandoes during a prisoner transfer.
Hungarian Jews, Eci and her mother were selected to join the work crews at the concentration camp. The rest of their family were not chosen and died in the gas chambers. As the Third Reich was falling to allied forces, they were being transported to Bergen-Belsen when the commandoes rescued them.
John Mackay had been a war prisoner himself. He had escaped an Italian POW camp with a friend by dressing in Italian uniforms.
Even after 18 months of travelling and evading capture, he didn’t stop fighting in the war and was a member of the commando team that rescued Eci and her fellow prisoners.
Once they were safely away, a dance was held to celebrate the liberation of the prisoners. That’s where Eci caught the eye of John, though he was too shy to ask her to dance at first.
When he sent a friend to ask in his stead, Eci refused to consider it unless John asked her himself.
Newly in love, John took Eci and her mother back to his home in Scotland, and they married on July 17, 1946.
Together they had two children, who have since added seven grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren to their family. They owned the Atholl Arms Hotel in Pitlochry – Scotland, until their retired.
Together they moved into a care home in Broughty Ferry, Dundee, where this year they celebrated their 71st Valentine’s Day together! John and Eci are now 96 and 92, and they still dote on each other.
“He is always checking in to make sure Eci is happy and the pair still refers to each other as ‘sweetheart’ on a daily basis”.