Ursula Milner-White

On Monday 21 April 2014, Easter Monday, there was a Service of Thanksgiving at Salisbury Cathedral for the life of Ursula Milner-White who died on 12 February.  Ursula was one of the longest serving members of the local group and became a member soon after the group was founded.  She rarely missed a meeting or a campaign action 3925 and she will be sadly missed.

It is always surprising that when someone dies, you often learn more about them than when they were alive.  We discovered that Ursula had lived in India and for a long period in New Zealand where she had helped bring up two girls after their mother died.  She was a war time evacuee and spent the war years in Canada where she stayed and got her degree from McGill University.  She had a deep interest in natural life and gardens and was a keen walker.  She loved opera and music and used to attend meetings of the Recorded Music Society in Salisbury.  She was a member of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust.

She was a committed Christian and her faith led her to long time involvement in Amnesty and prisoners of conscience.

One of our longest serving members, Michael Stokely, has written:

The monthly meeting of the local group — held on the second Thursday of the month — will no longer be quite the same without Ursula Milner-White.  Whatever the weather, and if she wasn’t on her travels, she would be present.  Bending forward, hand raised, ‘Mr Chairman …’ and some sharp, pertinent point would be made.  We shall miss her enormously.

Ursula wrote a short piece for the October newsletter last year on why she joined Amnesty and this is included here:

“I had been rather vaguely interested [in Amnesty] and then heard the story of a particular man Raoul Wallenberg.  He was a Swedish diplomat who was sent to the Nazi run government of Hungary during the war with the brief to do what he could to help the Jews there.  He did so with vigour and considerable success, so that he was thought to have saved twenty thousand lives.  Then the Russians captured Budapest and sent for him.  He went off cheerfully, saying that he wasn’t sure whether the Russians were inviting him as a guest or a prisoner, but he was never seen in freedom again.

Some people who were later released from Russian prisons witnessed seeing him there and after two years the Russians reported he had died of a heart attack which of course may or may not have been true.

His family in Sweden thought he’d been taken for his possible exchange value and were bitter about the Swedish government which apparently released Russian prisoners in Sweden without making sure that Wallenberg would be freed.  Perhaps they believed that he was already dead?

I was greatly distressed and impressed by this story.  I thought that if people had – disastrously – not protested soon enough, or hard enough, about Wallenberg, the least I could do was to try and help other people unjustly imprisoned.

So I joined Amnesty.

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