Portrait of Ben Abeles

By Claire Elizabeth Jackson

Claire Elizabeth Jackson

Ben first came to England as a Kindertransportee and has lived all over the world, finally returning to live in Leicester recently. He is an extraordinary man and one of his many achievements was the invention, with George Cody, of the thermoelectric generator, which has been used to date in all deep space missions to provide electric power to the space vehicles as well as the Mars rover Curiosity. He was awarded prizes for his work (one of which is shown on the right of the picture).

In the top left, the portrait shows Ben’s sister and her husband as well as his parents in Prague. They had been told that they were being relocated, so the young people married in preparation for the journey and the older people had necessary dental work and gallstone surgery. Within several months of the photos taken they were all murdered in the extermination camps in Poland.

Ben was sent to England on the Kindertransport, landing at Harwich with his luggage label (shown). Ben tells me he was so busy for most of his life that he never fully grieved for his parents. Now in his late 80s he has time think about them and mourn. However, he still enjoys life, swims regularly, studies Spanish and Hebrew, travels widely, and is a most interesting conversationalist.

One of the reasons I wanted to paint Ben is that he reminds me of my father, who was also a refugee from Czechoslovakia with a fantastic sense of humour. 

Claire studied painting at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, and recently held her second exhibition of portraits of people from the diverse faiths of Leicester.

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