Page 2, 10th November 2000

10th November 2000
Page 2
Page 2, 10th November 2000 — Farewell to the angel of charity

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Locations: Warsaw, London


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Farewell to the angel of charity

The Queen has led tributes to the late Lady Ryder, reports Luke Coppen THh QUEEN and the Archbishop of Westminster have led tributes to Lady Ryder of Warsaw, the indefatigable charity worker who touched the lives of millions, and who died last week aged 77.

The Lady Ryder — better known as Sue Ryder — died on All Souls Day, leaving behind 84 homes for the sick and disabled in 15 countries, which together have cared for over 70,000 people.

The Queen praised Lady Ryder, nicknamed the Angel, for her lifetime's dedication to the sick, the disabled and the downtrodden.

Archbishop Cormac Murphy-O'Connor of Westminster hailed her as "a woman of pioneering spirit" and profound faith.

'She was a remarkable woman who achieved much over many years to help those in need, particularly disabled people," he said. "She was an inspiration to many people who worked with her and for her. May she rest in peace."

Sue Ryder was born in 1923 to a prosperous, but socially conscious, landed family. Her privileged upbringing was disturbed when in 1939, at the age of 16, war broke out.

She enlisted in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry and was swiftly posted to the Special Operations Executive, the unit created by Winston Churchill to co-ordinate resistance activities in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Three years later she volunteered to do relief work in Poland and elsewhere, when she could be released from SOE duties.

After the war ended, she continued to do relief work throughout Europe. Her duties took her into the concentration camps, where she had a life-changing encounter with the survivors of the Nazi atrocities.

When the United Nations groups pulled out in 1952, Sue Ryder stayed on. With a small grant from the German Ministry of Justice, she took on the cases of 1,400 young Poles in German prisons. It took her just 20 months to organise passes for all but four of them to return home.

The following year. with only £1,000 from her personal savings, she opened her first home in Cavendish, Suffolk for "forgotten friends of the Allies". Soon her mother's old home in the former village rectory was caring for more than 30 sick or injured survivors and displaced people, mainly Poles, and the Sue Ryder Foundation was born.

She became a devoted convert to Catholicism, leading a disciplined life, rising at 4.30am to pray, never drawing a salary and dressing in clothes purchased from her charity shops. Of her faith, she later said: "It is every thing. Nothing could ever have occurred except through God's will."

In 1959, she married Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, VC, the country's most decorated bomber pilot of World War Two, who was already in charge of his own international care network, the Cheshire Homes for the Disabled. It was to be a legendary marriage of true minds and common purpose. In 1978, Sue Ryder was made a life peer. She took the unconventional title Baroness Ryder of Warsaw to underline her commitment to the Polish people. In her autobiography, she wrote: "1 feel I belong to Poland," and by now the country had 28 Sue Ryder Homes.

She continued to work tirelessly for her foundation, regularly travelling 50,000 miles a year to visit homes and assess new sites.

Shortly before entering hospital in September this year, she founded a new organisation, the Bouverie Foundation, after a dispute with the trustees of the Sue Ryder Foundation (now called Sue Ryder Care).

Bouverie Foundation spokesman Halina Kent said: "She was an extremely spiritual person who cared for others much more than she cared for herself.

"She always said: 'Please don't call me a heroine. What I've done is so little. There's so much more to do.'

"She was a woman who you just felt you wanted to follow, because wherever she was leading was good."

Her funeral, a private, family occasion, will be held in the chapel at the Cavendish headquarters of the Sue Ryder Foundation, where the organisation began. British Poles will hold a memorial service for Lady Ryder at the Polish Church, Leysfield Road, London, on December 2.

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