Couple's story of love against the odds

Dudley | News | Published:

The book title Czech and Mate aptly describes the real-life story of a former headteacher who fled his Nazi-occupied homeland and found love in England.

Former head of Dudley Grammar School Fred Austin – the father of Dudley North MP Ian Austin – has told his story in a new book.

He left behind his mother and sisters in Czechoslovakia for a new life in England where he met Margaret who he married more than 60 years ago. The story of how their lives became interwoven has been told by both of them in chapters of the book penned by Fred and his wife. The 80-year-old, who taught at Birmingham's King Edward's Five Ways School and retired from Dudley Grammar School in 1985, said: "People have often listened to my story and told me I should write a book. It just took us more than four years to finally write it."

Fate brought the couple together as students at Leicester University.

But Fred began life as Fredi Stiller, who was part of a Jewish family in northern Czechoslovakia, while his wife, also 80, hailed from a working class background in Cleethorpes.

Thanks to a distant cousin in Vienna he was able to leave his home country with the help of Englishman Philip Austin whose surname he adopted. Fred has always remained grateful to Philip for giving him the chance of a new life in Britain.

Sadly Fred never saw his mother or sisters again as they all perished at the hands of the Nazis. In the book he pays tribute to his wife's hard-working approach to life, which he says galvanised him and inspired his teaching career.

Following his retirement, he became chief officer for Age Concern in Dudley. The couple were unable to have children of their own, but adopted four babies. One of their sons Ian, aged 45, is Labour MP for Dudley North.

Czech and Mate is published by Studley-based Brewin Books, priced £14.95, from all good bookshops or through Mr Austin on 01384 252 310. Or email

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