“You just had to have a careful balance of taking risks and being a bit cheeky where it was possible – stealing scraps of food, running from one line to another if it meant not being put to the gas chamber – and then sticking by the rules when it was the right thing to do.”
Montag’s grandfather Richard was in the same concentration camps as his grandmother at the time, but the pair did not meet there.
“She was about 12 years old going into the camps, and they did not cross paths, and the love story which is really beautiful is that the war finished, everyone fled to different spots and he fled to Melbourne, she fled to Paris, married someone else and had a child but [her husband then] died of diabetic liver complications,” Montag said.
“So she is a widow, she has lost her sister, she has lost everyone except her father, and she is living in Paris with her six-month-old baby girl, and she receives this letter from Melbourne saying, ‘Hi Judith, my name is Richard, you have got no reason to trust me, but I heard from a friend that we went through similar camps and you are now a widow. Melbourne is pretty great, a land of opportunity and if you get on that boat I promise to look after you’. She thought, ‘I have had enough bad luck, what have I got to lose?’ And got on the boat. They married, she had my dad and his brother. I think what a beautiful love story.”
After that, who cares what happened in the race at the Commonwealth Games? That was only the end of the story, for the heroes of this gold medal are Judith and Richard, the grandfather Montag never met.
Montag had them in her mind and was happy and proud as she was able to walk her final lap knowing she already had victory assured. She had lapped nearly every other competitor and allowed herself the chance to enjoy the crowd and the celebration in the final lap.
She won in 42 minutes, 34.03 seconds and was given the gold medal for her efforts. But the real gold was a small bracelet on her wrist.
Get all the latest news from the Birmingham Commonwealth Games here. We’ll be live blogging the action from 4pm-10am daily.