The foundation was founded in 2003 by Marcela Botnar. Marcela was the wife of Octav Botnar, the founder of Datsun and Nissan UK and a philanthropist. The foundation remains true to its humble family roots by keeping the Botnar family name, maintaining Octav Botnar’s philanthropic legacy and continuing to finance and support several targeted legacy investments.

Marcela Botnar

Marcela Botnar was born Marcela Camelia Perian on 29th July 1928 in the historic city of Alba Iulia in Western Transylvania.  When her studies were over, Marcela moved to Bucharest. Using her foreign languages skills, she gained employment at the National Tourist Office. In 1951 she met and married Octav Botnar. Marcela gave birth to their only child, Camelia Eugenia, the following year on 14th August 1952. In the 1960s, she left Romania with her husband and daughter and the family settled in the United Kingdom, joining Octav's brother, Max Bunford. In 1972, Camelia was killed in a car accident just before Christmas at the age of 20.  After the death of her husband Octav, Marcela carried out his wishes and created Fondation Botnar, based in Basel, with the aim of helping children in need around the world.

Octav Botnar

Octav Bundorf (renamed Botnar after the Second World War) was born in 1913 in Chernivtsi, which was then called Czernowitz and belonged to Austria-Hungary. During his childhood, in 1918, Austria-Hungary dissolved and his hometown, renamed Cernăuţi, became part of Romania.  Botnar began life as a political activist in Romania and later became a leading member of the French Resistance, fighting to undermine Nazi Germany. He moved back to Romania and in 1951 married Marcela Camelia Perian.  They later moved to the UK where he develop a successful car business. Following the tragic death of his daughter Camelia, he became a leading philanthropist. During his lifetime he donated more than $100 million to causes for children, including the Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

Camelia Botnar

Camelia Eugenia Botnar was born on 14th August 1952 in Bucharest.  She was Octav and Marcela Botnar’s only child.   The family left Romania and settled in the United Kingdom in 1966.  Camelia was intelligent, beautiful and strong-willed.  She initially spent some time at the Lycée Victor Duruy near Les Invalides in Paris before joining her parents in London, where she enrolled at the French Lycée in Kensington. She was like her father in many respects. She had left wing leanings, but her experience had set her against Communism.  She read extensively, wrote a lot and had no religious beliefs.  After leaving the Lycée in London, she went to study at university in Paris. It was in Paris that she met a young man who was to become her fiancé. Camelia invited him to London for Christmas in December 1972 and on 23rd December the couple left London by car to visit Stonehenge, the world-famous prehistoric monument. Their car was involved in a dreadful accident later that day: Camelia took the full force of the impact and died instantly.

Philanthropy

The sudden loss of Camelia was a tragedy which affected her parents in different ways for the rest of their lives.  Marcela was visibly heartbroken and visited Camelia’s grave in Gunnersbury Cemetery every week that she was in London.  Octav focused even more on building up his business. He settled his growing fortune into a philanthropic trust and over the years established and funded several large and remarkable philanthropic projects in Camelia’s name. Following Octav’s death Marcela continued the philanthropic giving, continuing the legacy of her husband and daughter.  Marcela died in Switzerland in November 2014.  Fondation Botnar was the sole beneficiary of her will.

Targeted investments continuing the Botnar Family legacy.


Botnar Child Road Safety Challenge

Fondation Botnar funds and leads the Botnar Road Safety challenge in partnership with the Global Road Safety Partnership. The Challenge is designed to address locally relevant road safety problems that affect children in small and mid-sized cities in six priority countries with practical, innovative and evidence-based interventions.


Scholarships for young adolescents

Fondation Botnar funds several scholarships for adolescents from disadvantaged and diverse backgrounds, with a focus on Israel and Romania. The management team is currently developing a talent development program that will replace the scholarships,  launching in 2019.