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Dusty In Here.

(Greek World War II rescuer Melpomeni Dina (C) reacts as she is reunited with Holocaust survivors Yossi Mor (R) and his sister Sarah Yanai, whom she helped escape in 1943, at the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, on November 3, 2019. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)
Greek World War II rescuer Melpomeni Dina (C) reacts as she is reunited with Holocaust survivors Yossi Mor (R) and his sister Sarah Yanai, whom she helped escape in 1943, at the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem, on November 3, 2019. (Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP))

We hardly know where to begin…..

One by one, the 40 descendants of a group of Israeli siblings leaned down and hugged the elderly Greek woman to whom they owe their very existence, as she sat in her wheelchair and wiped away tears streaking down her wrinkled face.

Clutching the hands of those she hid, fed and protected as a teenager more than 75 years ago, 92-year-old Melpomeni Dina said she could now “die quietly.”

Sunday’s emotional encounter in Jerusalem was the first time Dina had met the offspring of the Mordechai family she helped save during the Holocaust. Once a regular ritual at Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, such gatherings are rapidly dwindling due to the advanced ages of both survivors and rescuers and may not happen again. The soon-to-be-extinct reunion is the latest reminder for Holocaust commemorators preparing for a post-survivor world.

“The risk they took upon themselves to take in an entire family, knowing that it put them and everyone around them in danger,” said Sarah Yanai, today 86, who was the oldest of the five siblings Dina and others sheltered. “Look at all these around us. We are now a very large and happy family and it is all thanks to them saving us.”

While the Nazi’s “final solution” is better known in areas such as Warsaw, many historians believe the attempt by the Nazi’s to eradicate Jews in Greece was even more brutal and to anyone helping those of the Jewish faith, more dangerous.

One by one, members of the Jewish family, middle-aged offspring through to young children, embraced Ms. Dina, who now uses a wheelchair.

“We were hiding in her house — she saved all my family,” said Ms. Yanai, whose family name at the time was Mordechai. “Thanks to her, now she can see all our large family.”

The Mordechais — five children, including Ms. Yanai and Mr. Mor, and their parents, Mentes Mordechai and Miriam Mari — owned a fashion business, according to Yad Vashem.

In March 1943, when Jews in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city, which is close to Veroia, started being rounded up for deportation, the brother of a Greek maid for the Mordechai family helped them try to avoid detection.

But the maid’s brother soon found out that a roundup of Jews in Veroia was imminent. He hid the seven members of the family in his attic for almost a year, but, when the family developed health problems because of their cramped conditions, a new hiding place was needed, Yad Vashem said in a statement recounting the family’s story.

That is where the Giannopoulou sisters — the family name of Ms. Dina — came in. Before the war, Efthimia, Ms. Dina’s elder sister, had trained as a seamstress at Ms. Mordechai’s studio.

Because the sisters were orphans and very poor, Ms. Mordechai had not charged Efthimia for lessons, and Efthimia, who had visited the Mordechai family in their first shelter, wanted to repay the kindness.

So she, along with Bethleem, her 15-year-old sister, and Ms. Dina, then 14, decided to provide refuge for the family — lodging them all in one room and sharing their food rations.

“They had to share the food that they got for themselves,” said Mr. Mor, who is now 77 but who was a baby at the time, said.

“We were more than they were, you see,” he added.

While the family lived with the Giannopoulou sisters, Shmuel, one of the Mordechai’s sons, fell ill. He was taken to the hospital by one of the sisters, but he died, and soon after, the family was reported to the authorities, according to Yad Vashem.

The sisters helped them escape and provided them with clothes for hiding in the Vermio Mountains in northern Greece.

In 1994, Mrs Dina was honoured by the [Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem] as Righteous Among the Nations, a title accorded to those who helped save Jews during the Holocaust.

More than 27,000 people have been recognised by the museum, some 355 of them from Greece.

Such reunions used to be common at the Yad Vashem museum but have become rare in recent years.

“This is probably going to be our last reunion, because of age and frailty,” said Stanlee Stahl, the executive vice president of the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous, quoted by the Associated Press.

The risks of the acts of the families that sheltered Jews and others cannot be understated. The families and supporters were literally risking their lives and the lives of their family in order to do the right thing.

We often wonder if people of today have the same moral courage. We cannot imagine what it was like to hide the innocent while being hunted – literally hunted – by the Nazis.

More than 27,000 non-Jews who helped save Jews during the Holocaust, including some 355 from Greece, have been recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel.

The names of those honored are engraved on the Hall of Names at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, where the reunion took place. Only a few hundred are believed to still be alive.

Yet it was reading the next quote that caused us to realize how dusty it was here.

Holding the hands of those she hid, fed and protected as a teenager over 75 years ago, Dina said she could now “die quietly.”

While Dina may pass quietly, the actions of her family and others will live forever. Their actions in the face of incredible risks, will be shouted from the mountains to the heavens.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we need to go take care of this dust…..




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