The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation will present the ”Raoul Wallenberg Medal” and the ”Esfira Maiman Women Rescuers Medal” to Ms. Karolina Reszeli and posthumously to her mother – Zsuzsanna Reszeli.
The distinction will be bestowed in tribute to the corageous humanitarian feats displayed by mother and daughter during the dreaded reign of Nazi terror in Budapest. Amidst constant threat to their own lives, Zsuzsanna and Karolina gave shelter at their own home to several Jews. Among them, Mr. Steven Colman and his late mother. Mr. Colman, who is nowadays an Australian citizen, will especially fly to Budapest to attend the ceremony.
This unique distinction ceremony, in which the Rescuer meets with one of the people rescued by her almost 65 years ago, will take place on on Monday, 27th October 2008 at 2 P.M., at the The John Wesley Theological College (Wesley Janos Lelkeszkepzo Foiskola),1086 Budapest, Danko utca 11.
Ilonka Kalman and her 18-year-old son Steve Kalman (today Colman), were sheltered in the Budapest home of Zsuzsanna Reszeli and her daughter Karolina nicknamed ”Csöpi” (”midget” in Hungarian). Although Karolina was 17 at the time, she had a height of the normal three year old. Both Karolina and her mother went through great danger in providing the shelter and food for Kalmans without ever doubting their decision to help.
Mr. Colman, now living in Australia, having found out about the work of the Foundation, contacted us in April of 2008. After the research by Dr. Paldiel, it was decided to honor Karolina, who is currently in very frail health, and her late mother Zsuzsanna.
In his moving testimony Mr. Colman said: ”Csöpi is part of our family now, and humanity can be justly proud that there still are some people like Csöpi and her mother. Csöpi survived breast cancer, her vertebrae is twisted and she had brain hemorrhage and stroke which made her arm useless. But if you were to need help even now she would offer refuge to a persecuted or any who might need her assistance. Csöpi and her late mother are the real heroes of those awful times 64 years ago. Not those of us who survived are the heroes, but the Reszeli women and some people like Wallenberg, who really had no connection to those whom they decided to help.”
The ceremony of honoring Zsuzsanna and Karolina ”Csöpi” Reszeli will take place at 2pm on October 27, 2008 at John Wesley Theological College located at 11 Dankó Street in Budapest, Hungary.
The Wallenberg Foundation is an educational NGO that promotes worldwide the feats of the Rescuers of the Holocaust. It was founded by Baruch Tenembaum along with the late US Congressman Tom Lantos, himself Hungarian born and saved by Raoul Wallenberg in 1944.
Testimony of Steve Colman
At the tail end of 1944, at the height of the Arrow Cross’ Nazi terror I was searching for a place where my mother could hide. When I met Csöpi and Zsuzska, her mother, both must have felt and known without the need of asking. that my mother is persecuted and they must have known that maybe they risk their own life by taking her in. There was nothing said about money or any reward, they simply knew that she needs for her to hide somewhere and they regarded it as natural to help without any exchange. This is not just heroism but humanity as well which was sadly seldom experienced those days.
At that time another young married couple were already hidden by the Reszelis and the first night when I brought my mother to their flat from the ghetto, they did not allow me to go away either. That night and some more nights later, they have hidden 4 Jews in their flat. Their help was extraordinary. For instance in those dangerous times Mrs. Reszeli went to the dormitory, where I rented a bed for the nights and from where two gendarmes chased me to retrieve my belongings and the false papers which I have hidden in the straw mattress. We were worried when she did not return all day, but she was just moving around Budapest in case she is being followed.
I was hiding with my father elsewhere, but on New Years Eve visited my mother, who by then was in the shelter underneath with all the inhabitants of the block of flats. I was an 18 years old boy, with a home made uniform masquerading as a corporal and I was afraid to go down into the air raid shelter, after all I was a deserter. Because of the terrific bombardment Csöpi and Mrs. Reszeli would not allow me to leave, I made my bed on the 2nd floor under the kitchen table, when Csöpi arrived with food and some playing cards to keep me company.
While she was alive, my mother was in contact with the Reszeli women from Budapest and later abroad. She mourned Csöpi’s mother and when my mother also passed away, I took over by keeping contact with Csöpi, who became a friend and part of my family meeting my brother and his family from England. Csöpi met my late wife and daughter and her husband. Two years ago I visited her in her hospital bed with my second wife and two of my grandchildren from Australia. She could only speak with my brother but her smile, good humor and her happy nature brought smiles, friendship and the odd tears, – never on Csöpi’s part.
Csöpi is part of our family now and humanity can be justly proud that there still are some people like Csöpi and her mother. Csöpi survived breast cancer, her vertebrae is twisted and she had brain hemorrhage and stroke which made her arm useless. But if you were to need help even now she would offer refuge to a persecuted or any who might need her assistance. Csöpi and her late mother are the real heroes of those awful times 64 years ago. Not those of us who survived are the heroes, but the Reszeli women and some people like Wallenberg, who really had no connection to those whom they decided to help.
I am happy and so are member of my family that at long last a small recognition is given to this small gigantic lady.