July 1, 2015

The island of Ereikousa declared “House of Life”

In a moving ceremony that took place at the island of Ereikousa, the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, represented by its Vice-President, Danny Rainer, unveiled the House of Life plaque at the Museum of Ereikousa.

The museum was chosen to symbolically represent the courageous islanders of Ereikousa who, during the dark days of WWII, gave refuge to a Jewish family from Corfu.

The story of Ereikousa is singular. In fact, it illustrates a collective effort by Father Andronikos and the local islanders to save the lives of Savvas Israel, his daughters; Spera, Nini and Julia, along with Savvas’ adopted granddaughter Rosa, whose sons, Peretz and Abraham attended the ceremony.

Savvas Israel was a tailor from Corfu, who conducted periodical visits to Ereikousa to serve his customers.

He and his relatives were sheltered most of the time at the house of the local priest, Father Andronikos, but from time to time, they switched houses, especially when the German soldiers or Nazis in disguise came to the island.

The people of Ereikousa have displayed a joint spirit of civic solidarity, very much in line with the legacy of Raoul Wallenberg.

Since Father Andronikos’ house, where the Savvas were sheltered most of the time is located in a remote place and since they sometimes moved to other houses in the island, we unveiled the House of Life plaque in the Museum of Ereikousa, as a gesture of recognition to the brave people of Ereikousa at large.

The ceremony was organized together with the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry (Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue & Museum), the municipal authorities of Ereikousa, Yvette Corporon, who wrote a book inspired in this story (“When the Cypress whispers”), as well as relatives of the rescuers and survivors, including Abraham and Peretz Hassid, sons of the late Rosa Belelli, who was adopted by Savvas Israel and saved in the island.

The event  took place at the Museum and at the Plateia (Town Square) of Ereikousa with the attendance of more than 200 people.

The Kehila Kedosha also presented the Award of Moral Courage to the people of Ereikousa.

Acclaimed opera singer, Lina Orfanos Bambinis, accompanied by guitarist Kostas Tsoukalas, performed a number of songs.

The speakers were Andrea Goulis, Deputy Major of Ereikousa; Marcia Ikonomopoulos of the Kehila Kedosha; Yvette Corporon, Spyros Orfan, Maayan, Rosa’s granddaughter; Abraham Hassid, Rosas’s son; Gilad Yafet, from My Heritage and Danny Rainer.

All of them highlighted the courageous spirit of solidarity of the islanders.

A message from the Chairman of the Wallenberg Foundation, Eduardo Eurnekian, was read aloud during the ceremony: “Let us celebrate and promote the “admirable feats of courage and civic solidarity displayed by the people of Ereikousa who reached-out to the persecuted ones, disregarding their own risk.”

After the ceremony, the Hassid family, Yvette Corporon and Danny Rainer went to the house of Ms. Emilia Capecis, a 94 year old resident of the island. Ms. Capecis told about her experiences as a youngster, during the war, and the war remembrances she has from her bond with Rosa, while she was hidden in the island.