Paloba (Pavlina) Matathia (PM) was born in 1937 in Thessaloniki, with her twin sister Riketta (Rina) Cohen (RC). Two years later the family had another daughter, Vida-Veta Mioni (VM). The family was well-off and lived in the centre of the city, on Tsimiski street. Their father, Sabetai Cohen, was a thread merchant with ancestry from Bitola, a Yugoslav citizen but settled in Thessaloniki. Their mother was called Zermain, née Matalon, whose father was a doctor from Larissa. During the Occupation, the family were interned in the Syngrou ghetto. Through the decisive action of the maternal grandfather, however, they escaped by boat from Michaniona and fled to Athens. Initially, her parents rented a house, but they realised that their neighbours intended to turn them in. Then they sought protection in the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church on Acharnon Street. For greater protection the three girls of the family were put in the boarding house of Saint Joseph on Charilaou Trikoupi street. Despite their efforts, Veta’s parents were arrested and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Only her mother returned. After liberation, the family settled again in Thessaloniki. Pavlina Matathia studied in America and became a professor at the School of Social Work (Athens University of Applied Sciences). She married Moses Matathias and had three children, Andreas, Carolina and Alexandros. Veta Mioni studied interpreting in Switzerland and then worked in the trade department of the Isaraeli embassy. In 1967 she married Haïm-Victor Mionis. Riketta Cohen became a physiotherapist and worked in the ‘Agia Sofia’ children’s hospital.
Excerpt from the interview:
VM: My mother thought that it wasn’t wise for us to hide together, so she decided to put the children with the nuns. So they went to St. Joseph’s on Charilaou Trikoupi. She spoke to the nuns, and they agreed to have my two sisters, but I was very young and they didn’t want me. Then one nun came forward, soeur Marie du Carmel, who said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take her on.” My mother paid, of course, as if it were school. So we stayed with the nuns. Andourmothervisitedusalot there.
RC: Our mother and father camein the afternoons. […] We have many memories from there. We had a great time. […] There was a courtyard inside, and one at the back, where the orphans were. We went to church, polished the brass things.
VM. I have to say, in the Occupation we were well-protected by people who loved us. Our mother and father ensured that we lacked nothing. Even when the Germans took them, they had left money behind, which was used for our care. […]
PM: Eleni Tombakari organised all of that. And it was the Occupation of course. There was no food. We got chickpeas full of bugs to eat in the nunnery. For a treat we would have beetroot and garlic.