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40 years of active presence

Wednesday, December 6, 2023


    Thirteen years had passed since the end of the war. Sixteen-year-old Fotini Kamba lived with her parents in Athens. They were a quiet, loving family.

    Then her father happened to be taken ill with Asian flu. There was an epidemic of it at that time and he was taken to hospital. His condition was serious.

    During one of her visits to the hospital, her father started to tell Fotini a story. It seems he did not want to die without having told her the truth.

    So he told her that they always loved her very much and that she was the most precious thing her father and mother had. But he also told her that she was not really their child. During the Occupation, around 1943-1944, a Jewish acquaintance of theirs had entrusted his three-year-old daughter, Rachel, to him and his wife. He knew how much they loved children and wanted to protect her that way from the persecution unleashed by the Germans against the Jews. Upon his return from exile, he would take her back.

    The years went by, the Germans left Athens and the war ended. The couple’s Jewish acquaintance never returned to claim his daughter and it was obvious why. They continued raising her as their own child. The bond between them had taken root and they loved her very much. Her adoptive mother was particularly fond of her.

    This revelation took Fotini-Rachel by surprise and shattered her quiet and orderly world. She became very upset and started trying to discover who she really was. When her father recovered, together they tried to trace her original family. They went to her old neighbourhood and inquired about her parents. So complete had been the deportation of the Jews though, that none of those who might have known them remained.

    Her adoptive mother became anxious that she would lose her. Her anxiety brought their attempts to find Fotini-Rachel’s natural parents to an end. Fotini-Rachel did not even manage to learn their names.

    A few years later, she married a Christian and had children. But no matter how many years went by, the questions about her real identity still troubled her, always remaining unanswered. Fortunately, her husband supported her. Her efforts to obtain more information through the Jewish Community of Athens and also through international organisations in Israel failed, as her natural parents’ names were not known. A relative, who might have known them, died before he could tell.

    Even so, Fotini-Rachel decided to accept her identity: she studied and prepared to become Jewish again. The Jewish Community took her to its bosom and embraced her. She now is a member of various Jewish women’s organisations. She has many Jewish friends, who invite her to Jewish celebrations and Community festivals. Her close family approve of the choices she has made and fully support her. She has thus managed, after years of anxiety, to become again what she believed she should be and regain her inner peace and tranquillity.

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