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40 years of active presence

Sunday, October 1, 2023


    The German occupation of Thessaloniki in 1941 was to fundamentally change the life of the Jews of the city. Reina was born during the German occupation of Thessaloniki, in 1942. Her father, Albertos Siakki, managed to escape persecution by joining the resistance in the mountains. Her mother, Eda de Botton, had no time to use her Spanish citizenship in order to escape and was confined in the ghetto. Left alone with her daughter and with her whole world in sudden and violent disarray, Eda was now in no state to take any initiatives. Little Reina was to be saved by a good friend of her mothers, Liliane Fernandes. She proposed the only feasible solution. Having herself used her Italian citizenship just in time to be exempted from confinement to the ghetto, Liliane delivered Reina to the Calamari, French Catholic convert, where the nuns, would look after her. A horn, cut into pieces, would serve as a recognition mark for the eventual reunion of mother and daughter. The prioress did not feel safe though if the Germans raided the convent, how would she explain the presence of Reina, Lila and Mario Citterich, Italians, who lived just outside the convent, already had a thirteen-year-old son Vittorio. The agreed to take the little girl into their family, under the name of Gilberte. With false papers, she was now safe. The memory of her real mother had already started to fade.

    At the end of the war they were all alive. Eda, the mother, was in a hospital, convalescing from the experiences of the Bergen-Belsen camp. Alvertos, the father, was in Palestine.

    The reunion of mother and daughter, that finally took place in Paris, after a prolonged search, was very difficult. Eda never really managed to overcome the trauma of the camp. Reina-Gilberta, on the other hand, having been separated from her mother at a very early age, had no recollection of her and took a long time to accept her. Even though their relation improved in time, the rift created between them by the war, was never fully repaired.

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